What is a Medical Assistant?

There has never been a better time to break into the medical industry.

While there hasn’t really ever been an abundance of healthcare professionals, the demand for these workers is at an all-time high. With the right combination of skill and experience, you’re practically guaranteed a job.

One of the most highly sought-after healthcare positions right now are medical assistants.

If you don’t have any medical education or experience, and you enjoy working with and helping people, medical assistance may be a great place to begin building your career. These are some of the most essential workers in the healthcare industry. If you’ve ever gone into a doctor’s office or clinic, you’ve already witnessed these healthcare professionals in action.

 What is a medical assistant?

Medical assistants are a type of healthcare professional who work in clinics and medical offices to provide basic, vital patient care, as well as perform key administrative duties.

This ability to function in both a clinical and administrative setting makes these members of the healthcare team some of the most valuable and needed professionals on a care floor. They work closely with nurses, doctors, and other physicians in order to provide the best level of care to all patients.

What does a medical assistant do?

The exact responsibilities of a medical assistant can vary per position and company, depending on the field they’re working in, the specific ways the physicians do (and don’t) want you to assist them, and the size of the organization.

Some of the most common clinical duties of a medical assistant include:

  • Taking and recording vital signs
  • Assisting with minor surgical procedures
  • Giving injections and drawing blood
  • Administering medication
  • Educating patients
  • Maintaining equipment and supplies
  • Keeping the facility clean and organized

Some of their most common administrative duties include:

  • Answering phones and scheduling appointments
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Handling client and office billing
  • Transcribing medical reports
  • Ordering supplies
  • Greeting patients and escorting them to exam rooms
  • Following up with appointments

Most commonly, these professionals work in hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They may also work in other healthcare facilities like nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and assisted living facilities.

Medical assistants have the option to work part- or full-time. The consistency of their work schedule often depends on the needs of the facility and potential staffing limitations.

What does a medical assistant career look like?

One of the greatest aspects about becoming a medical assistant is the countless opportunities for career advancement that this path allows.

As a medical assistant, you have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to function full-time in the medical field without having to invest an exorbitant amount of time or money. After a year or so in the field, many medical assistants choose to pursue further education and training in order to further strengthen their experience and credentials for future, higher positions.

After gaining significant experience, medical assistants can assume leadership roles that lead to them starting their own practice. They can also pursue other career opportunities in the different branches of healthcare, such as sales, marketing, human resources (HR), and education.

There are plenty of medical assistants who love their career in medical assistance, and are more than happy remaining in their current position. There is no wrong answer for how and when you should develop your healthcare career — it’s your career, and you can build it however you want.

How do I become a medical assistant?

There is no one way to become a medical assistant. You have multiple education options to choose from when deciding how you want to go about starting this career. If one doesn’t fit your budget or requires too intense of a time commitment, just keep looking.

To give you an idea of how you should proceed from here, we’re going to give you five basic steps to keep in mind as you move forward:

1. Complete basic educational requirements.

By basic educational requirements, we’re referring to the education you’ll need to both be accepted into a medical assistance training program, as well as the education you need to be a medical assistant overall.

Here’s the good news: all you need to start is a high school diploma or GED.

2. Enroll in an approved training program.

If you decide not to pursue a college education for your career, the next best option is to enroll in an approved training program. The reason you want to prioritize choosing an approved program over one that isn’t is because it will significantly boost your credentials, and it will also support your resume when a college degree-preferring employer is reluctant to hire you.

Popular approval agencies are the state and local ETPL (Eligible Training Provider Lists), Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

3. Complete a quality apprenticeship.

It’s very common for medical assistant training programs to include an externship or apprenticeship as part of their curriculum which is incredibly beneficial to students. Rather than only equipping you with technical knowledge, they’ll also provide the opportunity to practice that knowledge in real time, in a live healthcare setting.

4. Obtain an industry-recognized certification.

Certification isn’t always required by states or individual employers, but possessing a certification can be incredibly helpful at demonstrating your ability to take initiative and your self-motivation, let alone demonstrate your field competence and job-readiness.

5. Find and land a rewarding position.

You’ve made it to the final step, and that is to begin looking for a job as a medical assistant. Depending on the program you enrolled in, you may have your support cut-off as soon as you graduate, or you might receive six months of post-program career support in real time.

Another effective way to establish yourself in the industry is to network with other peers and mentors in your field. You can even create business cards for yourself and carry a few in your purse or wallet; you never know when an opportunity might arise.

When you’re new to the medical industry (whether because you’re a recent school graduate or because you’re changing careers), it can sometimes be overwhelming to know where to begin when you first start to realize how many different specializations and job titles there are.

We’re here to help you navigate this new career development in your life.

Start building your medical assistant career today

Health Tech Academy partners with leading healthcare employers to offer career acceleration programs, apprenticeships and individual career coaching to both aspiring and existing allied health professionals.

Our self-paced online programming is designed to fit your schedule, while still providing you with live support from a team of experienced professionals. By the time you graduate, you’ll have acquired relevant industry knowledge as well as a strong foundation of practical experience that will not only make you job ready, but highly desired by employers everywhere.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your medical assistance career path, fill out this contact form and one of our specialists will reach out to you shortly to learn more about you and if you’re a good fit for our Medical Assistant Bootcamp.

Unsure if medical assistance is for you? Take our free career assessment today to find out.