How Can a Medical Assistant Advance Her Career?
If you’re right out of medical assisting school, you’re likely to join the workforce as an entry-level CMA. Gaining experience, becoming proficient in skills and widening your medical knowledge base are all tools you’ll need to advance in your career as a medical assistant. You may decide to aim for a management job, work in a competitive area of medicine or go into teaching. No matter your goals for career advancement, a few extra tools may help you successfully work toward advancement opportunities.
What Advancement Opportunities Might Be Available?
Medical assistants may find career advancement opportunities in many areas:
- Clinical team leader
- Lead medical assistant
- Medical office manager
- Clinical office manager
- Medical assistant instructor
- Medical records manager
- Healthcare administration
- Executive medical office secretary
- Transcription supervisor
Be open with your employer about your desire to advance in your career. Seek opportunities that are available in your organization and find out what requirements you need to apply.
Different Career Specialties in Medical Assisting
No matter if you work in medical administration or clinical practice, choosing a specialty can be a wise choice for future career advancement opportunities. Some medical specialties require more knowledge and skills than others and may offer opportunities for better pay and extended responsibilities.
Healthcare is a multi-dimensional field. The vast array of medical specialties and sub-specialties provide the certified medical assistant with limitless employment opportunities. Though you may begin your career in a clinic or out-patient center, you may want to specialize in another area of medicine at some point. Luckily, medical assistants are able to work in many specialty areas. Here is a peek at a few specialties that medical assistants commonly work in.
Medical assistants have many medical specialties to consider as a career. Some specialties allow you to earn additional certification, while others rely on experience and hands-on training. If you’re currently a medical assisting student, consider working in a medical specialty during your externship. Learn more about what is a clinical medical assistant.
Podiatry is a medical area that focuses on injuries and medical conditions of the foot. Podiatric medical assistants assist a physician with care of the feet, such as trimming nails, wound care and post-surgical care. Assisting with splints, casts and minor surgery are also part of this specialty. After completing your medical assistant training, you may obtain podiatry credentialing through the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants (http://www.aspma.org).
If you have an interest in diseases and conditions of the heart and cardiovascular system, specializing as a cardiology technician may be a good fit. As an EKG/cardiology technician, you’ll perform electrocardiography (EKGs) and may also be trained in Holter monitor and stress testing procedures. With the prevalence of heart disease in the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states the demand for cardiology technicians will increase yearly. Some additional coursework may be required after you’ve graduated from medical assisting school. However, your employer may be willing to offer hands-on training as well.
Ophthalmology medical assistants provide a wide range of duties in caring for the eyes. They perform diagnostic testing, assist the physician in eye treatments and emergencies, and perform patient education. They may also administer eye medications and help in minor eye surgery. You may become certified through the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (http://www.jcahpo.org/certification). Learn more about the training and duties of a ophthalmic MA.
Chiropractic Medical Assistant
Chiropractors use a holistic approach to caring for the human body. They use a mixture of hands-on treatments, like hot and cold therapy, massage and body manipulation, to treat a variety of conditions. Medical assistants in the chiropractic office may perform both front office duties like making appointments and handling insurance claims. Clinical duties may include assisting the chiropractor with treatments, taking health histories and patient education. Training in as a chiropractic medical assistant is often hands-on in the chiropractic setting.
OB/GYN is a specialty field that requires a broad range of skills and knowledge. While there is no separate certification for this specialty, hands-on training and skill building is usually required.
A medical assistant in OB /GYN works with women throughout from young adulthood through their senior years. You’ll be assisting the physician with women’s health procedures, like Pap testing and breast exams, minor gynecological surgery and caring for pregnant women. Certification as a medical assistant via the American Association of Medical Assistants is often required by employers looking to hire for this specialty.
Pediatric Medical Assistant
Pediatric medical assistants work with pediatricians providing care to infants, children and teens under the age of 18. There are two positions for pediatric medical assistants in the office – front office and back office. Pediatrics requires knowledge of childhood diseases, immunizations and routine well-child care. You can learn more about pediatric medical assistant duties from HERE.
If you feel that administrative medical assisting is more your taste, you can specialize in non-clinical areas, as well. Opportunities for branching out into administrative areas may come as you gain more work experience. You may be required to take additional classes; however, the administrative procedures you learned during medical assisting school will be a good foundation to build on.
Medical Billing and Coding
Medical billers and coders are responsible for handling charge sheets and submitting them to insurance companies for reimbursement. Every time a physician sees a patient, she must charge for that visit. The physician uses a charge sheet to indicate what was done during the patient’s visit. Insurance companies use these charge sheets to determine how a physician will be paid for seeing that patient. As a medical coder, you’ll work directly with Medicare, so a thorough knowledge of Medicare billing is important. Coders also may specialize in either hospital or ambulatory care coding. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC) both offer credentialing in professional coding. Learn more about what is medical coding.
Medical Administrative Assistant
As a medical administrative assistant, you may work closely with the management team, or administrator of, a hospital or medical facility. Professional duties of this specialty may include taking meeting notes, creating documents and spreadsheets, working on office policies and other varied administrative duties. Medical assistants working in medical administration usually have several years of office and administrative experience. Learn more about becoming an administrative MA.
Medical specialties like these can be demanding and have a higher learning curve. Because of the demands, employers may have a harder time finding qualified medical assistants to fill open positions. If you’re currently working in an entry-level medical assistant position, moving into a medical specialty may offer better opportunities. The longer you work in a specialty practice that you enjoy, the more valuable your skills and knowledge will become to your employer.
Remember, because medical assisting is so versatile, opportunities to specialize will continue to grow. The more experience and continuing education you have, the more doors may open for you to work in other areas.
You might also be interested in our article about Other Professions Medical Assistants Can Transfer Into.
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I am currently a Medical Assistant at a Cancer Institute. I just got out of school not too long ago and did not take the certification exam. I am finishing up my provisionary period at my workplace. I enjoy what I do but it gets really stressful and tiring because of the management here. Being an MA is a stepping stone for me only and I would like to advance in my career. What do you suggest me going for? I only have a certificate in MA and no degree. I don’t want to go to school for a long period of time. Is there any specialty field I can go to school for and focus on? Thanks for your input. -Wilson Lin
Hello Wilson Lin,
I am a registered medical assistant. I have been a medical assistant for two years. If you want to get into the health care administrative field, you must get your bachelors or masters degree in health care administration. You will probably do this best by taking online classes. Most medical assistants have hectic work schedules. Going to traditional classes after work is difficult due to our work schedule. The main thing you must do along with getting your degree is to network. Networking is needed in order to get your resume in front of the right person. Do not let your employer know that you are thinking about leaving. Once you become extremely proficient, most employers do not wish to let their medical assistants advance. They will keep you at your position to keep the clinic running smoothly. You may also think about getting certified in phlebotomy. This will help you get jobs with companies like Quest or LabCorp. They pay medical assistants more than most clinics and hospitals. I do not mean to sound negative. However, medical assistant is not a good field for ambitious people. Of course, doctors will tell it is a good field, because they need us more than we need them. I have been held back, and I am a little frustrated. I hope that you have better luck. I will complete my masters degree in health care administration by this Christmas. I wish you the best.
Hello I graduated from San Joaquin Valley College in 2010 as a medical assistant I have my associates degree I didn’t think I wanted to do anything with it after I graduated so I put it aside but now I would like to go back to school but I would like to know how to start I’m just part time where I work and would like to get back into the medical field.
Hello my name is Elizabeth and i went to UEI college and right after i worked for about 2 months and then i was let go because it was slow and i was the last to get hired…after i looked but ever place i applied wanted me to have 6 months to 1 year experience and now its been almost 2 years but i want to go back to the medical field..any sugestions..
I am in the same situation. It’s sad that everyone wants people with experience but if we are not given a chance how can we get experience. Good Luck to both of us and to all the people who are in the same situation like us.
hi im an extremely exhausted and tired of being an RMA its not what i thought it would be, yes i have a very hectic schedule no time for my daughters sports activities and i kind of resent that now. i graduate w/my RMA diploma in 2010 and have been working since, currently in an OBGYN office and when i tell you this monster is of a different color believe me, who knew how crazy it can be. I know the work and can do it in my sleep. as of late ive been helping out our new office administrator (we have had 4 in past year and a half if that tells you anything). Anyways was considering the phlebotomy certification and or going for a bachelors in health care administration i much enjoy that more. any suggestion on how to go about it? do you recommend any specific website i can go about it since i cannot physically attend a school, i can certainly do it online. PLEASE HELP. S.O.S.
I have been an RMA since 2005 and worked in family practice, peds and obgyne in the past. I am now taking on classes to get my bachelors in healthcare management. I do enjoy working with patients so I hope I can find a position that would allow me to work on the floor as a medical assistant as needed.
To make the story short, there are nursing school that will accept transfer credits from the medical assistant program. Check your local nursing program to get your transcripts evaluated. I was looking into become a nurse as well but me being an organizational and critical thinker with leader tendencies the role of a manager or clinical coordinator would fit me best.
Advice on B.S. in Healthcare Admin, it’s a dime a dozen and extremely difficult to break into. I’ve been a CMA AAMA for over 26 years working in only specialist’s practices (including OB/Gyne surgery). It doesn’t matter what practice you work in, healthcare is HECTIC. It’s fast paced and you better know critical thinking, process and dissect information accurately for provider and patients, be flexible and willing to take challenges and keep current on education. According to CMS ruling, “MA’s” not CERTIFIED as CMA are not allowed to enter data into the EHR, so for those of you who are not already certified by now, please consider getting certified and get involved in your profession so that we can advance it and advocate for better scope/wages.
I took the test to become a registered medical assistant and passed it. I am now a RMA and I would like to further my education to become a registered nurse….What can I do next?
Hey iam in the same bracket an I will like to know where do I go from here.
Hello, I have been a medical assistant for about 13 years now. I have my associated in Medical Assisting. Lately I have been feeling stuck in my field. What opportunities do I have to advance at this time in my career. I also have a coding certificate. Unfortunately, I am not a registered MA. What would you recommend for me to advance and get more pay?
I have my diploma and medical assisting I graduated in 2010 Haven’t done much with it and now I want to get back into the field what can I do to have more experience in this field I already updated CPR BLS AED bloodborne pathogens & hazard communications please help any suggestions would be great
You have to be Certified according to CMS (Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) in order to enter information into the patient EHR. Please see AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants) for information on legalities, scope of practice for CMA’s and all other queries. That is the best place for information. I am a CMA/AAMA of over 26 years with extensive experience and encourage you to be involved in the AAMA!