Part One What is a Medical Administrative Assistant?
Medical administrative assistants, sometimes referred to as medical secretaries, medical office assistants or medical office managers, are the professionals who handle administrative functions in a medical facility.
Though their responsibilities may vary, they generally include essential day-to-day operational activities like:
- Accurately maintaining and compiling the information in medical records and charts
- Answer telephones, take messages, and/or transfer calls
- Arrange staff meetings
- Filing required insurance paperwork
- Handle incoming and outgoing mail and faxes
- Medical billing
- Prepare memos
- Scheduling patient appointments
- Update calendar events
If you have excellent people and communication skills, are organized, and are interested in improving the healthcare experience for both patients and practitioners, a career as a medical administrative assistant might be right for you!
This rewarding entry-level healthcare career offers the ability to directly interact with patients as well as medical staff. Medical administrative assistants are also the ones who make sure that things are running smoothly, and with convenient online programs available, there's nothing stopping you from embarking on this exciting new career.
Interested? Read on to find out more about this career and how to get started.
Is a Medical Administrative Assistant the Same as a Medical Assistant?
The two positions share some responsibilities, but there are some key differences:
- Medical Assistant training has more of a focus on health sciences and on performing therapeutic functions including taking vital signs, giving injections or medications, and helping physicians with patient examinations.
- Medical Administrative Assistants will have more extensive training in compiling medical records and charts, scheduling appointments and filing insurance paperwork and billing.
Why Medical Administrative Assistants are a Vital Role
Medical administrative assistants play an important role in the functioning of medical offices. And even more importantly, they also provide excellent customer service that conveys both professionalism and compassion to patients.
Medical administrative assistants are frequently the very first person that a patient will encounter when they contact a medical setting. They set the tone for a patient, and the impression that they make goes a long way towards establishing a positive relationship.
Part Two What Do Medical Administrative Assistants Do?
Though their duties vary depending upon their job setting, they are generally responsible for:
- Greeting and checking patients in when they arrive for their appointments at the front desk
- Answering phones
- Scheduling patient appointments
- Conducting and recording vital information on the patient’s medical history and symptoms
- Coordinating co-pays
- Composing and responding to correspondence on behalf of the practice
- Assembling medical charts and records
- Entering information into the practice’s computer software regarding patient medical information, medical billing, coding, insurance and diagnostic results received
Other Administrative Tasks
- Checking inventory
- Ordering office supplies
- Arranging for maintenance of the office and its equipment
Part Three Where Do Medical Administrative Assistants Work?
Medical administrative assistants can work in any healthcare setting that requires the coordination of patient medical records and care, including:
- Private practices for any type of physician or medical practitioner
- Outpatient clinics
- Dental offices
- Research laboratories
The needs of each of these are unique, and their differences will be reflected in the responsibilities that the medical administrative assistant is assigned.
Part Four Medical Administrative Assistant Salary
Medical administrative assistants are generally the first contact that a patient will have with the medical office that employs them, and as a result, their professionalism, knowledge and skills are highly valued.
The BLS reports that the mean annual salary for medical secretaries and administrative assistants is $39,000, or $18.75 per hour.
This will vary based on the geographic region in which the individual works, the amount of responsibility that the specific individual has, and the number of years that they have worked in the field.
Highest Paying States for Medical Administrative Assistants
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the five U.S. states that pay medical administrative assistants the highest annual mean salaries are:
- District of Columbia - $47,110
- California - $46,140
- Washington - $45,990
- Massachusetts - $44,900
- Rhode Island - $43,740
Top paying metropolitan areas for Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants:
- San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, California - $55,220
- Salinas, California - $53,900
- San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, California - $52,020
- Vallejo/Fairfield, California - $51,470
- Sacramento/Roseville/Arden-Arcade, California - $49,170
Top paying nonmetropolitan areas for Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants:
- Northwest Colorado nonmetropolitan area - $46,690
- Massachusetts nonmetropolitan area - $45,150
- Western Washington nonmetropolitan area - $42,710
- Southeast Minnesota nonmetropolitan area - $42,270
- Connecticut nonmetropolitan area - $42,110
Part Five How to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant
There are two different paths to becoming a medical administrative assistant:
- A certification or diploma program
- An associate degree program
Factors like how quickly you want to enter the field, how much money you have available, and your local job market will all factor into choosing the right path for you.
Here are some things you should consider when making this decision:
- As long as you have either a high school diploma or GED equivalent you will be eligible to enter either program.
- Both provide the necessary qualifications and will cover similar course material, including medical office procedures, human anatomy and physiology, medical transcription and medical insurance claims procedures.
- Those with an associate degree will generally be eligible for higher salaries and for positions that carry more responsibility within the practice or facility.
- In most cases, many of the general education credits earned in an associate degree will count towards a bachelor's degree if you’re planning on continuing your education.
- Financial aid, scholarships and grants may be available to help finance your education.
Part Six Medical Administrative Assistant Programs
1. Medical Administrative Assistant Certificate/Diploma Programs
Medical administrative assistant programs are available as either certificate or diploma programs. You can take them at vocational schools and community colleges, or through online training programs.
What Will You Learn?
They will teach you what you need to know about the management of healthcare information, medical terminology, the administrative functions involved in running a medical office and more.
Successfully completing one of these programs will provide you with the knowledge needed to pass a certification test.
How Long Does it Take to Complete?
These programs can usually be completed in 6 to 12 months.
2. Medical Administrative Assistant Associate Degree Program
A medical administrative assistant associate degree program moves beyond the basic education provided by a certificate or diploma program.
What Will You Learn?
Though each program is different, most associate degree programs will provide all of the knowledge required to perform the job of a medical administrative assistant as well as general education classes that may be applied to baccalaureate programs in the future. These are also available in either in-person or online programs.
How Long Does it Take to Complete?
Medical administrative assistant associate degree programs usually take two years to complete.
Medical Administrative Assistant Test
Whether you choose a certificate program or an associate degree program, completion of an accredited program will prepare you to take the National Healthcare Association’s Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) test.
Passing this test provides employers with the confidence that you have the credentials needed to keep their offices functioning well.
Part Seven What is the Career Outlook for Medical Administrative Assistants?
If you are looking for a career that promises staying power and consistent demand, you can’t get much better than choosing to be a Medical Administrative Assistant.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an expectation that 80,000 new positions will open up between now and the year 2030, representing a growth of 7 percent.
And those who begin working as medical administrative assistants often find themselves so interested in patient care and practice management that they move on to pursue careers in related fields including nursing and Healthcare Administration.
Part Eight What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Medical Administrative Assistants?
Medical administrative assistants who take and pass the CMMA test are eligible for highly-respected positions within medical practices and offices.
Though recertification and continuing education are not required, those who earn this credential may consider expanding their capabilities and earning potential by pursuing additional education in the area of Billing and Coding or Electronic Health Records.
Part Nine Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Medical Administrative Assistant?
There are a number of professional organizations and societies open to medical administrative assistants, and their websites provide invaluable insights into the career and the opportunities available. Some of these include the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals and the Healthcare Billing and Management Association.
Part Ten Medical Administrative Assistant FAQs
How much do Medical Administrative Assistants make a year?
- The average base pay for a Medical Administrative Assistant is $52,153 per year according to Glassdoor.com.
What degree do you need to be a Medical Administrative Assistant?
- You can pursue a career as a Medical Administrative Assistant after you have earned either your high school diploma or have successfully completed a GED equivalency program. Certification is available through vocational schools, and those who wish to earn an Associate’s Degree can do so through programs offered by community colleges.
- How to Become a Medical Assistant
- Why I’m Working as a Medical Assistant While I Advance My Education
- Medical Assistant Salary Guide
- How to Become a Medical Biller and Coder