A medical assistant program prepares a student to become part of a doctor's office team. The professionals in this allied health position greet patients, prepare them for exams, take history, collect vital signs, and help with the administrative tasks in the medical office. This position is central to the workings of many private doctors' offices.
The students receive training in how to handle patients, medical records, and perform basic medical procedures such as taking vital signs. The need for medical assistants is quite healthy. A typical program will require six months to a year to complete.
In order to enter a medical assistant program, students usually need to have a high school diploma or a GED. Most programs require that they complete some college level classes in composition, math, anatomy, and medical terminology. The students will also need good keyboarding skills to allow for quick entry of data. Since the programs require hands on training, the student will need to have access to the campus to do clinical work. Some programs require letters of recommendation as well as an interview.
A typical program will introduce the student to office administrative procedures, clinical phlebotomy, medical terminology, and how to work in a medical practice. Almost all programs will require students to do a clinical practicum. This is where the student performs tasks in this field under the supervision of a teacher or third party medical professional. This practicum can be on campus or may be in a doctor's office.
Upon graduation, a medical assistant is ready to work in a doctor's office. They receive education in patient care, record keeping, and routine medical procedure performance. Most find work in private doctors' practices. However, there are positions available in public agencies, hospitals, and other medical facilities for this position as well.
The median pay for a medical assistant in 2018 was $33,610, up from $28,800 in 2010. The actual salary will vary by experience, location, and employer.
Many medical assistants go forward and take the certification exam offered by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants. This certification is not required in most states, but many employers look favorably on people who have this certification. For those who want to go on to nursing or another medical profession, being a medical assistant is a good stepping stone into the medical world.