Medical Assistant Job Description (Skills, Duties, Salary, Certification & More)

By Jeff Gillis

If you have ever worked as a medical assistant you know how many different hats you need to be able to put on at a moment’s notice. One second you’re answering the phone scheduling appointments, the next you’re explaining an upcoming procedure to a patient!

Medical assistants can be found working in hospitals and other smaller medical facilities and offices. As we’ll cover, medical assistants provide a variety of both administrative and clinical duties and do so under the supervision of nurses and other medical practitioners.

Now let’s dive in deeper in order to see exactly what it takes to become a successful medical assistant and how you can use the job description to your advantage when it comes to your job interview!

Medical Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

As we’ve discussed, medical assistants often wear two hats and take care of both administrative and clinical duties.

According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) here are some common ones (obviously these can change depending on where the job is):

Administrative Duties (may include, but not limited to):

    • Using computer applications
    • Answering telephones
    • Welcoming patients
    • Updating and filing patient medical records
    • Coding and filling out insurance forms
    • Scheduling appointments
    • Arranging for hospital admissions and laboratory services
    • Handling correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping

Clinical Duties (may include, but not limited to):

    • Taking medical histories
    • Explaining treatment procedures to patients
    • Preparing patients for examination
    • Assisting the physician during exams
    • Collecting and preparing laboratory specimens
    • Performing basic laboratory tests
    • Instructing patients about medication and special diets
    • Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
    • Transmitting prescription refills as directed
    • Drawing blood
    • Taking electrocardiograms
    • Removing sutures and changing dressings

Source: The American Association of Medical Assistants

Obviously these duties can change depending on the specific job you’re applying for. That’s why it’s critical you go over your job description with a fine tooth comb. But we’’ discuss that further in a little bit…

The AAMA (Founded in 1956) has also produced a very helpful occupational analysis of the medical assistant position. Let’s take a look at some of their key findings…

Here are the top 12 most frequently performed responsibilities of medical assistants when surveyed:

    • Abide by principles and laws related to confidentiality
    • Adapt communications to an individual’s understanding
    • Demonstrate respect for individual diversity (culture, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, age, economic status)
    • Employ professional techniques during verbal, non-verbal, and text-based interactions
    • Comply with risk management and safety procedures
    • Interact with staff and patients to optimize workflow efficiency
    • Maintain patient records
    • Provide care within legal and ethical boundaries
    • Practice standard precautions
    • Document patients, observations, and clinical treatments
    • Identify potential consequences of failing to operate within the scope of practice of a medical assistant
    • Transmit information electronically

(I thought it was interesting to add this information from the AAMA survey because it comes from medical assistants on the ground and “in the trenches”.)

What skills do medical assistants need?

Here are some common medical assistant skills employers will be looking for.

NOTE: It’s important to go over the skills carefully from your medical assistant job description.

    • Supply management
    • Verbal communication
    • Infection control
    • Creating a safe, effective environment
    • Organization
    • Scheduling
    • Professionalism
    • Confidentiality
    • Bedside manner
    • Professionalism
    • Customer Service
    • Inventory Management
    • Bedside Manner
    • Scheduling
    • Medical Teamwork
    • Patient care
    • Vital signs measurement
    • Injections
    • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
    • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
    • Phlebotomy
    • Patient preparation
    • Life support
    • Medical terminology
    • Patient/family education
    • Appointment setting
    • Electronic medical records
    • Medical coding
    • Patient flow
    • Computer literacy
    • Telephone skills
    • Collaboration
    • Multitasking
    • Analytical skills
    • Detail oriented
    • Interpersonal skills
    • Manual Dexterity
    • Empathy
    • Stress Management
    • Self-Control

As you can see there are a lot of potential skills an employer could be looking for in a medical assistant! But don’t let that worry you, in a future section I’m going to show you how to hone in on the right skills from your particular job description and use them to your advantage!

Medical Assistant Certification

While it isn’t required by law to be certified to work as a medical assistant, you’ll find with growing competition in the job market, getting certified is a good idea.

Here’s a quote from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“Medical assistants are expected to have good job prospects; however, those who earn certification and have familiarity with electronic health records (EHRs) may have better job prospects.”

Let’s take a look at the top 5 most recommended medical assistant certifications in the United States:

For more in depth information on medical assistant certifications head over to this great article at accreditedschoolsonline.org.

Medical Assistant Job Growth

One of the best aspects of becoming a medical assistant is it’s spectacular growth prospects when it comes to the job market.

Check out this quote from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to increase demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians. As a result, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.”

Medical Assistant Salary

Here’s the official information, again from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The median annual wage for medical assistants is around $33,610. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,250.

The median annual wages for medical assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $35,600
Hospitals; state, local, and private $34,980
Offices of physicians $33,650
Offices of chiropractors $29,960

Most medical assistants work full time. Some work evenings, weekends, or holidays to cover shifts in medical facilities that are always open.

source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to use the job description for your job interview

A lot of job seekers will take a quick look at the job description and then move on.

Big mistake.

The job description is always filled with the skills and qualities that the company or organization is looking for in their perfect candidate, and it’s your job to make sure that you’re showing them you have these skills in the job interview.

How do you do this you ask?

Use the tailoring method when answering any interview questions of course!

You want to answer the medical assistant interview questions you face by highlighting the skills and qualities that are prevalent in the job description, and use a “success story” from your past that provides concrete evidence of you demonstrating the skill. (Especially for behavioral interview questions.)

Remember when we went over a bunch of the common skills that employers are looking for in a medical assistant? Well now it’s time to go over your particular job description in detail and find the skills and qualities there that you possess and use them in your answers!

JEFF’S TIP: As we’ve gone over, medical assistants are required to wear quite a few different hats on the job. Therefore, be sure to have some answers ready that show you possess both administrative and clinical skills. (Ones drawn from the job description of course 😉 )

Putting it all together

I hope this breakdown of the medical assistant position has been helpful. We’ve gone over the various duties, skills and qualities needed to become a successful medical assistant as well as the certifications that can help you in this career.

The medical assistant profession is one of the fastest growing careers in the United Sates so there’s a lot of opportunity for you out there.

Good luck!

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Check out our other “job description articles” if you’re exploring career options:

About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.