A career in the healthcare industry provides individuals the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, the flexibility to work almost anywhere, and an equally challenging and rewarding work environment.
Medical assisting is gaining attention as one of these highly attractive healthcare careers. Medical assistants work with and alongside patients, family members, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare team members.
Medical assistants are becoming increasingly essential healthcare team members as hospitals and healthcare facilities seek to accommodate the needs of a growing patient population. As such, a medical assistant’s career advancement opportunities are plentiful.
Today’s article will discuss what medical assistants do and how they can advance their careers in the healthcare industry.
What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants are healthcare experts helping doctors with administrative and clinical tasks to ensure that healthcare facilities operate smoothly and that patients are satisfied with their visits.
They fulfill various tasks that streamline the daily routine of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals. Additionally, medical assistants gain hands-on experience by providing direct healthcare duties to patients.
Individuals in this role often work full-time in physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other healthcare facilities.
What Do Medical Assistants Do?
Medical assistants perform various duties related to business operations and healthcare services.
These duties include:
- Handling the front desk work in a medical office, such as recording and updating electronic health records (EHRs).
- Scheduling appointments.
- Gathering and organizing medical supplies.
- Taking vitals and preparing patients for exams.
- Explaining procedures to patients.
- Performing routine procedures and collecting lab samples.
Becoming a Medical Assistant
While there are currently no standard requirements to become a medical assistant, many candidates will do some level of postsecondary training, such as obtaining a Medical Assisting Certificate or earning their associate degree in Medical Assisting.
Requirements will vary from state to state. Nowadays, many employers want their medical assistants to obtain training and certification to prove they have the skill and competence needed to work in a clinical setting. In addition, many candidates also choose to enroll in a Medical Assisting program to further enhance their skill sets and career prospects.
These programs encompass a range of fundamental coursework in health and medicine and laboratory and clinical components to ensure students gain knowledge and exposure to clinical practice.
Candidates seek their degrees or certification for a number of reasons, such as:
- Higher pay: Additional credentials prove to employers that you are qualified, skilled, and competent, and some employers may even offer monetary incentives for medical assistants with higher and more qualifications. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical assistants earn a median annual wage of $37,190, with the highest ten percent earning more than $48,170.
- Increased job security: Like paying candidates with more experience more money, many employers will likely keep and prioritize candidates with degrees and certifications. Medical assistants are also in high demand as the employment rate of medical assistants, as reported by the BLS, is projected to grow sixteen percent by 2031, with an average of 23,000 openings annually.
- More career opportunities: For medical assistants looking to take on an even more impactful, autonomous role, other career options only require a few additional years of school. Examples include positions in the fields of nursing, dental hygiene, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy assisting, and health science.
Five Ways to Medical Assistant Career Advancement
Candidates interested in advancing their careers as medical assistants should consider the following strategies:
1. Enroll and Complete a Training Program
Accredited medical assistant training programs develop your skills and open your options to alternative career paths. Training options are available at local community colleges, online programs, and vocational schools.
Program length will vary depending on the institution. For example, at Goodwin University, our students can complete our Medical Assisting program in as few as twelve to sixteen months with flexible, online scheduling options available.
Students should also ensure they gain classroom and clinical training while attending these programs. Plus, if you know you want to work in a specific career field, such as family medicine or an OB/GYN practice, professors can often cater your clinical experience to match your desired specialty.
Ready to get started? Download our Get Started Certificate in Medical Assisting Guide to find out how we can help you crush your career goals!
2. Obtain Certifications
Aspiring medical assistants will also elect to earn a medical assistant certification in order to advance their careers. In fact, many universities and degree programs will simultaneously enroll students in their certification programs to earn both simultaneously.
Examples of certifications medical assistants can earn include Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), and Registered Medical Assistant (RMA).
3. Gain Professional Experience
One of the most practical and important ways to advance your career as a medical assistant is to gain professional experience. Real-world experience will help you learn more about the healthcare industry and patient care and further inform you of your next career steps.
Entry-level medical assistant positions also help develop interpersonal skills and technical knowledge and determine individuals’ preferred tasks. For example, someone who enjoys administrative work and duties might be the best fit for a position in healthcare administration.
4. Explore Specializations
After gaining general experience, medical assistants can look at specializations like dermatology, podiatry, chiropractic, cardiology, pediatrics, and more.
In addition to finding the best career path for them, candidates with experience in multiple specializations broaden their opportunities and look great to future employers.
5. Additional Education or Training
Depending on an individual’s interests and career goals, they may need to enroll in additional education and training programs to advance their career.
For example, in order to become a nurse, a medical assistant must attend a nursing program and earn an associate degree in Nursing (ADN). Or, if they are interested in a career in occupational therapy, an Occupational Therapy Assistant program would be a great choice.
With the fundamentals already in place from your medical assistant degree and certification, the pathway and advancement to a different career in healthcare is readily available, accessible, and sometimes even quicker than your initial training.
Are you ready to advance your career in the healthcare industry as a medical assistant?
Contact us today to learn how to further your education and career in the best way that fits your schedule and needs.
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