12 Reasons to Become a Medical Assistant

Think back to the last time you received care at a medical office. 

On the day before your appointment, someone might have called you to confirm that you were coming. After you arrived, a healthcare worker might have taken your vitals and reviewed your medical history. These are all potential job duties of a medical assistant.

In short, a medical assistant is a healthcare worker who helps other staff by performing clinical and administrative duties. Medical assisting is a great career for a variety of reasons. 

This article goes into the top reasons to become a medical assistant. 

12 Reasons to Become a Medical Assistant

Medical assisting is a good career path for anyone who has a passion for science and wants to play an essential role in the patient healthcare experience. 

Here are 12 reasons to become a medical assistant:

1. Low Barrier to Entry/Little Education Required

Compared with other healthcare careers, becoming a medical assistant requires minimal education. Generally, the bare minimum requirement to work as a medical assistant is a high school diploma or GED.

However, many employers prefer to hire applicants who have completed an accredited medical assistant training program. These programs are offered through a variety of settings, such as online and through postsecondary institutions like community colleges or trade schools.

In addition, there are several types of programs that are offered. The two most common are certificate programs and associate degree programs. Certificate programs are usually shorter and take several months to complete, while associate degree programs can take up to 2 years to finish. 

Overall, you can expect medical assistant programs to take anywhere from a few months to 2 years to complete. Relative to other healthcare professions, the path to becoming a medical assistant is much shorter and straightforward. 

2. Can Get Certified Quickly & Online

Getting certified is a great way to accelerate your career and stand out to potential employers. Fortunately, earning a medical assistant certification can be quick and easy.

There are several types of medical assistant certifications, such as CMA, RMA, and CCMA. In order to become certified, you must pass a certification exam. However, you will first need to complete an approved medical assistant training program to meet the exam’s eligibility requirements. 

For example, Stepful offers an online medical assistant training program that prepares you to pass the National Healthcareer Association’s CCMA exam. The program takes 4 months to complete and provides you with a variety of resources, such as job placement support, an in-person externship, and 1-on-1 career coaching. 

3. Great Job Outlook and Security

Medical assistants can look forward to a great job outlook and job security. According to the 2021 data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical assistant jobs are expected to increase by 16% by 2031.

Compared with other careers, this is a much-better-than-average job outlook. As a result, you can expect medical assistants to be in demand over the next decade or so. 

4. Decent Pay

Medical assistants are decently compensated for their work. Medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $37,190 in 2021. The highest paid earned a median annual salary of over $48,170, with some medical assistant specialties earning even higher.

Keep in mind that the exact salary will vary depending on a variety of factors such as experience, workplace setting, and location. 

5. Flexible Schedule

Depending on where they work, medical assistants enjoy flexibility with their work schedule. This is particularly true for smaller private practices that offer more flexible schedules compared with locations such as hospitals or other larger healthcare facilities. 

Most medical assistants work a typical full-time 40-hours a week schedule. Some medical assistants have different schedules such as part-time, overnight, weekends, or 12-hour shifts. 

6. Ability to Help Others

If the idea of helping patients navigate the often-complicated healthcare system sounds fulfilling, then medical assisting may be a great career choice for you.

 One of the biggest perks of being a medical assistant is that they are often the first person the patient interacts with during their medical office visit. Because of this, they play a major role in helping ease the patient’s initial anxiety and concerns.  

In addition, medical assistants help make sure that patients are on the same page with their medical team regarding their care. For example, medical assistants may provide patients with after visit instructions and guidance for scheduling follow-up appointments. 

7. Fast-Paced Work Environment

A medical assistant is able to perform a variety of administrative clinical tasks. On a typical day, for example, they may schedule appointments, answer phone calls, review patient histories, take vitals, and maintain patient records.  

This means that medical assistants are very busy and will often have to multitask. Because many medical offices see a high volume of patients, the pace of work can be quite fast.  

If you enjoy this kind of dynamic working environment, then medical assisting may be a good career choice for you.

8. Variety of Work Environments

Medical assistants are employed in a variety of work environments. Some of these places include hospitals, physician private practices, optometry offices, and outpatient clinics. This offers medical assistants the flexibility to find a workplace setting that best suits them.

9. Can Work in Many Specialties

Medical assistants have many skills that make them an essential part of any medical office. 

They can work in a variety of specialties such as primary care, orthopedics, ophthalmology, and more. No matter what you are interested in, you can find a medical assistant position that fits you. 

10. Perform a Variety of Tasks

Medical assistants perform a variety of duties grouped into two categories: clinical and administrative.

Clinical tasks involve working with patients to provide care. Some of these duties include taking vitals, collecting lab specimens, and reviewing patient histories. 

Administrative tasks involve front desk work important for keeping things running smoothly. Some of these duties include scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, working with insurance and billing, and keeping supplies stocked.

11. Good Experience for More Advanced Healthcare Careers

Healthcare settings can be a challenging environment to work in. To be an effective healthcare worker, you will need to have qualities such as being compassionate, patient, and knowledgeable.

The knowledge needed to succeed is not limited to clinical things like anatomy, pharmacology, or diseases. It also includes a thorough understanding of the ins-and-outs of how a medical office operates so that patients can receive the care they need. 

Working as a medical assistant gives you first-hand experience in a healthcare environment. This will go a long way towards preparing you to succeed in more advanced healthcare careers, such as nursing or physician assistant, should you choose to go those routes. 

12. Ability to Go into Instructing

Becoming a medical assistant instructor is an excellent option if you have a passion for teaching and helping others achieve their career goals.

There are an impressive amount of medical assistant training programs offered throughout the U.S., both through in-person and online formats. Experienced medical assistants are sought after to help train and educate the next generation.

7 Reasons to Avoid Becoming a Medical Assistant

Medical assisting isn't the right career for everyone. Here are some reasons why becoming a medical assistants may not be right for you:

1. Lower Pay Compared to Other Healthcare Professions

Medical assistants tend to earn less compared to other similar healthcare professions such as dental hygienist, registered nurse, and EKG technician. If earning a high salary is a top priority, then becoming a medical assistant may not be the best career fit for you.

2. Fewer Advancement Opportunities

Overall, medical assistants have relatively few opportunities for career advancement. Some advancement options include getting certified or taking on a supervisory role. 

If you want to pursue a different healthcare career, such as nursing assistant or clinical laboratory scientist, then you will need to complete additional education. 

3. Can Be Stressful

Healthcare settings are often fast-paced and dynamic. Medical assistants will need to be able to stay organized and calm, especially when things get hectic during the workday. 

If you do not work well in stressful, fast-paced work environments, then medical assisting may not be the best fit for you.

On a typical workday, medical assistants will need to manage several tasks at once. In addition, they will spend a lot of time interacting with patients. As a result, they will need to have excellent customer service skills as they help address patient’s concerns and complaints. 

4. You May be Asked to Draw Blood

Drawing blood is a common procedure that is important for managing patients’ health. Because of this, some job positions expect medical assistants to be trained to draw blood. Certain specialties are more likely to involve blood draws, including primary care and endocrinology. 

If you are not comfortable with drawing blood, then you will need to make sure that the job you are interested in does not include that in their job requirements. Or you may want to find a medical assistant role that focuses on administrative tasks.

5. May Be On Your Feet a Lot

Depending on where you work, you may be on your feet a lot. For example, you may need to walk from exam room to exam room to help patients. However, if you mainly help with administrative tasks, then you may not have to move around as much.

If you’re more interested in just the administrative work, you may want to consider becoming a medical administrative assistant.

6. May Have to Work Long Hours

Some workplace settings are busier than others. Large hospitals, in particular, see a high volume of patients. This leads to packed schedules and sometimes running behind on time. You may have to arrive at work earlier or stay later than you would like to finish all of your tasks.

In addition, some positions may need you to work overnight shifts, on weekends, or during holidays. 

7. Possibility of Facing Legal Action

As with any healthcare profession, there is a risk of facing legal action when something goes wrong. Sometimes mistakes—real or perceived—can occur. 

How to Decide if Becoming a Medical Assistant is Right for You

Overall, medical assisting is a good career choice with many benefits. However, it may not be the right fit for everyone. If you are still unsure whether becoming a medical assistant is right for you, here are some tips to help you decide:

1. Participate in an Externship

Externships are one of the best ways to see if becoming a medical assistant is right for you. During a medical assistant externship, you will get the chance to experience first-hand what working as a medical assistant is like. 

Many medical assistant training programs include externships as part of their curriculum.  It is also possible to find externship positions through online job search sites or by contacting local medical offices. They are typically unpaid and may require you to commit for a certain amount of time.

2. Connect with Current/Former Medical Assistants

Medical assistants love helping others learn more about their profession. Speaking with a medical assistant is a good way to get a better understanding of what the career is like. You can also ask them what steps they took to get their career started. 

3. Ask to Shadow a Medical Assistant for a Day

For some people, participating in an externship may be too much of a commitment. In addition, sometimes there may not be externship positions readily available. 

In this case, shadowing a medical assistant is a great alternative. Shadowing means observing someone at work to learn more about their profession. 

4. Explore Medical Assistant Training Programs

Medical assistant training programs provide you with all the knowledge and skills you need to become a great medical assistant. They are offered online and through postsecondary institutions, like trade schools or community colleges. 

It can also be helpful to take a look at a program’s syllabus and curriculum overview to see if it is something you would be interested in. 

5. Check Out Our Blog

Check out our blog, where we have tons of articles covering a variety of topics on medical assistants that can help you learn more about the career.

6. Talk to Us Here at Stepful

We at Stepful are rooting for your success. We can provide you with all the tools you need to achieve your goal of becoming a medical assistant. If you want someone to discuss whether a MA career is right for you, you can talk to our career coaches that can help you decide. 

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