Becoming a Medical Administration Assistant: Salary & Job Description

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The median annual salary of a medical administration assistant is about $30,000, but is it worth the education requirements? Get real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a medical administration assistant is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Administration Assistant

Medical administration assistants take care of clerical tasks in offices of health practitioners such as physicians, chiropractors and podiatrists. Look below to see some typical pros and cons that may help you decide if becoming a medical administrative assistant is a good career fit.

Pros of Becoming a Medical Administration Assistant
May qualify for a position with only a high school diploma or its equivalent*
Good job outlook (29% projected growth from 2012-2022)*
Will receive on-the-job training*
Safe, clean working conditions*

Cons of Becoming a Medical Administrative Assistant
May be required to become certified*
May be on call nights, weekends or fill-in shifts*
Some positions may require an associate's degree*
May have to be familiar with electronic medical records (EMR) software*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description

As a medical administrative assistant, you're the face of the healthcare facility where you work. As such, you have the responsibility of putting the patient at ease and setting the tone to help ensure a smooth, cooperative relationship between the patient and practitioners. You may be responsible for scheduling appointments, handling referrals, checking patients in and maintaining patient health records. You may be responsible for pulling files, preparing charts, dealing with insurance matters and overseeing the overall facilitation of workflow in the office. Depending on the size of your operation and the degree of your training, you may be required to perform limited clinical duties.

Salary Information and Job Prospects

With the baby-boomer generation quickly advancing into the category of senior citizenry, there are more demands for medical services. Accompanying the need for physicians will be a need for more clinical and administrative medical assistants. Group practices, clinics and other healthcare facilities will need more medical assistants in order to allow practitioners to see and treat more patients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for medical assistants should increase 29% from 2012-2022. As of 2014, the BLS determined that the median annual salary for administrative and clinical medical assistants was about $30,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

The BLS states that while there are no formal education requirements to become a medical assistant, you'll find that most medical assistants hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. The BLS goes on to state that employers may prefer to hire individuals who have completed a formal postsecondary education program. Community colleges and technical schools may offer programs leading to a certificate, diploma or an associate's degree in medical assisting. Programs can take 1-2 years to complete and typically include some clinical training and classes in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, insurance procedures, pharmacology, medical office procedures, coding and keyboarding.

You should choose a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If you decide to become certified, you may find it necessary to have completed an accredited program. Both the CAAHEP and ABHES maintain online directories of schools that offer accredited programs.

What Employers Are Looking For

Employers are often looking for mature individuals who have some experience in the front office of a healthcare facility. Most often they require applicants to be computer literate, with an ability to work with electronic medical records (EMR). A familiarity with medical terminology is a general requirement, and organizational skills are often prized. Below are some actual job postings listed during May 2012:

  • A medical practice in New Jersey is seeking applicants for a position as medical administrative assistant who will also function as the front desk coordinator. Applicant should be very familiar with medical terminology and have had experience in claims management and filing procedures. Familiarity with EMR is a plus.
  • A dermatology practice in Arizona seeks a full-time front-office medical administrative assistant. Applicants should be self-motivated with a mature attitude. Applicants should have at least one year of medical front office experience, be computer proficient and have outstanding customer service skills.
  • An Illinois hospital-based, multispecialty physicians group is looking for a qualified medical administrative assistant to act as liaison between doctor and patient and provide administrative and clerical support as needed. Though its not required, preference will be given to individuals who are certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or American Medical Technologists (AMT).
  • A Massachusetts healthcare provider wants to hire an individual for a full-time, temporary position as a medical administrative assistant. Applicants should hold an associate's degree and have at least two years of qualifying work experience. Applicants should be organized, have exceptional technical skills and be able to easily multitask and adapt to new systems.

How Do I Stand Out in the Field?

Complete a Postsecondary Education Program

The BLS noted that a high school diploma or its equivalent may be all that you need to qualify for a position as a medical administration assistant. Because of this, there may be a good deal of competition. You might want to consider completing a formal postsecondary education program. Postsecondary programs contain clinical training, which can possibly qualify you to perform duties in addition to those of an administrative or clerical nature.

Get Certified

While certification is not a requirement to practice as a medical assistant, the BLS mentions that employers may prefer it. The designation Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) is awarded by the AAMA. You may be eligible to sit for a certification exam by completing an accredited medical assisting program. The AMT awards the designation of Registered Medical Assistant (RMA). Though you may be eligible to sit for the qualifying examination if you complete an accredited program, you may also be eligible if you hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and you've completed at least five years of work experience in the field.

If you hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and have completed one year of full-time work experience in medical office administration, you may qualify to sit for the Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam, administered by the National Center for Competency Testing. If your work experience is part-time, it must be comparable to one year of full-time employment.

Alternative Career Paths

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants perform work very similar to medical administration assistants, but in a more specialized setting. They prepare the patient for exams, sterilize instruments, assist in treatments and process x-rays. They also schedule patients' appointments, instruct them on dental hygiene, maintain records and assist with billing procedures. Because of the risk of exposure to infectious diseases or x-rays, you'll have to take appropriate safety precautions.

You may be required to earn a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. States may require you to be certified or licensed. If you meet education and/or experience requirements, you may qualify to sit for a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam administered by the Dental Assisting National Board. The BLS determined that the median annual salary for dental assistants was about $34,000 as of 2011, slightly higher than the salary for general medical administration assistants.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician

If you have an interest in the medical field but prefer to work with computers, you might be happy in a career as a medical records and health information technician. In this role, you're responsible for organizing and managing health information data with a special regard for accuracy, quality and security. You may qualify for a position by completing a formal training program leading to a certificate or associate's degree.

Most employers prefer that you be certified - especially through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which offers the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) title. In 2011, the BLS determined the median annual wage for medical records and health information technicians to be roughly $33,000.

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