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What does a Medical Assistant do?

The medical field is not solely comprised of doctors and nurses. Nearly 4 million professionals currently enjoy careers in health care support occupations, without the time and expense required to complete medical or nursing school. These individuals typically work in a physician's office or hospital and are responsible for any number of areas, from administration to pharmaceuticals to finance.

One such position is the role of medical assistant. With job prospects deemed "excellent" over the course of the current decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants will remain in high demand.

Career outlook

There are currently more than half a million medical assistants in the US, and that number is only expected to increase over the next seven years. Job growth was projected at 34 percent.

Jobs in this field are projected to grow much faster than average; such a positive outlook is the result of impending changes to the health care system, the aging population, and technological advancements in medicine. Ultimately, in the near future, physicians may be tasked with attending to more patients in the same amount of time as they previously had, and their assistants will play a key role in making that possible.

Major job requirements

Whether they work in a physician's office, hospital, university or outpatient care facility, medical assistants enjoy a balance of clerical work and clinical work. They assist with administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments, taking patients' medical histories, filing insurance forms, and handling bookkeeping and billing. They often greet patients, take their vital signs, prepare them for procedures like X-rays and MRIs, change dressings and prepare examination rooms for the next patients.

Educational requirements

Medical assistants perform a wide range of duties. As a result, their educational requirements look like a combination of a pre-med student's course list and an office manager's training program. Typically, only a high school diploma is required, but because of the expanded job opportunities and earning potential that comes with additional training, most complete 1- or 2-year programs. It can also help to volunteer in the field in order to gain valuable experience and free on-the-job training. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) programs are available through the American Association of Medical Assistants and can help set skilled, experienced candidates apart from the rest.

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