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How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?

How much does a medical assistant earn

The healthcare industry holds claim to being one of the fastest growing industries in the country and, across the world. A medical assistant is an integral part of these fast-growing medical communities because they work for hospitals, doctor’s offices, and, clinics as well as other healthcare organizations. A lot of people think about becoming a medical assistant and they ask themselves, “how much does a medical assistant make?”

The federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the future job growth for medical assistants to be 29% through 2026. This growth rate significantly outpaces the anticipated growth rate average of all industries. This is really good new!

The primary cause for this impressive rate of growth for medical assistants is most likely attributed to the aging baby-boomer population - those born between 1946 and 1964. Until recently, the baby-boomer generation held the distinction (for a really long time), as the largest living generation. However, in the spring of 2019, the size of the millennial generation (those born between 1977-1995) surpassed the number of baby-boomers to become the largest living generation in the United States.

The bottom-line – The time is ripe to enter the healthcare industry as a medical assistant. 

What is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant is tasked with the responsibility of supporting healthcare professionals, like physicians, in clinical and healthcare environments. A medical assistant follows routine administrative and clinical procedures set forth by the clinical setting, jurisdictional laws, or specific instructions received directly from healthcare superiors.

Medical Assistant Work Requirements 

Most medical assistants are required to complete some type of formal training. Despite the formal training, medical assistants often spend the first few months of employment – a bit like on-the-job training - to learn the specifics of the healthcare facility in which they work. 

This prescribed training is generally available from professional schools, vocational institutes, community colleges, and even through distance-learning programs. Coursework includes Anatomy, Medical Terminology, Physiological, and clinical practicum, among others. 

While the majority of medical assistants begin their career with an earned certificate/degree, many medical assistants begin working in jobs that only require a high school diploma, plus a willingness to learn through experience.  It is noted that this entry-option to a job as a Medical Assistant is fading fast. 

Medical Assistant Positions

As noted above, a medical assistant is responsible for both clinical and administrative duties. And, a medical assistant’s exact job responsibilities will depend upon their specialty and the type/size of the healthcare facility for which they work. 

There are many types of medical assistants. Each type of medical assistant, all of which are vitally important to the healthcare teams they are a part of. They work alongside physicians and other healthcare providers to assist with patient care, handle administrative tasks, and complete clinical procedures. In many clinics and doctors’ offices, the medical assistant is in charge of managing the office, which allows the physician to devote more time to providing top-quality patient care.

From a broad perspective, there are three types of medical assistants, each with tasks required to maintain a smooth operation at any medical facility. They are as follows:

The Administrative Medical Assistant

The Administrative Medical Assistant’s job tasks essentially involve general clerical duties within a healthcare facility. A Medical Assistant’s job responsibilities support the managerial functions of a clinic or doctor’s office, etc. Some of the administrative duties performed by medical assistants to keep the healthcare running efficiently include:

  • Welcoming patients to the healthcare facility and managing the front reception area.
  • Taking Medical Records and completing mandatory health care forms with patients.
  • Office communication and office service support regarding phones, Wi-Fi, documentation, and faxes, among others.
  • Answering phones, assisting patients and answering their questions.
  • Appointment management, and calling in prescription refills.
  • Insurance-based support for the office & the patient. 
  • Lab Services management.
  • Preparing a Patient for an examination or a medical procedure. 
  • General billing and administrative tasks, among others. 

Administrative medical assistants should possess exceptional communication skills, adequate computer, and phone skills to be successful. 

The Clinical Medical Assistant

Clinical Medical Assistants are responsible for the duties associated with patient care. This includes the clinical facets of:

  • Providing Home Care Instructions to the Patient and Caretakers.
  • Conducting Assessments as Directed by a Doctor or Nurse.
  • Documenting Vital Signs.
  • Completing a Patient’s Medical History. 
  • Assisting doctors and other medical professionals during exams, among others.

A Clinical Medical Assistant's duties cover a large spectrum of tasks but mostly focus on the clinical care of patients.

The Specialized Medical Assistant

Medical Assistants that have successfully completed specialized training programs/courses focus specifically upon their clinical specialty. A Specialized Medical Assistant performs specialized clinical tasks; however, the exact tasks depend on the specialty, the facility’s size, and a doctor's instructions.

A Medical Assistant with specialized training often-complete certification coursework provided through an accredited institution of higher learning. It is noted that a Specialized Medical Assistant must pass the relevant exam to obtain the certification they are reaching for. Before sitting for a certification exam, students are encouraged to strategically prepare by using one of the following resources: 

Resource Test
 Free NCCT Practice Medical Assistant Practice Tests NCCT-NCMA 
 Free CMA Medical Assistant Practice Tests  AAMA
 Free RMA Medical Assistant Practice Tests AMT 

 The effort involved in becoming a specialized Medical Assistant is well worth it when you consider that Medical Assistant specialists tend to command higher salaries. 

 Specialty options for Medical Assistants include, in part:

  • Geriatric Medicine.
  • Cardiology.
  • Endocrinology.
  • Podiatric Medicine.
  • Pediatric Medicine. 
  • Surgery.
  • Internal Medicine.
  • Emergency Room specialist.
  • OB-GYN, among many other fields.

Medical Assistant Professional Certification

The ultimate objective of professional certification, in any industry, is to set forth a testing model upon which to objectively measure a potential medical assistant candidate’s competency. 

At present, the process of certification for Medical Assistants is both optional and voluntary. However, the medical industry is increasingly requiring medical assistants to be certified for even entry-level positions.

 Similar to most industries, the medical industry has many oversight and certification organizations.

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) - the AAMA is a member of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. Since 1956, the AAMA has been on a mission to set forth the benchmark of excellence and quality Medical Assistant education.

The AAMA offers the Medical Assistant credential known as the CMA. The CMA was created in partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). The CMA certification exam is a computer-driven test that can be taken at professional testing centers throughout the country. CMA applicants must have completed a Medical Assistant program accredited by ABHES or CAAHEP to be eligible for the CMA certification exam. 

CMA certifications must be re-certified every 5 years. This requirement includes Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) - the AMT administers the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential. The RMA was first offered in the early 1970s. RMA candidates must have at least five years of experience or provide documentation that they have passed a Medical Assistant training program that has received accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (ICE - NCCA). 

The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) – operates independently as a credential/oversight organization. NCCT’s National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) program has received certification from the NCCA. The NCMA credential is offered to individuals who, during the past decade have the following:

  • Graduated (or currently in school) from a professional training program with NCCT authorization. 
  • Hold a foreign RN or medical doctor degree. 
  • Been a Medical Assistant instructor with 10+ years of experience. 
  • Completed a military Medical Assistant program. 
  • Been a full-time Medical Assistant professional for a minimum of 2 years out of the last 10.

An NCMA certification requires yearly continuing education of fourteen hours. The NCMA credential applies to phlebotomists, insurance coding professionals, and surgical technicians, among many others.

How much does a medical assistant Make - Medical Assistant Salary Statistics & Job Outlook

Medical Assistant salary - Nationals Statistics

Medical Assistant salaries vary and are contingent upon one’s exact position as a Medical Assistant, one’s experience, and education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) denotes that the median yearly pay for all Medical Assistants in 2018 was about $33,610. This annual salary is equivalent to approximately $16.16/hour. 

 National Averages Hourly Rate Annual Salary
Starting Salary  $11.95 $28,485 
Median Salary  $16.16 $33,610 
90th Percentile  $21.26 $44,235 

 Source: BLS & Chron

Note: Numbers adjusted for inflation

 How much do medical assistants make By Location/State

Medical assistant salaries vary by state. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of Alaska offers the highes average (mean) yearly wage for medical assistants. Check out each state's employment, hourly and annual wages in the table below. 

Location Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Alabama 9,180 $13.68 $28,460
Alaska 1,820 $21.87 $45,490
Arizona 18,250 $16.06 $33,410
Arkansas 3,790 $14.58 $30,320
California 92,960 $18.39 $38,250
Colorado 11,150 $17.40 $36,180
Connecticut 7,700 $18.44 $38,350
Delaware 2,560 $16.03 $33,350
District of Columbia 1,970 $20.20 $42,010
Florida 55,330 $15.80 $32,870
Georgia 24,570 $15.41 $32,060
Guam 190 $12.79 $26,600
Hawaii 3,600 $18.29 $38,040
Idaho 3,170 $16.12 $33,540
Illinois 23,830 $17.26 $35,910
Indiana 14,810 $15.67 $32,580
Iowa 5,090 $16.82 $34,990
Kansas 4,240 $15.10 $31,400
Kentucky 8,970 $15.34 $31,900
Louisiana 8,490 $13.82 $28,740
Maine 4,180 $16.90 $35,160
Maryland 12,630 $17.48 $36,350
Massachusetts 13,710 $19.36 $40,270
Michigan 23,680 $15.65 $32,540
Minnesota 10,010 $19.38 $40,320
Mississippi 3,160 $14.65 $30,470
Missouri 10,260 $15.51 $32,260
Montana 1,120 $16.60 $34,520
Nebraska 2,630 $16.67 $34,670
Nevada 6,220 $16.16 $33,610
New Hampshire 2,550 $17.66 $36,730
New Jersey 19,110 $17.23 $35,840
New Mexico 5,960 $14.79 $30,750
New York 26,080 $18.06 $37,560
North Carolina 18,340 $15.73 $32,710
North Dakota 580 $17.58 $36,560
Ohio 23,930 $15.34 $31,900
Oklahoma 8,310 $14.89 $30,960
Oregon 12,960 $18.39 $38,260
Pennsylvania 27,590 $15.75 $32,770
Puerto Rico 320 $10.49 $21,820
Rhode Island 2,390 $17.23 $35,830
South Carolina 9,800 $15.44 $32,120
South Dakota 950 $14.37 $29,890
Tennessee 14,070 $15.56 $32,370
Texas 59,930 $15.18 $31,580
Utah 7,020 $15.86 $33,000
Vermont 850 $18.14 $37,740
Virgin Islands 60 $15.25 $31,730
Virginia 14,170 $16.83 $35,010
Washington 14,450 $19.88 $41,340
West Virginia 3,520 $13.54 $28,160
Wisconsin 11,350 $17.50 $36,410
Wyoming 660 $16.26 $33,830

Source: BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (May 2018)

Medical Assistant Career Paths

There are many career paths available to Medical Assistants. One's interests and career objectives generally take the lead in directing how a Medical Assistant guides their career. An uncertified Medical Assistant has the next-step career option to become a –

  • An LPN – Licensed Practical Nurse.
  • An RN – Registered Nurse.
  • A Certified Medical Assistant. 
  • An NP – Nurse Practitioner. 
  • An RMA – Registered Medical Assistant. 

Medical Assistants have many opportunities to advance their positions and to increase one’s salary and compensation package.

Experience also impacts a Medical Assistant’s salary. As you gain hands-on experience, your Medical Assistant annual salary will increase. A Medical Assistant reaches a mid-career status after five years of experience. Those with more than ten years of work practice, are considered experienced and would likely receive a salary at the upper limits of the above-shown salary range graphic.  As you move up the experience ladder, salaries tend to rise in accordance you’re your documented professional experience. 

The Takeaway

With a ten-year anticipated growth rate near 30%, the demand for Medical Assistants should remain strong for the next half-decade. This government-predicted growth rate significantly exceeds the expected growth rate of all combined industries. 

This is really good news for those interested in a career as a Medical Assistant.