You have dreams of working as a medical professional, helping patients achieve the healthy bodies and minds they deserve, but before you can think about applying to medical school — or any other medical professional program, like nursing school — you want to make sure that you are comfortable in a healthcare environment. A good way to do that is with a non-medical healthcare job that is relatively quick and easy to qualify for — like medical administrative assistant positions.
What Does a Medical Administrative Assistant Do?
A medical administrative assistant tends to work on the business side of the healthcare industry, providing support to healthcare providers like doctors and nurses by handling basic administrative tasks. While more senior healthcare administrators may take responsibility for managing personnel or drafting budgets, administrative assistants tend to look after simpler daily tasks around the office. For example, some typical daily duties for medical administrative assistants may include:
- Answering phones
- Scheduling appointments
- Processing payments
- Delivering lab results to healthcare providers
- Ordering office supplies
At smaller practices, administrative assistants may also assume minor responsibilities with patients. For example, they may be asked to check patients in and gather patient information. However, unlike medical assistants, medical administrative assistants will not be asked to collect vitals, perform tests, administer treatments or assist a healthcare provider in any medical capacity. To fill this role, a medical administrative assistant will need to acquire additional training and certification in the medical field, which an employer might assist an administrative assistant in achieving.
How Do You Become a Medical Administrative Assistant?
No states have strict regulations for medical administrative assistants, which means that different healthcare institutions will have different requirements for professionals interested in filling this role. It is not uncommon for larger healthcare providers to demand a bachelor’s degree from administrative assistants, usually in a related field such as public health, business administration or health management.
However, some medical offices do not require education above or beyond high school, which means a diploma or GED could be qualification enough. Of course, applicants without advanced degrees can make themselves more attractive for these positions by completing online medical administrative assistant programs, which will cover all the hard and soft skills students might need to function effectively as medical administrative assistants. Those hard and soft skills might include:
- Understanding medical terminology
- Using office phone systems properly
- Communicating effectively with staff and patients
- Maintaining office organization
- Solving problems
- Making decisions
Job descriptions for available medical administrative assistant positions can provide more insight into what individual offices and institutions expect from their prospective hires. Almost every type of employer in the healthcare industry benefits from the efforts of a medical administrative assistant, so those interested in this career should look for openings at a wide variety of medical facilities, such as private medical practices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, insurance companies, medical billing companies, medical research labs and more.
How Much Can a Medical Administrative Assistant Earn?
Wages for medical administrative assistants vary considerably. Not only does the cost of living within a region affect wages, but the size of the employer and the scope of the assistant’s responsibilities can also affect salary rates. Finally, the amount of experience an assistant can bring to the role will impact how much an employer is willing to pay a new employee.
The average starting salary for a medical administrative assistant is an hourly wage around $13.50, which is notably lower than the average entry-level salary for all occupations. However, with a year or two of experience, medical administrative assistants can increase their wages upwards of $17 per hour, and with a decade or more, administrative assistants can take home more than $50,000 per year in salary.
Usually, medical administrative assistants advance or pivot into higher-earning positions within the healthcare field after gaining some experience in the field. Some move into the medical profession, working as nurses or physicians, while others move higher up the administrative path. In any case, working as an administrative assistant is an excellent first step in a healthcare career.
Whether you are intent on enrolling in medical school or not, you can launch your career in healthcare today by working toward becoming a medical administrative assistant.