Job Prospects and Top 5 States With The Highest Salary for Medical Assistants

By: U.S. News University Connection

Job Prospects and Top 5 States With The Highest Salary for Medical Assistants

Job prospects for medical assistants are improving noticeably as the healthcare industry adjusts to new health care legislation and responds to increases in patient case loads. But medical assistants also may find they have additional responsibilities as team players within a changing health care system.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for medical assistants will increase about 29% from 2012 to 2022, a much faster growth rate than for other jobs overall. As of May 2012 the median pay for medical assistants was just under $30,000 a year.

Salaries for Medical Assistants

The top 10% may earn nearly $42,000; the lowest 10% slightly more than $21,000.

As of May 2013 the top five states with the highest median pay are Alaska, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Washington and Connecticut, according to the BLS. The range is a high in Alaska of almost $40,000 and a low in Connecticut of slightly more than $34,000.

More than half of medical assistants work in physicians' offices. But they also work in hospitals, walk-in clinics, chiropractor's offices, podiatrist's offices and for other health care providers. They generally work full time. For medical assistants working at locations that are open 24 hours they can expect some weekend and evening work.

Job duties for Medical Assistants

Duties vary based on the location, specialty and size of the health care practice. Generally they interact with patient's to collect information on medical history and insurance. They answer phones, schedule appointments and measure a patient's vital statistics such as weight, height and blood pressure. They may help with examinations under supervision of a physician or other health care provider. As directed they can administer injections. And they also may prepare blood samples for laboratory tests.

As more health care providers shift from paper health records to electronic health records (EHR), medical assistants will need to know how to use the software, and understand the importance of maintaining confidentiality of patients' records.

Employers likely will want medical assistants who are detail-oriented, people-friendly and who have technical and analytical skills.

Specialties in the Medical Assisting Field

In larger practices, medical assistants may need to specialize. If they are administrative medical assistants, duties will include filing records, coding patients' records, answering phones and buying supplies. Clinical medical assistants will find duties can vary from state to state but may include basic laboratory testing, disposal of medical waste, sterilizing medical instruments, instructing patients about medications and diets, removing stitches and changing dressings.

Medical assistants who work with ophthalmologist’s or optometrists will help with eye care including instruction on use and care of contact lenses. Ophthalmologist’s also may want help with surgery. Working for podiatrists they may be required to make foot casts and take and expose X-rays.

Education and Certification for Medical Assistants

Certification is not required of medical assistants but a medical assistant with certification may have better job prospects. Many receive post-secondary education from community or junior colleges or vocational schools. These programs generally take one year to complete to earn a certificate or diploma.

But others enter the field with a high school diploma and learn duties through on-the-job training.

Some community colleges offer two-year programs for associate degrees. Some states require that medical assistants graduate from accredited programs, pass an examination or both.

Post-secondary education provides classroom and laboratory instruction that includes lessons on anatomy and medical terminology. In high school students considering a medical assistant career should take biology, chemistry and anatomy.

Certified medical assistants who work full time can expect to earn more than those without certification, according to a 2013 Compensation and Benefits Survey conducted by the American Association of Medical Assistants.

The results were from about 4,400 responses, mainly from certified medical assistants and members of the AAMA. The survey found the average salary, with certification, was slightly less than $30,000; without certification, it was almost $28,000 a year. The survey also found that the Pacific states offered the highest average yearly pay at more than $33,000 with New England second at more than $30,000.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants from these agencies: the AAMA, the American Medical Technologists, the National Center for Competency Testing and the National Health Career Association.