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Types of Medical Assistants

Medical Assisting is one of today’s hottest career choices. This career offers a fantastic working environment, good pay and benefits, and the opportunity to work in helping others. Across the country, over half a million medical assistants are working diligently in physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare environments, and this number is expected to grow. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of medical assisting is expected to grow by as much as 29% by 2022, which means around 163,000 new positions will be open. If you are ready to take your place among these talented healthcare workers, now is the ideal time to determine what type of medical assistant you would like to be and start working on your training.

While medical assistants may be found working in a number of specialized fields, there are three main types of medical assistants from which to choose: Clinical Medical Assistant, Registered or Certified Medical Assistant, and Administrative Medical Assistant. While all three types share some similarities, they have different requirements and involve different job descriptions.

Clinical Medical Assistant

Clinical Medical Assistants work alongside physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to provide direct patient care. Typical duties of a Clinical Medical Assistant include taking patient histories and vital signs, collecting and performing simple tests on blood and other specimens, providing education and care instructions to patients, and assisting with simple procedures. In addition, the Clinical Medical Assistant may be responsible for taking electrocardiograms or x-rays, scheduling procedures and laboratory tests, and dressing wounds. The duties of a Clinical Medical Assistant are governed by state regulations and may vary from one location to another. In all areas, these assistants work directly under the supervision of a licensed physician.

In order to train for this position, you should complete an accredited training program through a traditional or online college or university. Training for this job can take less than a year at the certificate level or around two years for an associate’s degree. Because Clinical Medical Assisting requires direct contact with patients, as well as extensive medical knowledge, even online programs will have an on-site clinical assignment in which students can practice their knowledge and skills. The average salary for a Clinical Medical Assistant is around $38,000 a year, plus benefits, although this amount can be much higher in certain areas.

Certified or Registered Medical Assistant

Although there are currently no states that require certification of medical assistants, many graduates choose to become either certified or registered in order to earn a higher salary and have more job opportunities. While there is little difference in the earning potential between the two, many employers see Certified Medical Assistant as the gold standard among credentials. Regardless of which credential you choose, you are required to have completed a training program that is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.

You may earn the Certified Medical Assistant credential through the American Association of Medical Assistants. If you meet the requirements of the AAMA, you may sit for the examination for a fee of $125-$200. The examination is comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions and is administered over four 40-minute periods. Once certified, recertification is required every 60 months.

The Registered Medical Assistant credential is available through the American Medical Technologists. Individuals may qualify to sit for the examination by meeting educational, work experience, military service, or teaching requirements. There is a $100 fee for taking the examination. Once the credential is received, members must pay an annual $50 fee and meet continuing education requirements every three years.

Administrative Medical Assistant

While Clinical Medical Assistants work directly in patient care, Administrative Medical Assistants work in the ‘paper’ aspects of the practice. Typically, Administrative Medical Assistants are responsible for answering phones and other communications, scheduling appointments, filing insurance claims, processing insurance and patient payments, and maintaining office inventories. These assistants may also be responsible for overseeing other office employees, cleaning waiting areas, transcribe notes, complete billing activities, and file records.

Training to become an Administrative Medical Assistant may be completed in a few months and is offered entirely online through many colleges and universities. Alternatively, candidates may choose to be trained through a traditional program at a community college or technical school. Administrative Medical Assistants can expect to earn an average salary of around $35,000 a year and may be able to work part-time, if desired.

While most medical assisting jobs are very similar in nature, there are subtle differences that may make one particular type more suited for you. Regardless of which type of medical assisting you wish to do, you can expect to enjoy a challenging and rewarding career that offers a very secure future.