Medical Assistant in the Military: Salary, Duties, & How to Become

Being a medical assistant in the military is a meaningful way to serve your country while gaining healthcare experience and earning a decent salary. Medical assisting is one of the fastest growing jobs in the United States, and military medical assistants have some special opportunities that civilians don’t. 

As a military medical assistant, you can care for military families on base, work near a battlefield, or care for veterans in need of medical services. Medical assistants working in the military help physicians perform examinations and procedures, schedule appointments, and stock supplies.

This guide will go over everything you need to know about being a medical assistant in the military, including average salary, where they work, what they do, and how to become one. 

What Does a Military Medical Assistant Do?

Military medical assistants work alongside physicians to provide care to military members and their families. They have both clinical and administrative responsibilities. 

Clinical responsibilities include:

  • Measuring vital signs. Taking vital signs is one of the most important things a medical assistant does. Measuring accurate vital signs helps guide treatment plans and prescription medications. 
  • Drawing blood. Medical assistants need to know how to draw blood without injuring the patient or causing infection. They must also be able to transport the specimen to the laboratory without contaminating the sample. 
  • Collecting samples. Besides blood, medical assistants may have to collect urine, stool, and sputum samples. They can also help doctors collect tissue samples for biopsies. 
  • Stocking supplies. A doctor's office cannot run well without the necessary supplies. Medical assistants are usually in charge of keeping supplies stocked and ordering more when they run low. 
  • Cleaning and sterilizing equipment. Medical assistants have to make sure that everything that is used is clean and may have to sterilize some medical instruments. They are also responsible for keeping workspaces and examination rooms clean and organized. 

Administrative responsibilities include:

  • Scheduling appointments. Medical assistants are responsible for helping clients schedule appointments and calling to remind people about follow up care. Once they are in the office, they check people in for their appointments and make sure everything is running on time. 
  • Coordinating prescription refills. Medical assistants can also help patients when they need a prescription refill. They can get clearance from a physician and then help the patients get their prescription sent to the correct pharmacy.
  • Answering phone calls. People often call doctors offices and clinics with questions about their appointments, medications, and follow-up care. Medical assistants help doctors manage all of these questions and make sure every phone call is returned in a timely manner. 
  • Handling billing and insurance. Medical assistants must keep accurate records of procedures and visits to ensure that insurance is billed correctly. 
  • Keeping information up to date. Medical records must be kept up to date and accurate. Medical assistants can record measurements, track changes, and organize physician notes. 

Where Do Medical Assistants Work in the Military?

Medical assistants in the military have opportunities to work all over the world. Different branches of the military will have medical assistants working in different areas. Military medical assistants may work in clinics, hospitals, aboard ships, or in field hospitals. 

Army Medical Assistants

Medical assistants in the Army are known as patient administration specialists. They can be part of the Army Reserves, the National Guard, or Active Duty. Medical assistants in the army are responsible for maintaining medical records and assisting physicians. 

Navy Medical Assistants

Medical assistants in the Navy are known as hospital corpsmen. A hospital corpsman is responsible for administering first aid, personal hygiene, medical records maintenance, and assisting in the transportation of the sick and injured. 

Air Force Medical Assistants

Medical assistants in the Air Force are simply known as medical assistants. They usually work at military bases caring for other members of the Air Force. 

Coast Guard Medical Assistants

Coast Guard medical assistants are known as health service technicians. They are trained in medical assisting as well as laboratory work, x-ray management, and medication management. They have to complete at least 5 months of training before starting work as a health service technician. 

No matter where you work, working as a medical assistant will be a fast-paced job where you spend a lot of time switching between working on your feet and administrative work. Most medical assistants for each branch work in doctors offices or clinics on base. 

Skills Required to Be a Military Medical Assistant

Military medical assistants need a few extra skills on top of the typical skills to be a civilian medical assistant. Some skills that military medical assistants must have include: 

  • Organization. Medical assistants work busy shifts moving from patient to patient all day. They must be able to keep their notes, supplies, and patient tasks organized throughout their shift. 
  • Dexterity. Medical assistants often handle delicate instruments when they help providers. They might also do things like remove stitches and draw blood, all of which require good manual dexterity. 
  • Time management. Offices and clinics usually only have a few minutes to spend with each patient. This can make it easy for a medical assistant to get behind. In addition, they need to know how to prioritize tasks to manage the office schedule well. 
  • Compassion. Patients coming in for medical care may not feel well or be nervous about their appointment. Medical assistants should show compassion and caring to every patient that seeks care in their facility. 
  • Communication skills. Clear communication is a vital part of any healthcare job. Mistakes in communication can lead to patient harm or unnecessary procedures and medications. 
  • Hard working. Medical assistants work hard every day to give great care to each of their patients. They often spend a lot of the day on their feet and should be ready to stay busy from the start to the end of their shift. 
  • Physically fit. Joining any branch of the army means you will have to pass a physical test before you can start working. While the test is not easy, even someone with little exercise experience can pass it with a few weeks of training. 
  • Works well under stress. Military medical assistants may face particularly stressful situations and should be able to function well under pressure.  

Military Medical Assistant Salary

The national average for medical assistant salaries is $37,190 per year, or $17.88 per hour. This can change based on your location, experience, and specialty. Military medical assistant make between about $30,000 to $45,000 per year.  

In general, military members without a degree can earn between $25,000 in an entry-level position and up to $100,000 with 10 years of experience. See here for general military salaries by experience and education. 

Benefits for Medical Assistants in the Military

Besides finding meaningful work, there are a lot of benefits to working in the military. Enlisted military service members receive things like free insurance, housing, free meals, help paying for college, and other big benefits.

Military members receive health insurance and dental insurance that covers 100% of all costs and there is no limit to the amount of medical care they can receive. This alone is a good reason to enlist. 

Members of the military are also eligible for housing allowances and even some free housing while living on base. In addition, they will receive money to cover the cost of moving. 

If you want to start out as a medical assistant and then continue school to earn an advanced degree, joining the military is a good way to help pay for college. The GI Bill offers a program to help military members pay for their schooling and can cover most or even all of the cost of your education. 

How to Become a Military Medical Assistant

If you want to become a medical assistant in the military, there are a few steps you will have to take to get there. While you could get your medical assisting certification before you start, it is not required.

Here are the required steps:

  1. Obtain your high school diploma or GED. You must have at least a high school diploma or GED before you can start work as any type of medical assistant. 
  2. Complete a training program (optional). While it’s not required, taking a medical assisting training program can help you get a job as a medical assistant in the military. Here at Stepful, we have an online medical assistant training program that only costs $1,999 and includes an in-person externship.
  3. Choose a military branch. Decide whether you would like to work for the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard.
  4. Enlist in the military. You must be enlisted in the military to work on base or as a military medical assistant. 
  5. Get the necessary training & education. Most military medical assistants complete on-the-job training after they enlist. You may want to take extra classes in phlebotomy and medical terminology to help jumpstart your training.
  6. Start your career. After completing the above steps, you are ready to start your career as a military medical assistant!

After Your Career as a Medical Assistant in the Military

Military experience teaches you hard work, discipline, and many other important life skills. If you get experience as a military medical assistant, you will be in high demand if you decide to return to civilian medical assistant. 

Military medical assisting experience also qualifies you to take the Registered Medical Assistant exam.

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