A lot of people choose a career in medical assisting because they have a passion for health care and helping people but also because they want to get into a great career faster. Diploma and certificate programs for medical assisting typically take two years or even less and can lead to an immediate position right in the heart of the action, working with patients and alongside nurses and physicians.
It’s great if you want to get into your health career right away as a medical assistant, but don’t think that it has to stop there. Multiple medical assistant career paths are possible. An education in medical assisting is a great way to get a career but also a great foundation for moving up in health care and finding an even better position later. As you plan your education and your future, learn about all the possible career paths you can take just by starting out in medical assisting.
Medical Assisting in the Market – A Growing Demand
Medical assistants are in huge demand, and the great news is that many of the medical assistant career paths you can choose from make up the allied health field, one of the fastest growing industries in the country. Allied health professionals are those workers who support the work of physicians and nurses. They work with patients, handle medical records, assist doctors in procedures, and communicate between patients and doctors.
Among allied health careers, medical assisting is one of the fastest growing jobs. The federal government estimates that between 2014 and 2024 the number of jobs for medical assistants will grow at a very fast rate of 23 percent, offering more than 138,000 new positions for trained and qualified individuals. All of the careers to which medical assisting can lead you are growing just as fast, and there is no sign that this growth will slow. A career in medical assisting is a great foundation for a stable career in health care. This may be especially true in Florida where the population is older than in other areas of the country. Florida has more job growth than many other states, with health care leading the way.
It’s not just stability that you can look forward to in this career. You can also expect to earn a good and a stable living. In 2016 the median pay for a medical assistant in the U.S. was $31,540 per year. The top earners in the field, those with specializations and years of experience, make more than $45,000 per year. The pay for medical assistants is competitive and similar to the national average, with a mean salary of $31,080 and much more for more experienced professionals.
What Exactly Is a Medical Assistant?
Before you commit to a medical assistant career path, you need to know more about what medical assistants do. If you have ever been to the doctor and noticed that person that leads you into the exam room, asks you a few questions, and likely takes some of your vital signs, you have seen a medical assistant in action.
This is just one role that these trained professionals play, though. Medical assistants have two main types of duties: clinical and administrative. Administratively they may answer the phones, schedule appointments, greet patients, file and update medical records, use the computer, set up hospital and laboratory appointments for patients, or even manage bookkeeping and billing.
Clinical duties for medical assistants usually involve communicating with patients and doctors, taking vital signs, getting patients ready for exams and procedures, assisting physicians during examinations and procedures, collecting specimens for the laboratory, taking blood, performing certain diagnostic tests, like echocardiograms, and removing stitches, among many other possibilities. Most medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, but they may also work in hospitals or clinics.
Medical Assistant Career Paths
To become a medical assistant and to remain in that position for your career is a great choice. Many people are fulfilled and satisfied working in this meaningful role for years and decades. But you should also know that becoming a medical assistant can also lead to other careers. There are multiple medical assistant career paths you can take, and before you get started it makes sense to think about what path appeals most to you.
Specialized Medical Assisting
A great way to advance along your medical assistant career path is to specialize. When you earn your degree in medical assisting, you will get all the skills you need to be a medical assistant in most health care settings, but your education is generalized. If you have an interest in certain areas of medicines, such as ophthalmology, dermatology, or pediatric medicine, you can target those types of medical offices when looking for a job. You may want to work for a year or two in a general setting for the experience and then advance to a more specialized career.
Administrative Medical Assistant Career Path
Medical assistants may have administrative duties, but most are needed in a clinical setting to work with patients and doctors. If you work for a few years as a clinical medical assistant, you may find that you have an interest in getting behind the desk and doing administrative work. You may also want to take a few additional college courses in computers or billing and coding so that you can specialize in administrative work and advance into a position that better suits you and in which you can earn even more for your specialized skills.
Home Health Aide – Starting Your Own Health Care Business
Another interesting medical assistant career path is to become an entrepreneur. Home health aides are not required in most states to be certified as nurses or even medical assistants. To have that training and experience would give you a big advantage over competitors in working in a home setting. You could even consider starting your own business and hiring other medical assistants to work with you providing care and assistance to homebound, disabled, or elderly people who need a little extra help every day.
Medical Office Manager
Working as a medical assistant is a great base from which to advance into more managerial positions. With a few years of experience in a medical office along with your medical assistant training, you may be promoted to managing the office. You can also move on to managing even bigger offices or medical facilities by building on your associate’s degree and earning more credits towards a bachelor’s degree in health care administration or management.
A phlebotomist is a health care professional that draws blood from patients for laboratory tests, for transfusions, or for donation drives. With a degree in medical assisting it would not be difficult to earn certification in phlebotomy. These specialists work in hospitals, labs, and doctors’ offices and are responsible for drawing the blood, but also assisting patients, making sure they are comfortable, and helping them recover after a blood draw. As with all other allied health careers, phlebotomy jobs are on the increase.
Medical Assistant Instructor
Another great medical assistant career path is to get experience in the field and then come back to school to instruct future medical assistants. Schools need actual certified medical assistants to teach these classes because they bring the real world knowledge to the classroom. This career path offers a lot of flexibility too. You may be able to find a position as a full time instructor, earning a great living, but you may also choose to instruct part time and keep your job as a medical assistant. This can add a little variety to your career while also providing you with extra income.
What Kind of Medical Assistant Career Path Will You Choose?
Simply deciding on medical assisting for a career is a great start. You can hardly go wrong choosing to go into one of the most rapidly growing industries in the U.S. or with a career that allows you to be a part of the exciting world of health care, working with and helping people every day. But what career path will you choose? Will you become a medical assistant and stay in that position indefinitely? Or do you see yourself specializing or climbing the ladder to become a manager?
Whichever medical assistant career path you choose, they all start in one place: a great career college, like City College. An associate’s degree program in medical assisting is where you need to start in order to get into this field and to advance down the path of your choosing. Check it out today and see what the program has to offer, from great instructors to flexible class schedules, financial assistance, and career services to help you get off the ground running as you seek your first job as a medical assistant.