Medical assistants (MAs) have both clinical and administrative duties, which means that one minute they might be scheduling appointments and answering phones and the next minute they’re rushing to get the vital signs of the next patient. In short, they’re some of the hardest working healthcare professionals most people don’t know about.
Becoming a medical assistant isn’t for everyone, but there are a handful of benefits for those who are willing to put in the work. We identified 11 of the top advantages.
11 Perks of becoming a medical assistant
1. You can join the workforce sooner
You know you need a degree but you’re also itching to launch your career as soon as possible. While some healthcare degrees take several years, earning an MA credential is considerably shorter. A diploma program can be completed in as little as 12 months, while an associate degree can be earned in as few as 18 months.*
2. You can work in a variety of locations
Some healthcare jobs are limited to hospitals, but that’s not the case for MAs. As an MA you may find yourself working in a clinic’s oncology department, as part of a general practice or even in a chiropractor’s office. Although it’s less common, Pufall says MAs are also hired at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
3. You’ll get to build relationships with patients
"I think the most rewarding aspect is that the patients really connect with you."
“In the medical assisting field I think the most rewarding aspect is that the patients really connect with you,” she says. “They have a relationship with their physician, but a lot of times patients will tell MAs things that they won’t even tell the physician.”
MAs work directly with people day in and day out so it may not be the best career for you if interpersonal skills aren’t your strong suit. But if you’re like Pufall and have a passion for helping others, becoming a medical assistant is a great option. She recalls building relationships with patients as being one of the highlights of the job.
4. You’ll get to work with a team
MAs are an important member of the healthcare team and frequently work alongside physicians, nurses, physician assistants or nurse practitioners. This means not only will you be able to ask questions and consult with your colleagues, but they’ll likely rely on you, too.
“They build so much trust with each other, because they work together so closely,” Pufall says. “The physician starts to really depend on [the team].”
5. You can be certified to work in any state
MAs can pass a certification exam that’s recognized across the country, as opposed to a license that’s only good for one state, Pufall explains. Not all clinics require MAs to be certified, but there are advantages to earning your MA certification.
There are five certifications that are generally recognized by the healthcare industry and which one you’ll take depends on your MA program and its accreditation status.
6. Jobs are increasing faster than average
MA jobs are expected to increase by 23 percent through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is much faster than the 7 percent growth average projected for all occupations. Much of this demand is attributed to an aging baby boomer population, which means clinics will take on more patients and thus need more staff.
"The more knowledge you have, the more valuable you are to a clinic."
Pufall says another reason for the growth is that many clinics are learning that MAs have such a wide skill set and can be an asset. As medical facilities become more cost-conscious, it makes more sense for them to hire one person who can handle multiple jobs than two who specialize in only a few tasks.
“The more knowledge you have, the more valuable you are to a clinic,” Pufall adds.
7. You’ll acquire necessary skills for advancement
Medical assistants need to possess a handful of soft skills to complement their technical skills, according to Pufall. She says sympathy and good communication skills are near the top of the list. These transferable skills can be leveraged in many healthcare careers, so honing them as an MA can help you advance down the road.
The technical skills of an MA can lead to other opportunities as well. Learning how to draw blood or perform EKGs can translate to a variety of other healthcare professions. Pufall says clinics are constantly in need of people to take on leadership roles, whether it’s as a team lead or, with further education, as a clinic administrator.
8. You’ll be a part of the booming healthcare industry
It’s no secret that healthcare is a growing industry. Healthcare-related occupations are expected to gain 2.3 million jobs between 2014 and 2024, making it the fastest-growing industry, according to the BLS.
There are several factors driving this industry growth. One of which is federal health insurance reform which has increased the number of people with access to health insurance. This has resulted in an increased demand for healthcare workers to help with the influx of patients.
9. You’ll never be bored
“It’s a very, very, very busy day,” Pufall says.
Chances are good you’ll never find yourself sitting around waiting for your next task to be assigned when you’re an MA. MAs have a wide variety of skillsets, meaning there’s always something to do, from coding to assisting a physician with a procedure.
10. You can be a specialist or a generalist
While an MA’s duties can span several responsibilities, they don’t always have to. Those who prefer dabbling in several different areas would fit in well in a smaller clinic. You’ll gain a broad knowledge of the medical field due to the number of tasks you’ll undertake in all parts of the facility.
FACT: Medical assisting jobs are projected to increase 23% through 2024.
If you prefer focusing on a few specific tasks, you may opt to work in a larger clinic with a bigger staff. This setting will allow you to specialize in a particular department that interests you, honing the precise skills needed for that position.
11. You’ll work regular hours
Working at a clinic means you can only work when the clinic’s open. Sure, that might mean nights and weekends sometimes, but, for the most part, Pufall says your hours will be fairly regular. That means you’ll never need to find a last-minute babysitter or wonder when you might get called in.