Becoming a Medical Secretary: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
Medical secretaries earn a median annual salary of $32,240. Is it worth the education and training requirements? Get the truth about the job duties and career prospects to decide if it's the right choice for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Secretary

Medical secretaries perform specialized administrative work that requires knowledge of medical terminology and procedures. Reading about the pros and cons of being a medical secretary can help you decide if it's the right career choice for you.

Pros of Being a Medical Secretary
Faster-than-average employment growth (expected 36% growth between 2012 and 2022)*
Can work in various medical settings*
Technical training often sufficient for entry-level positions*
Opportunities for advancement*
Allows you to work in a profession where you can help others*

Cons of Being a Medical Secretary
Low-to-average salary (around $33,530 mean annual salary as of May 2014)*
Work can cause repetitive motion injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome**
Job may involve sitting for long periods**
Work can be stressful**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Institutes of Health.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Medical secretaries are responsible for preparing correspondence, recording patient medical information, arranging patient hospitalizations, transcribing dictation, entering data and assisting physicians with reports. Some medical secretaries may retrieve and edit resources for scientific papers or help maintain technical libraries.

These professionals must be proficient with computers and familiar with office software. Medical secretaries also need a strong understanding of billing policies and insurance rules. Familiarity with office equipment, such as printers, copiers, fax machines and telephone systems, is essential.

Job Growth and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for medical secretaries were expected to grow 36% between 2012 and 2022. During this time, job growth may be driven by an expanding healthcare sector. Most medical secretaries work in physicians' offices, general hospitals and private dental practices. As of May 2014, these professionals earned a median salary of about $32,000. Keep in mind that earnings may vary by experience, location, employer and level of skill.

What Are the Requirements?

To become a medical secretary, you might need to complete a formal training program, although some high school graduates with office skills can receive on-the-job training. Training programs, typically found in community colleges or technical schools, can award diplomas, certificates or associate's degrees. Students complete coursework, seminars and internships to obtain hands-on training in real medical settings. Courses can include medical terminology, microcomputer applications, medical transcription, pathophysiology, medical insurance and coding, keyboarding and medical office procedures.

Career Skills

In addition to completing postsecondary programs, medical secretaries should possess these qualities and skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Ability to multitask
  • Time management skills
  • Oral and written communication skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers may look for secretaries who understand certain medical software applications or field-specific terminology. Professional experience is often required as well. Take a look at some open job postings found in March 2012:

  • A Rhode Island staffing company seeks a medical secretary to assist a physician's assistant as part of an acute care team. Applicants must have previous experience working as medical secretaries and be able to work in a fast-paced environment.
  • A healthcare services provider in Minnesota is looking for a medical secretary with insurance knowledge and experience working in a fast-paced medical practice. Job duties include checking in patients, verifying insurance, inputting medications, updating medical history forms, handling lab specimens and answering phones when needed. Knowledge of Medent is a plus.
  • A medical secretary is needed for an OB/GYN practice in Chicago. Candidates will assist doctors by performing secretarial duties, communicating with patients and working with reception and medical records staff. Applicants must have high school diplomas, knowledge of OB/GYN terminology and at least three years experience working as medical secretaries.

How to Stand Out in the Field

A strong understanding of word processing, desktop publishing and project management software applications may help you stand out from the crowd. Once employed, keep in mind that advancement for medical secretaries often comes through additional on-the-job training. Mastering a company's office procedures and learning more about its business model is one way to show that you're ready for more responsibility.

Get Certified

Although training programs can prepare you for entry-level medical secretary positions, obtaining certification can boost your resume and give you a competitive edge in the job market. Certification demonstrates commitment to and proficiency in the profession. One organization that offers certification is the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). By meeting its requirements and passing its certification exams, you can obtain the Certified Administrative Professional credential. The IAAP also offers specialty designations in organizational management and technology applications.

Alternative Career Paths

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants, like medical secretaries, work in the medical field. As a medical assistant, however, you'll typically perform both clinical and administrative duties. Training programs for both medical secretaries and assistants are similar, but medical assistant programs usually include clinical education.The BLS predicted that medical assistants would have excellent job opportunities from 2010-2020. The median salary for medical assistants was about $29,000 as of May 2011.

Legal Secretary

A career as a legal secretary can require office administration training similar to that of a medical secretary. However, wages are typically higher for legal secretaries. An aspiring legal secretary can often take an office technology or secretarial training program with an emphasis in legal coursework. As of May 2011, legal secretaries earned a median salary of about $42,000. Slower-than-average job growth is expected for this field from 2010-2020, reports the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
      • MSHS in Biomedical Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • Dual Degree: BSHS in Clinical Research Administration/MSHS in Regulatory Affairs
      • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Information Management
      • Master of Health Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • Health Information Management
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • BS in Health Information Management
    Certificate
      • Medical Office Administration Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Campus Locations:
    5. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Medical Office Specialist
      • Diploma Program - Medical Billing and Coding Specialist
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS: Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Public Administration - Healthcare Policy and Ethics

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
  • MSHS in Biomedical Informatics
  • Dual Degree: BSHS in Clinical Research Administration/MSHS in Regulatory Affairs
  • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Health Information Management
  • Health Information Management
  • Medical Office Administration Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Virginia College

  • Diploma Program - Medical Office Specialist
  • Diploma Program - Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • BS: Health Care Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration

What is your highest level of education completed?