Administrative Medical Assistant
When you walk into a doctor’s office, a clinic, a hospital, or another healthcare facility, the chances are great that you are greeted by a courteous Administrative Medical Assistant. Across the country, these highly trained professionals work in the front desk area and behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly so medical professionals can provide their patients with the highest level of care. If you have always had an interest in healthcare, but are not interested in providing direct patient treatment, becoming an Administrative Medical Assistant may be your ideal career choice. Entering this field is relatively easy and does not require a great deal of time. This means you can complete your training and start earning money in a job you will love in as little as a year or less.
There is a great deal more to the workings of a medical facility than just patient care. Running a successful healthcare company involves a great deal of office work. Administrative Medical Assistants keep things organized and running properly by answering phones, scheduling patient appointments, maintaining waiting areas, and filing charts and paperwork. They also are typically responsible for filing insurance claims and receiving payments, completing billing, maintaining the financial records of the business, stocking and ordering supplies, and checking inventory. In some states, Administrative Medical Assistants may be allowed to perform certain clinical duties.
What Makes Administrative Medical Assistants Different?
Administrative Medical Assistants work to take care of the business aspects of a doctor’s office or healthcare facility, while Clinical Medical Assistants work in providing direct patient care. As such, some Administrative Medical Assistants in large facilities may work in their own offices and rarely have direct communication or contact with patients.
The work of an Administrative Medical Assistant can be taxing at times, but the work environment is excellent. Those who enjoy this profession work in clean, professional environments and often work a standard 40-hour week. However, those who work in hospitals, nursing homes, or certain other positions may only work part-time or may be required to work nights and/or weekends. Depending upon the size and type of employer, the work of an Administrative Medical Assistant may be extremely hectic at times and will typically require the ability to multitask without losing focus. Because of this, people who choose this field should be detail-oriented, flexible, and able to work well under pressure.
Ideal Traits of an Administrative Medical Assistant
Although almost anyone can enter this career, not all will be successful. To be truly good in this profession, an individual must possess certain skills and traits. The first, and possibly most important trait needed for this career is the ability to communicate well. Administrative Medical Assistants must communicate both verbally and in writing with a number of other people. Those who choose this career must also have a good level of numerical aptitude. During the course of the job, Administrative Medical Assistants will be responsible for posting payments and insurance benefits, calculating balances, making payments for office supplies, and more. In addition, the ideal candidate for this job will be highly organized and computer savvy, and will also be friendly, cheerful, empathetic, and great with people.
Education and Training
If you want to become an Administrative Medical Assistant, you may be able to enter the career with no more than a high school diploma or GED. This involves finding an employer who is willing to offer on-the-job training. While there may be some employers who will do this, strict healthcare laws and regulations have most people looking for applicants who are formally trained through an accredited diploma or degree program. Diploma programs typically take a year or less to complete and can be found through many technical schools and community colleges. In around two years, you can earn an associate’s degree in medical assisting through a community college or university.
If you are interested in completing a formal training program, you may choose to attend classes on a traditional campus or through an online program. Because administrative medical assisting does not involve providing direct medical care, it is possible to complete all educational requirements through online courses from the comfort of your own home. Whichever path you choose in earning your education, look for programs that are properly accredited through either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). These accreditations show employers that you have met the rigorous standards for training that are necessary to fulfill the obligations of the job.
At this time, there are no states that require medical assistants to become certified, earning your certification can greatly improve your chances of getting a desirable job and earning a higher salary. If you attended an accredited medical assisting program that included both clinical and administrative components, you may choose to become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA). The CMA credential is offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) by passing a written examination and paying up to $250 in fees. The examination is given over four 40-minute sessions and includes 200 multiple-choice questions over a variety of medical assisting topics. The RMA credential is granted through the American Medical Technologists (AMT) and costs $100, which includes the first year’s membership. Both credentials are nationally recognized, but many employers consider the CMA to be the ‘gold standard’ in certification of medical assistants.
If, however, you graduated from a program that only included administrative content, you can earn the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) credential through the National HealthCareer Association. This organization also offers certification as a Billing and Coding Specialist or as a Electronic Health Record Specialist.
Salary and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the field of administrative medical assisting will be very strong in coming years with a very fast growth of 27% by 2018. This growth can be attributed to growth across the healthcare industry as well as the increasing use of automation in medical facilities. According to the agency, the best job opportunities will be available for highly trained and experienced Administrative Medical Assistants.
The average salary for an Administrative Medical Assistant is around $35,000 a year. This salary is often accompanied by a full range of employment benefits that can add several thousand dollars of value to the career each year.
Finding a Job
Finding the right job may seem like a daunting task, but there are ample opportunities available. Apply to as many employers as possible, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and physicians’ offices. You can also make use of any job placement services offered through your college or university and search job sites such as MedHunting, Monster, CareerBuilder, or Indeed. It is also a good idea to join professional organizations and to network with professionals in the field. Building a strong network can go a long way toward opening doors of opportunity and keeping you up to date on career leads and information.
Becoming an Administrative Medical Assistant takes a relatively small time and money commitment, especially when weighed against the career and financial benefits it offers. If you have been searching for a new career that will allow you to work in a professional environment while helping others and earning a great salary, this is one choice that will definitely deliver.