Are you an aspiring medical assistant and exploring your career options? Find out where medical assistants can work, and where jobs are opening up for qualified professionals.
Medical assistants are essential members of the healthcare team. These professionals perform a range of clinical and administrative duties to support physicians and nursing staff. On the clinical side, medical assistants may take patient vital signs, record medical histories, and collect laboratory samples. For administrative work, medical assistants can be found scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, and coding insurance information. Medical assistants have a multi-faceted role in healthcare, which is why so many love what they do. No day is the same for a medical assistant.
Variety does not just come in a medical assistants’ daily responsibilities. There is also great diversity in the places they can work. Like other important health professionals, medical assistants are needed in all types of clinical environments—even beyond hospital walls. This begs the question, “Where can medical assistants work?” And, more notably, “Where are medical assisting jobs in highest demand?”
Let’s dive in.
Where Do Medical Assistants Work?
1. Physicians’ Offices
Of the 743,000 medical assistants employed in the United States, close to 60 percent work in the offices of physicians. These are private practices in which a physician manages the operations, but where a medical assistant can thrive in helping the practice run. Physicians’ offices may be specialized, meaning medical assistants can work in areas like optometry, podiatry, primary care, gynecology, and chiropractic.
Medical assistants in physician’s offices benefit from having regular “office” hours, such as a 9 to 5 shift, five days a week. For some, establishing patient relationships is another benefit of this work environment. Typically, physicians’ offices have recurring patients with regularly scheduled visits. Medical assistants have the chance to build relationships with these patients over the years.
Medical assistants in physicians’ offices typically handle both administrative and clinical tasks. This ranges from scheduling patient appointments to preparing patients for examination. Medical assistants may also record medical information, collect vital signs, submit laboratory samples, and refer patients to testing facilities, on top of handling billing, answering phone calls, and filing patient records.
Another popular workplace for medical assistants is a hospital, where about 15 percent of modern medical assistants work. Medical assistants that work in hospitals enjoy the daily bustle of meeting different patients, helping with different cases, and working with a large team of medical professionals. Depending on the hospital, medical assistants in this setting may specialize in either administrative or clinical work, or take on a multidimensional role.
Medical assistants in hospitals may work in the emergency room or within a certain department or floor. They may be required to work more varied shifts than you’d find in a doctor’s office. For example, hospitals often offer evening, overnight, and weekend shifts in addition to regular days. Many hospitals operate on a three, 12-hour day workweek, or a four, 10-hour day workweek, meaning you could potentially get more days off!
Medical assistants working in a hospital environment should be ready to handle high-stress and emergency situations, as patients cycle in and out of hospitals every day. Further, working in a hospital requires physical aptitude, as you may expect to spend a lot of time on your feet. However, many medical assistants love the fast-paced, ever-changing nature that the hospital offers.
3. Outpatient Care Centers
Another popular place where medical assistants work is the outpatient care setting. Outpatient care centers are clinical facilities that provide care for patients who have not been admitted to a hospital for diagnosis or treatment. These outpatient centers are typically connected to, or associated with, a hospital – however, they provide consultations, services, and treatments without requiring an overnight stay. Examples of outpatient services include minor surgeries, laboratory testing, and psychiatric evaluations.
Medical assistants working in outpatient care centers will take on many of the duties that they’d complete in a hospital or physician’s office. This includes taking patient vital signs, helping with examinations, and scheduling medical services. However, the benefit of working in an outpatient care center (for many medical assistants) is that the patients are typically not facing life-threatening emergencies. This makes it a lower-stress environment than a hospital. Additionally, shifts in outpatient care centers are more predictable, and the pay is high.
Medical assistants working in outpatient care centers, on average, get paid the most of all the listed workplace environments, with an average annual pay of $44,680.
4. Insurance Companies
Some medical assistants are drawn to administrative work, specifically the medical billing and coding side of the office. This behind-the-scenes work is vital for the healthcare system, ensuring providers get paid for their services and patients are covered for costly medical needs. These medical assistants can often be found working for health insurance carriers and companies.
Medical assistants working in health insurance can be found coding and evaluating patient records and medical histories. They help insurance carriers organize and understand a patient’s hospital admissions, services received, lab tests, and ultimately, insurance claims. Medical assistants are valued in this setting for their expertise in medicine, as well as administration.
Working for an insurance carrier is another way for medical assistants to achieve “typical” office hours. And, these companies typically offer high pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants working for insurance carriers earn a mean annual wage of $44,390, while those in insurance agencies or brokerages can earn close to $53,000 per year.
5. Medical Laboratories
Medical assistants who wish to make an impact, but desire a less patient-facing role, may pursue a career in a diagnostic laboratory setting. Here, medical assistants have the opportunity to conduct life-changing testing, evaluate laboratory samples, and stay up to date on important medical research.
Medical assistants in laboratory settings can be found assisting with the collection of blood, urine, and bodily tissue samples, such as biopsies. They may also help conduct screenings like MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, and antibody tests. Specifically in this role, the medical assistant’s job is usually to run the test on samples, record the test results, and input the data into an electronic health records system. Medical assistants in laboratories may also handle administrative work, like sharing data with providers, scheduling testing appointments, cleaning and stocking equipment, and more.
Where are Medical Assistants Most In-Demand?
Medical assistants enjoy one of the fastest-growing careers in the United States. So much, in fact, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an average 123,000 job openings will become available each year, between 2020 and 2030, for medical assistants. The question remains, which workplaces need medical assistants the most?
The truth is, all healthcare clinics and practices are in need of medical assisting professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that the aging Baby Boomer population has a lot to do with this demand. As the Baby Boomer population reaches retirement age, they will require more healthcare services. This comes with growing old. As a result, medical assistants will be needed to perform routine clinical and administrative duties in medical facilities where these patients go – such as primary care practices, outpatient care clinics, hospital settings, nursing homes, and more.
Here are just some of the many examples of places where medical assistants can work, and are in high demand:
- Ambulatory healthcare services
- Chiropractors’ offices
- Family medicine practices
- Health centers
- Healthcare practitioner offices
- Hospital facilities
- Medical laboratories
- Medical offices
- OB/GYN practices
- Outpatient care facilities
- Physicians’ offices
- Podiatrists’ offices
- Walk-in clinics
Where Will You Work as a Medical Assistant?
The beauty of becoming a medical assistant is the vast array of job opportunities available to you. As you consider this career path, be sure to question your own interests and goals. Which setting appeals most to your interests and talents? Where do you envision yourself growing professionally? Do you wish for a career focused on patient care, or do you love the behind-the-scenes work of healthcare? Whether you choose a doctor’s office or diagnostic laboratory, you are sure to make an impact wherever you work.
That’s what medical assisting is all about—making an impact in medicine, and making patients feel welcome, comfortable, and supported throughout their visit.
If you are interested in becoming a medical assistant in Connecticut, you may reach out to Goodwin University to learn about our certificate and associate degree programs. Our medical assisting programs are available in a hybrid format, so that you can benefit from fast-paced and flexible courses.