Types of Medical Assistant Specialties to Consider

A medical assistant works closely with physicians and patients providing care, helping with assessments and procedures, and performing clerical duties. Medical assistants can work in clinics, doctors offices, care centers, and hospitals. 

Some medical assistants specialize in clinical or administrative roles. Others further specialize in specific types of healthcare. 

This guide goes over various types of medical assistant specialties and how to decide which is right for you. 

Clinical vs. Administrative Medical Assistant

The responsibilities of a medical assistant include taking vital signs, giving medications, and assisting physicians with their responsibilities. They also help schedule appointments, handle billing, and deal with insurance. 

Some MAs will perform both administrative and clinical tasks, and some choose to do only one or the other. 

Clinical Medical Assistant

A clinical medical assistant focuses more on the patient care part of assisting. They will help patients with things like: 

  • Taking vital signs
  • Giving medications 
  • Removing stitches 
  • Simple dressing changes 
  • Assisting with procedures 
  • Drawing blood for labs
  • Cleaning and sterilizing equipment

A clinical medical assistant will spend most of the day on their feet interacting with patients. They need to be able to work in a fast-paced environment while remaining patient and empathetic with clients. 

Clinical medical assistant details:

Administrative Medical Assistant

An administrative medical assistant focuses more on paperwork and organizational duties. An administrative medical assistant will: 

  • Schedule appointments 
  • Maintain accurate medical and financial records
  • Register patients at the front desk
  • Collect and document co-pays and fees 
  • Help patients request and obtain prescriptions and refills 

An administrative assistant should have a thorough understanding of insurance and medical terminology. They also need to pay close attention to details and be well-organized. 

You may choose to take a medical billing course to help you be more successful. 

Administrative medical assistant details:

  • Average salary: $40,500 (Salary.com, September 2022) 
  • Certification (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) OR Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
  • Certifying Organization: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (for CMA) and American Medical Technologists (RMA).

7 Types of Medical Assistant Specialties

Medicine is broken into many different specialties. Pediatrics to geriatrics, reproductive health, assisted living, oncology, dermatology, and chiropractic medicine are just a handful of specialties you can choose from. 

There are opportunities for medical assistants to work in most of these types of healthcare. Some specialties have specific certifications while others require more on-the-job training.

1) Family Medicine Medical Assistant

Family medicine is where most people go to see their primary care physician. Working in a family medicine office means you might get to see patients ranging from newborns to geriatric populations. 

In family medicine, you’ll help people with their annual checkups or follow-up visits for medication changes. You might also see people coming in for mild illnesses, mental health needs, or minor injuries. 

At a family clinic office, the medical assistant would help with: 

  • Creating new patient records 
  • Helping fill prescriptions and refills 
  • Removing stitches 
  • Giving medications 
  • Administering vaccinations 
  • Conducting child well-check 
  • Drawing blood
  • Collecting urine, saliva, and stool samples

Being a certified medical assistant, having training in giving injections, and being trained in phlebotomy can help you in your job search and help you be more competitive in the application process. 

Family medicine medical assistant details:

  • Average Salary: $41,662 (Indeed, September 2022)
  • Certifications (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Certified Phlebotomist
  • Certifying Organizations: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)

2) Cardiology Medical Assistant

In a cardiology office, you will be working with patients who have heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, or need valve replacements. These patients often need frequent lab checks and medication dosing changes. 

Heart clinics often see patients frequently for long periods of time. Working in one of these offices allows you to build relationships with your patients and be part of their care for years.

Medical assistance in these clinics will: 

  • Draw blood and send it to the lab for interpretation
  • Perform EKG and inform the doctor of the results
  • Assist with echocardiograms 
  • Refill prescriptions 
  • Schedule follow-up appointments
  • Handle billing and insurance

Working in a cardiology clinic may require you to have special training. For example, you may need to learn how to do an EKG. This will help you learn about different heart rhythms and what to do in case of a cardiac emergency. You will also need to have a thorough understanding of heart failure medications and a cardiac diet. 

Because you will be caring for some high-risk patients, you will also need your CPR certification. You should be able to identify symptoms of acute or serious heart problems and know when to call the physician. 

Cardiology medical assistant details:

  • Average Salary: $34,348 (Salary.com, August 2022)
  • Certifications (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), CPR certification, Certified Electrocardiograph Technician (CET), Specialty Certified Medical Assistant in Cardiology (SCMA-CD™)
  • Certifying Organization: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), American Heart Association (AHA), National Performance Specialists, Specialty Certified Medical Assistants

3) Geriatrics Medical Assistant

Geriatric care is defined as the care of older people. While there is no specified age, most medical personnel consider 75 years and older to be geriatric care. 

Working in geriatric care can be very rewarding, and you will get to see a variety of patients and health conditions. Geriatric medical assistants get to learn about everything from checking blood sugar to helping a patient plan their end-of-life care. 

Geriatric medical assistant responsibilities include:

  • Assisting physicians with physical assessments
  • Checking measurements and vital signs
  • Inspecting the skin for anything abnormal 
  • Giving vaccinations and booster shots
  • Helping patients navigate insurance

A medical assistant working in geriatric care is similar to family care. However, geriatric care requires administrative medical assistance to have a good understanding of Medicare insurance.

Medical assistants working in this field should have a thorough understanding of both private and Medicare insurance and have patience and willingness to help their customers navigate these systems.

Geriatric medical assistant details:

  • Average Salary: $34,595 (Zippa, August 2022)
  • Certification (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) 
  • Certifying Organization: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)

4) Ophthalmologic Medical Assistant

An ophthalmologic office specializes in eye disorders and vision loss. They perform eye exams, prescribe glasses and contacts, assess for cataracts, and test for glaucoma. You can choose to work in pediatric or adult clinics. 

Ophthalmologic Medical Assistants are one of the most highly paid medical assistants, but it takes about 40 weeks of additional schooling to become a COA. 

Ophthalmologic Medical Assistant Responsibilities: 

  • Prepare patients for exams
  • Prepare equipment for exams
  • Administer basic eye test
  • Teach patients how to insert and remove contacts
  • Teach about tests, medications, and procedures
  • Assist the physician with ultrasound images
  • Assist with in-office procedures

To become an ophthalmologic medical assistant, you must become a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant. You must get a diploma from an accredited program and pass an exam given by the International Joint Commission on Allied Personnel in Ophthalmology. 

Having a CMA certificate in addition to a COA certification will help you be more competitive in your job search.

Ophthalmologic medical assistant details:

  • Average Salary: $50,399 (Glassdoor, September, 2022)
  • Certification (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA)
  • Certifying Organization: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), International Joint Commission on Allied Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO)

5) Obstetrics/Gynecology Medical Assistant

If you are interested in women’s healthcare, obstetrics/gynecology is a great place for you. Working in these fields gives you an opportunity to help women understand their reproductive health. You will get to help pregnant women from the first few weeks until delivery of their baby.

Some women feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when visiting a gynecologist. A medical assistant in this field can help women feel calm and well-cared for while in a vulnerable situation.

Responsibilities of an obstetric medical assistant include: 

  • taking weights, measurements, and vital signs
  • Obtaining health history
  • Assisting with exams and procedures
  • Providing educational materials about reproductive and sexual health 

A medical assistant in obstetrics or gynecology can gain more credibility by getting a special certification in OB/GYN care. You will need to learn how to assist with procedures like pap smears and mammograms, as well as ultrasounds and care of pregnant women. 

OB/GYN medical assistant details:

  • Average Salary: $45,978 (Payscale, September 2022)
  • Certifications (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Specialty Certified Medical Assistant in OB/GYN (SCMA-OBG™)
  • Certifying Organization: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), Specialty Certified Medical Assistants

6) Endocrinology Medical Assistant

Endocrinology offices deal with disorders of the endocrine system. This includes helping people with conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, and low estrogen or testosterone levels. 

Endocrine clinics often find the root of a problem that people have been struggling with for years. It can be very rewarding to help someone feel better after months or years of not feeling their best. Endocrinologists can help people with mood disorders, weight gain, and sleep problems. 

Endocrine medical assistant responsibilities include: 

  • Frequent blood draws 
  • Subcutaneous injections 
  • Medication administration
  • Blood sugar checks 
  • Collection of urine samples 
  • Maintaining accurate and up-to-date health records 

To become an endocrine medical assistant, you’ll need a basic understanding of the endocrine system including hormones and blood sugar control. 

You should also have a good understanding of diabetes and know what to do in case of a diabetic emergency. 

Endocrinology medical assistant details:

  • Average Salary: $38,922 (Talent.com, September 2022)
  • Certification (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Specialty Certified Medical Assistant in Endocrinology (SCMA-END™)
  • Certifying Organization: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), Specialty Certified Medical Assistants

7) Chiropractic Medical Assistant

Chiropractic offices use chiropractic adjustments, massage, and electrical nerve stimulation to help their patients feel better. Chiropractic offices are great for medical assistants who are interested in holistic healthcare. 

Many people visit the chiropractor with complaints of chronic pain. People in chiropractic medicine often see the same patients over long periods of time and get to see them progress and feel their best. 

Chiropractic medical assistants perform the following duties: 

  • Scheduling 
  • Preparing equipment
  • Billing and payment
  • Obtaining and maintaining accurate health history reports
  • Maintaining a hygienic office

Medical assistants in chiropractic offices usually perform more administrative tasks than those in doctors offices and clinics. They help with scheduling appointment reminders, as well as coordinating with insurance and other healthcare providers. 

You should have great organizational and interpersonal skills if you want to work in a chiropractic office. 

Chiropractic medical assistant details:

  • Average Salary: $37,878 (Glassdoor, September 2022)
  • Certification (not always required): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) 
  • Certifying Organization: Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)

How to Choose a Medical Assistant Specialty

Choosing a medical assistant specialty is a decision you should make thoughtfully and carefully. 

You might be able to tour or job shadow at a few different offices or clinics to get an idea of what would be a good fit for you. You can also ask school instructors or other medical assistants about their experiences to get an idea of what you might like. 

When choosing a specialty, you want to take into consideration your likes and dislikes. Someone who loves kids might enjoy working in a pediatric clinic. On the other hand, someone who is squeamish about eyeballs should avoid ophthalmology clinics. 

You should also take into consideration schedules and commute to and from work. Working in a clinic will mean you work more-typical office hours, but working somewhere like an urgent care can give you the flexibility of weekends and evenings. 

You can also use past experiences and certifications to your advantage. You can ask for higher pay if you look for a job related to your past work experience. 

Healthcare Career Comparisons

Here are some other career comparisons we've written that may help you decide which is best for you:

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