A medical assistant is someone who usually works in a doctor's office or clinic. They do things like prepare rooms for patient examinations, take vital signs, answer phones, and schedule appointments.
Medical assisting can be a great career option, but it also has its challenges. It is important to consider both before starting your career.
This guide goes over the pros and cons of a medical assistant career so you can decide if it’s right for you.
Why Being a Medical Assistant is a Good Career Choice
There are many different career options to consider, and you should choose something you are excited about. If healthcare interests you, medical assisting can be a great choice.
Here are some of the pros of a medical assistant career:
1) Low barrier to entry/little education required
Except for a few states, medical assisting does not require any special education or certification. You can start applying for jobs and working after earning your high school diploma or GED. This makes it a great choice for people who want to work in the medical field but need to start working right away.
2) Great job outlook & job security
According to the BLS, medical assisting is one of the fastest growing jobs in the country. Job opportunities for medical assistants are supposed to grow by 16% through 2032. This equates to the job outlook for medical assistants being triple the national average.
3) Quick certification process
While it is not required, you can make more money and have more choices about where you want to work if you choose to become certified. Certification programs can be completed in as little as four months, with online options available for those who need more flexibility.
Stepful, for example, has an online medical assistant training program that takes only four months to complete and has a 100% job-placement guarantee.
>> Learn more: How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant
4) Decent pay & benefits
Compared to other careers with similar educational and training requirements, medical assistants make a decent salary. In fact, compared to certified nursing assistants, medical assistants make about $7,000 more per year.
In addition, medical assistants typically receive great benefits packages including paid time off, health insurance, and much more.
>> Learn more: Average Medical Assistant Salary
5) Can work in any location
Medical assistants are in high demand nationwide. You can find medical assisting jobs in almost any location, everywhere from big cities to rural communities. You can even find travel medical assisting jobs where you can work short contracts while traveling around the country.
6) Variety of jobs
While most medical assistants work in primary care clinics, there are a variety of other places that hire medical assistants.
Medical assistants work in hospitals, long term care centers, pediatrics, and many other facilities.
>> Learn more: Types of Medical Assistant Specialties
7) Meaningful work
Healthcare is one of the most meaningful careers you can have. You get to spend your days helping people improve their health and caring for those who have a hard time caring for themselves. Working as a medical assistant means you’ll come home every day knowing that you made a difference for the better.
8) Learning opportunities
If you would like to have a more advanced job in the medical field, working as a medical assistant gives you a lot of exposure to different medical conditions and procedures. Medical assisting is a great place to learn the basics of patient care and gives you a good foundation for a more advanced job.
9) Engaging work
If you work as a medical assistant, chances are that you rarely stare at the clock waiting down the hours to pass by. Working as a medical assistant means you’ll be busy throughout your workday, getting to problem solve and engage with people all day. Medical assisting is far from boring.
10) Ability to go into instructing
If you ever do get tired of the fast pace of medical assisting, you can become a medical assisting instructor. These instructors get to pass on their knowledge and experience to help future medical assistants have successful careers.
11) Low stress
Medical assisting is one of the lowest-stress medical jobs you can do. You aren't responsible for any potentially risky procedures and are typically not rushed throughout the day.
>> Read More: Reasons to Become a Medical Assistant
Cons of Being a Medical Assistant
While there are many benefits of being a medical assistant, there are also some drawbacks to consider:
1) Lower pay compared to other healthcare professions
While medical assisting is not the lowest paying job out there, it is definitely entry-level pay. Pay is similar to phlebotomists. In healthcare, there are opportunities to make a lot more money if you are willing to spend time and money in school.
2) Few advancement opportunities
Once you start working as a medical assistant, there are not many advancement opportunities available without returning to school. Many medical assistants work while attending classes to earn a more advanced degree and higher paying job. If you want to pursue a more advanced profession as a medical assistant, you'll typically have to go back to school.
3) Lots of physical activity
Working as a medical assistant means you will spend a lot of the day on your feet. Cleaning and preparing examination rooms, running supplies to physicians, and walking patients back and forth from rooms will keep you busy all day with physical activity.
4) Possibility of facing legal action
As with many healthcare professions, you face a higher-than-average risk of litigation. As long as you stay in your scope of practice and act responsibly, there is no reason you should have any legal trouble.
5) Many skills & knowledge requirements
Even though they aren’t doctors, they still need to know anatomy and physiology, as well as having a variety of skills. They also need to know medical terminology and be well educated
Why You Should Consider an Externship Before Jumping In
A medical assistant externship is a fantastic way to experience medical assisting without making a big commitment.
In an externship, you will follow a medical assistant in their workplace for a shift or a few days. You will get to see how they spend their day, what is expected of them, the tasks they perform, and what kind of environment they work in.
You may be able to find an externship by calling local doctors offices and clinics to see if you can shadow a medical assistant. An easier option is to sign up through a medical assisting program that offers externship opportunities.
Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook
Medical assistants make about $37,000 per year, or $18 per hour. This varies based on the type of medical assisting you choose, your location, your experience, and whether or not you are certified.
Job outlook for medical assistants is fantastic. If you have a willingness to learn and a good work ethic, you should be able to get and maintain a good job without any problems.
Common Benefits for Medical Assistants
When you start a career, it is important to consider what kinds of benefits are offered. A benefits package usually makes up about 30% of an employee's earnings.
Medical assistants can typically expect the following benefits:
- Dental insurance. 83% of full time medical assistants have dental insurance included as part of their benefits package. Dental insurance usually covers two check ups and cleanings per year.
- Paid Time Off (PTO). 83% of medical assistants receive vacation time, and 58% get a sick leave benefit in addition to their vacation time off.
- Vision insurance. 78% of full-time medical assistants receive vision insurance that can help cover the cost of contacts, lenses, and eye exams.
- Health insurance. 74% of full time medical assistants receive a healthcare benefits package. This generally means that the employer contributes to the cost of the employee's health insurance.
- Disability insurance. Over half of medical assistants, 64%, receive disability insurance as a part of their benefits package.
- Professional liability insurance. 24% of medical assistants receive liability insurance which can help cover you if you get sued by a patient or their family.
Deciding if a Medical Assistant Career is Right for You
There are many things to consider when deciding if medical assisting is right for you. Think about your interests, financial needs, schedule preferences, and goals for the future.
Medical assistants earn a decent salary, usually get good benefits, and have great job security. You can become a medical assistant quickly and do a lot of learning on the job.
Medical assisting is a great career for anyone interested in the medical field, whether you choose to pursue a more advanced healthcare job or not. If you love to learn, stay busy, and help people, medical assisting might be a good fit for you.