There’s never been a better time to be a medical assistant. Health care-related fields are set to add 15.6 million new jobs between 2012 and 2022 — far more than any other sector of the economy, according to a December 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A medical assistant handles the clinical and administrative duties of a physician’s office. As a medical assistant, you would be responsible for interviewing patients, taking vital signs and filling out patients’ charts. Depending on your training, you may also prepare treatment rooms, give injections and perform certain diagnostic or laboratory tests. Medical assistants may handle scheduling, billing and bookkeeping tasks as well.
The five best reasons for becoming a medical assistant are:
1. Job opportunities
While employment in the entire health care sector is projected to grow 10.8 percent over the decade, medical assistants are on track for 29 percent job growth. To put those numbers in perspective, nearly 163,000 of the 15.6 million health care jobs created between 2012 and 2022 are projected to be for medical assistant positions — many more than the average for all other professions, according to the BLS.
2. Relative ease of entry
In most states you don’t need any special education to become a medical assistant. While people with a high school diploma can learn on the job, most medical offices prefer to hire medical assistants with at least some postsecondary education or a certification. Accredited programs are available at many universities, community colleges and vocational or technical schools, and they usually take about a year to complete. Certifications are also available from organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants. Programs feature classes and labs that include instruction in anatomy and medical terminology.
3. Fulfilling work
If you enjoy working with people, few professions are as gratifying as that of a medical assistant. While the job can be fast-paced and challenging, the opportunity to help patients is one of the main reasons that people cite for choosing the career. Medical assistants greet people at the front desk, take patients’ vital signs and even remove sutures. It’s a job in which you can truly make a difference in people’s lives — and what’s better than that?
4. Job security
Along with the massive employment growth expected in the field in the next decade, medical assistants can count on a level of job security unprecedented in most other fields. Although the median pay is lower than that of many other health care professionals ($30,780 per year, according to the BLS), most medical assistants can typically expect to work a full-time, 40-hour week. Because many clinics and offices have weekend hours as well, you may be able to negotiate with your employer for a schedule that fits your lifestyle.
5. Personal and professional growth
As physicians’ offices and clinics switch to electronic health records over the next few years, medical assistants’ jobs will continue to evolve. Medical assistants will increasingly be responsible for analyzing electronic data and handling technical issues related to software and digital security. Many doctors offer their employees opportunities for continuing education as well. For those with drive and ambition, a career as a medical assistant can lead to other well-paying professions in the health care industry.
Michael Kerr writes about health care, technology and business for publications including Forbes.com, Portland Business Journal and Bplans, among many others.