Medical assisting — an entry-level healthcare position in high demand

4 min read


The medical assistant (MA) role is expected to have tremendous growth over the next ten years. With the number of people requiring medical services on the rise, the healthcare industry doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. 

There are numerous benefits to being an MA. It takes relatively little time to become certified, the role provides job satisfaction through helping patients, and an MA makes a good salary for an entry-level role in healthcare. Also, most tasks carry responsibility on both the clinical and administrative sides of healthcare. MAs also benefit from typically being full-time and having regular business hours. 

The medical assisting role could be a great opportunity for someone looking to get started in the healthcare industry or looking to change roles.

What does a medical assistant do?

An MA is specifically educated to perform administrative and clinical duties. They may also be called a clinical assistant or healthcare assistant. MAs have a wide variety of skills that allow them to support the work of physicians, physician assistants, and other health practitioners. They usually work in a clinical setting, such as a physician’s office, hospital, or outpatient clinic. 

Responsibilities vary from office to office, depending on location, size, and specialty. Common duties of a medical assistant include:

Administrative duties:

  • Using computer applications
  • Answering telephones
  • Greeting patients
  • Updating and filing patient medical records
  • Coding and filling out insurance forms
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Arranging for hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Handling correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping

Clinical duties:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients
  • Preparing patients for examination
  • Assisting the physician during the exam
  • Collecting and preparing laboratory specimens
  • Performing basic laboratory tests
  • Instructing patients about medication and special diets
  • Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
  • Transmitting prescription refills as directed
  • Drawing blood
  • Taking electrocardiograms
  • Removing sutures and changing dressings

This role should not be confused with licensed professionals who are trained to practice medicine and perform surgical procedures in collaboration with a physician.

What does it take to become a medical assistant?

Becoming an MA normally requires formal training resulting in a certificate or diploma. This certificate or diploma should include both academic courses and practicum experience that provides the skills and confidence to perform responsibilities in the real world. While there are several certification options out there, only graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. Many employers, as well as insurance agencies that insure physicians, require this certification for reasons of liability. Benefits to being certified include better overall job opportunities, better pay, and more opportunities for advancement.

There are several important qualities of a medical assistant. They include:

  • Analytical skills (e.g. understanding a medical chart)
  • Being detail-oriented (e.g. using precision when recording patient vitals)
  • Interpersonal skills (e.g. discussing patient information with physicians)
  • Technical skills (e.g. using clinical instruments such as a blood pressure cuff)

MAs also must learn to use electronic health record software. Providers are shifting from paper to electronic records in order to easily share information, reduce medical error, and collect health information for research and educational purposes. Electronic health records are an essential part to the advancement of the healthcare industry and providing coordinated care.

Formal medical assistant training should integrate these skills into the curriculum to help medical assistants succeed in their roles. 

Benefits of becoming a medical assistant

With both patient care and administrative responsibilities, the role allows MAs to help patients on both sides. Most medical assistants work full-time during regular business hours. Some work evenings, weekends, or holidays in medical facilities that are always open. 

Also, many of the tasks are routine, so it’s easier to hone skills over time with practice. As a caring and competent healthcare professional, there is a big opportunity to feel fulfilled by the job.

How much do medical assistants earn?

The median salary for a medical assistant in 2019 was $34,800. This can vary depending on geographic location, type of medical facility, and experience or skill level. 

What are the career opportunities for medical assistants?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for medical assistants are expected to grow by 19% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. There are several drivers behind this substantial expected growth, most notably the increase in the Baby Boomer population. 

The Baby Boomer Generation is largely in their 60s and 70s, and they continue to put an increasing demand on the healthcare industry. With primary care physicians and nurses already strained for time, more medical assistants will be hired to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing physicians and nurses to spend more time with patients. 

With several years of experience, medical assistants may look into taking on roles that involve more leadership. Due to their intimate knowledge of clinical operations, they are often well-positioned to become clinic managers. They also may consider advancing into other healthcare occupations such as a registered nurse, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. 

Overall, with stable job prospects and balanced, fulfilling tasks, medical assisting provides great opportunities to enter the healthcare profession or change your career. If this sounds interesting to you, we encourage you to inquire about the online Medical Assisting program with OpusVi and Mercy College PLUS today.

Medical Assisting

Online Certificate

Jess Holder


Jess Holder

Manager of Member Marketing Content at Accolade


Jess Holder

Manager of Member Marketing Content at Accolade

Jess has spent over a decade asking healthcare thought leaders how they are improving the healthcare delivery system. In addition to being a freelance writer, she currently works at Accolade, a healthcare advocacy and patient navigation company that is on a mission to relentlessly reinvent healthcare. Jess received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two wild and crazy boys.