Medical Assisting 101: The Program, Skills, & Careers

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for Medical Assistants (MAs) is on track to grow by 29% from 2016 to 2026. This means that there is likely going to be an increase in the number of available jobs across the country. Learn about the courses in a typical medical assistant program, the skills you’ll master, and the jobs offer(s) you could have upon certification.

Program

Your medical assisting program instructors likely are experts in the field and certified MA’s themselves. It’s standard to begin with a textbook lecture and mix in demonstrations along the way. MA students attend classes for a total of 12 months, covering:

  • Medical office billing and coding
  • Medical office management
  • Administering an Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Phlebotomy
  • How to operate an X-Ray Machine
  • Therapeutic Communication (you may have heard this called, “bedside manner”!)
  • Survey of Drug Therapy
  • Lab procedures
  • Clinical procedures

You’ll also receive hands-on training in courses like Phlebotomy, where you’ll practice drawing blood or administering an IV on your classmates! After you’ve completed the coursework and practiced on your classmates, you’re ready for an externship. Your medical assisting program will help you arrange an externship at a local medical facility to gain hands-on experience and refine your skills.

Skills

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the office of physicians, cardiologist, chiropractors, pediatrics, and other health practitioners. While their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice, the following are the core responsibilities of most successful Medical Assistants:

  • Record patient history
  • Measure vital signs such as height, weight, temperature, pulse, blood pressure
  • Assist the physician with examinations
  • Give patients injections as directed by the physician
  • Draw and prepare blood for laboratory tests
  • Schedule patients’ appointments
  • Assist physician with minor in-office procedures
  • Educate patients regarding health issues
  • Assisting with billing and coding to ensure payment 
  • Prepare x-rays for physician review

Careers

Medical assistants earn on average $33,610 per year or $16.16 per hour in the United States, depending on the city you’re employed in, your employer’s specialty, and the number of years of experience that you have. Upon successful program completion, graduates are eligible for work in the following areas:

  • Medical Assistant – performs the above duties for a doctor’s office in an administrative and clinical role
  • Clinical Assistant – performs only the medial/clinical related duties, not the administrative
  • EKG Technician – performs ECG/EKGs under supervision of the physician
  • Billing and Coding – tracks patients accounts, apply proper codes for procedures and diagnosis for billing purposes, takes payments
  • Phlebotomy Technician – draws blood according to the physician’s orders and sends off to a lab for appropriate testing
  • Administrative Assistant – tracks patients accounts, applies proper codes for procedures and diagnosis for billing purposes, takes payments
  • Medical Receptionist – schedules appointments, data entry, check patients in and out, collects copayments and balances, prepares/manages physicians schedules, prepares patients charts for appointments

With some hard work and dedication, anyone can start their career as a medical assistant. Learn more about OIAH’s Medical Assisting Program here.

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