Medical Assisting: Career or Stepping Stone?
The role of the medical assistant (MA) is a vital part of any medical office setting. From managing the front office to providing billing services to assisting with procedures and patient care in the back office, clinicians can attest to the value of a strong MA. For many medical assistants, the role of the MA is merely a stepping-stone towards other careers in the medical field. But is a career as a medical assistant such a bad gig?
There are many avenues one may take to complete medical assistant training. Many community colleges and technical schools offer this training along with various Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) such as the Kern High School District’s Medical Assistant program, which offers vocational training and high school credits for a small fee to students. Some states allow MAs to be trained directly by a licensed physician. No matter which pathway one earns their training, the role of the medical assistant can aid in transitioning to other careers such as nursing or be a stable life-long career choice.
Medical assistant Connie LeVeau just celebrated 20 years as a medical assistant with a large HMO in Northern California. “I never expected to be a medical assistant this long,” she states. “I was pursuing a degree in Marine Biology at a local community college when I completed an associate degree in science and a medical assistant program. Within a short time of being a MA, I realized how much I loved supporting the physicians, working as a team, and providing care and support to the patients I came to know very well. Now, I have no desire to pursue another career as I know the positive impact that I have on those around me.”
Working as a medical assistant brings a steady stream of income and benefits compared to the overall time spent in training. Medical assistants typically start with an average salary of $15.00 per hour according to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) in a 2018 compensation report. Those working for large health institutions report significant increases in salary base, up to $30 per hour, with longevity in the job. Not only is the job outlook for MA work across the U.S. positive and growing, 96% of the MAs in the AAMA survey reported receiving some form of a benefits package from their employers.
Choosing a medical assistant career can occur at any phase of life. Cortnie Potter pursued a medical assistant career after her husband was diagnosed and treated for brain cancer. “I knew I had to do something in case the unspeakable happened and we lost him. There was an MA in the neuro-oncology department where my husband was being seen who became a mentor and dear friend. So, with four young children at home, I completed a medical assisting program. I want to go back to school eventually, but I’m able to work part-time, which is perfect for our family right now. I’m able to help people at work and show them that I care about them. I try to be a positive influence in their lives but often times they are in mine, too!”
Medical assistants who move on to other careers, such as nursing, can use what they know as an MA to give them background into a healthcare career. Example: MA to RN. For example, an MA trained in aseptic technique will easily conquer this skill in nursing school. Knowledge in medical terminology will also help the MA in future nursing or other medical-related careers. Those that have earned an associate degree along with their MA training are more likely to get into a baccalaureate of science program.
Whether one uses the MA route as a step to another career or as a life-long vocation, the outlook for the role of the medical assistant is thriving. Strong MAs are the key to any successful medical practice and significantly impact the lives of those they serve.