Medical assistant JOB DESCRIPTION

Also Known As: Medical Administrative Assistant, Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Doctor's Assistant, Medical Office Assistant, Optometric Assistant, Clinical Assistant, Ophthalmic Technician, Optometric Technician, Outpatient Surgery Assistant.

What is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant is a multi-skilled professional and a valuable asset to a physician. They are an integral part of the healthcare team assisting in patient care management. They perform several functions, for instance: administrative medical assistants are tasked to update and file the medical records of patients. They also file insurance forms, arrange and organize hospital admissions and laboratory services.

In the US, physicians and hospitals rely heavily on the skills of medical assistants to keep accurate and comprehensive records. Truly, they are a vital part of the health care team.

Medical Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

When researching this allied health care profession you will come across three types of medical assistants, namely Administrative, Clerical and Clinical. Administrative and Clerical are often interlinked.

Administrative & Clerical Medical Assistants require medical knowledge, organization and business skills to perform duties such as:

  • Scheduling appointments and greeting visitors
  • Composing/Transcribing dictated letters
  • Completion and submission of insurance forms
  • Sorting/Handling mail
  • Patient's charts typed up
  • Medical Records filing/updating/record-keeping
  • Accounts Receivable/Payable

Clinical Medical Assistants perform back office or clinical duties such as:

  • Assisting during physical examinations
  • Maintaining treatment rooms
  • Sterilizing instruments
  • Performing ECG's
  • Obtaining vital signs
  • Performing phlebotomy
  • Lab procedures.
  • Some states allow medical assistants to take x-rays without licensure.

Some medical assistants prefer to specialize in one type although many prefer to perform both administrative and clinical duties.

Medical Assistant Job Description

If you want to make this profession to be your life-long career, you should consider taking the proper medical assistant training and continuing education programs. To really stand out in this career start with a training program found in community colleges, vo-tech schools, private colleges and even welfare-to-work programs can facilitate training in this field. You can opt for a certificate program or associate degree program in medical assistance and get your on the job-training as soon as you can.

Once you have this under your belt prepare and pass the medical assistant certification exam. If money is really tight for you right now - start with short course that trains you to become a medical administrative assistant where most of your work is clerical rather than clinical.

Later on you can continue your education as a medical assistant which often translates into more money and better job conditions. Become a specialist by focusing in any of the following fields:

  • › Gynecology
  • › Dermatology
  • › Cardiology
  • › Urology
  • › Internal medicine
  • › Oncology

Each of the above mentioned specialty fields have specific duties and requires particular skills that can be easily acquired through proper training and education.

Working Hours and Environment

Because they assist doctors and other healthcare professionals in caring for their patients, they always interact with patients and other people. They work roughly 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday on a 9-5 weekday schedule. In hospital or emergency settings some medical assistants work evenings or weekends to cover shifts. If you are planning to work in this area, you can opt to work part-time or full-time or during the weekend. Most medical assistants are employed in physician's offices and urgent care clinics but there a wide variety of other places where medical assistants are hired. In hospital settings they usually work in the capacity of a medical administrative assistant or medical secretary.

As you complete college and graduate, your starting salary will average around $19K + per year. However as you gain experience, the salary will increase and average *$30,170 and by becoming a specialist in a particular area salaries increase to $40K +.


Administrative Medical Assisting, 7th Edition, French L. et al., 2008

* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Medical Assistants, website visited November 02, 2012.