What Is an Intake Specialist? (And How To Become One)

Updated June 24, 2022

If you enjoy interacting with and helping others, you might consider a career as an intake specialist. Intake specialists are often the first point of contact for a new client or patient and can work at medical facilities, legal offices and social service agencies. In this article, we define the role of an intake specialist, explain their duties and average salary, list the steps to become an intake specialist and answer frequently asked questions.

Related: Why Work in Health Care? 8 Reasons To Consider a Career in Health Care

What is an intake specialist?

An intake specialist, also known as an “intake coordinator,” is often the first person a new patient, client or family meets. The specialists speak directly with the person and their families to determine what services might be needed and then guide them to the right area. Intake specialists typically work in the health care field, but similar services are also needed in legal offices, mental health clinics and other environments that might require pre-screening.

Since health care intake specialists must know about medical procedures, they may have a background as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed professional counselor (LPC) or registered nurse (RN). Keep in mind that intake counselors and intake nurses are separate careers.

What does an intake specialist do?

An intake specialist’s primary duty is to gather specific information whether it be in a legal or care environment. A legal intake specialist, also known as a “claims intake specialist,” gathers information from new and prospective clients for law firms. They record the client’s history and why they are seeking legal services. That may include medical history, criminal history, event reports and investigation findings. Specialists reassure clients who are confused, hurt or scared and ask thoughtful questions to gain as much relevant legal information as possible. Legal intake specialists may also fill the role of a legal assistant.

In a clinical setting, intake specialists obtain the patient’s medical history, physical and mental state, special requirements and needs by asking them a variety of questions. In a legal setting, specialists record the client’s history and why they are seeking legal services. That may include medical history, criminal history, event reports and investigation findings.

Here's a more in-depth look at an intake specialist’s duties:

  • Speaking with individuals to get their personal (medical, mental or legal) history and ascertaining their mental and physical state

  • Using the gathered information to guide them to the right service, department or office

  • Obtaining emergency contact information

  • Coordinating schedules and appointments

  • Obtaining insurance or billing information

  • Processing paperwork

  • Ensuring forms have the proper signatures and that they're filled out correctly.

  • Answering and taking note of incoming inquires via phone, fax or email

  • Following up with clients and sharing vital information

  • Keeping all information confidential

Average salary

According to Indeed Salaries, medical intake specialists make a national average salary of $31,054 per year. If you are a licensed health care provider, such as an RN, you can expect a higher salary.

A legal assistant’s average salary of $42,463 may be comparable to that earned by a legal intake specialist. Your salary as an intake specialist may fluctuate from the average salaries depending on location, employer and level of experience and expertise in this field.

Intake specialist skills

Whether you are a legal or medical intake specialist, you need a certain set of skills to perform your duties effectively. When your skills align with those in a job post, you have a greater chance of gaining employment. Here are some common skills for intake specialists:


As an intake specialist, you need strong written and verbal communication skills to effectively interact with patients, clients and their families. You must be a good listener and speaker. Many times, intake specialists even serve as the go-between between patients and doctors or clients and lawyers.


Intake specialists use their organizational skills to manage patients or clients and their myriad needs. In this role, you may see several people each day so it's important to keep all of their records organized. Know what needs to be filed or passed on and when.

Critical thinking

Intake specialists use their critical thinking skills to determine what a patient or client needs—especially if they're dealing with a crisis, facing legal problems or if they're in poor mental or physical health. Using their critical thinking skills, intake specialists find solutions for various issues and help direct individuals to the right services.

Attention to detail

Intake specialists use their attention to detail to review a patient's medical history or a legal client’s accident or legal history. Having this skill helps you point the individual to the right resources so they get the care, recovery or legal representation they need.


As medical professionals, intake specialists need to be empathetic to all patients and/or clients. Having this skill allows them to understand the patient’s or client’s point of view during their moment of need. Having empathy also makes them feel more comfortable with you.


Patients, clients and their families may arrive at your facility in crisis, pain or in a vulnerable state. Showing compassion will help them feel more comfortable as they know you care about them.


Intake specialists need to have patience when speaking with individuals who may have trouble communicating what they need or what's happened to them. Being able to wait and listen attentively helps you establish better patient and client relationships.

How to become an intake specialist

Use these steps to establish your intake specialist career:

1. Earn a high school diploma

To start your career in this field, earn a high school diploma or a GED. Some employers will require further education, like a bachelor’s degree, while others do not. If you hope to work at a particular facility or legal firm, research what is expected to fill the position.

2. Earn your bachelor's degree

Many employers give preference to applicants who have degrees in a relevant field. If you’re interested in the legal field, you may earn an associate degree in paralegal studies or criminal justice. If you’re interested in medical intake positions, consider pursuing an undergraduate education in nursing, behavioral science, sociology, data management, social work or another related field.

It’s important to review the job posting to determine what the employer is looking for. You may be able to fulfill education requirements with relevant work experience depending on your employer.

3. Consider getting related work experience

Many employers require you to have relevant experience in basic customer service and office skills to become an intake specialist. For example, since it helps to have customer service skills, working as a customer service representative can help you in your career as an intake specialist. Consider the jobs you're interested in and their unique requirements. Then, determine how your previous experience might benefit your career.

Frequently asked questions about intake specialists

To help you form a more thorough understanding of this career path, here is a brief list of frequently asked questions:

What are work conditions like for an intake specialist?

While working conditions vary greatly depending on the establishment, you can expect to sit, stand and walk throughout your shift.
In a health care environment, your job may require you to tolerate sights and scents beyond the average expected norms depending on the niche of your employer and current circumstance. Such is the nature of much of the health care industry.

Where do intake specialists work?

Legal intake specialists may work for a law firm, government agency or insurance companies. Medical intake specialists may work in hospitals, crisis centers, nursing homes and mental health facilities. They typically work at the front desk of the facility.

What are the work hours for an intake specialist?

Your schedule as an intake specialist depends on your employer. Legal offices tend to keep standard business hours, but you may be asked to work nights or weekends. If you work for a large firm, the environment may be similar to a 24-hour call center. Medical intake specialists may work standard hours or shifts that are longer or outside of regular business hours. Those working for emergency departments or psychiatric units may work any shift and may be called to work nights, weekends or holidays.

What are some related career choices?

The traits and skills of being an effective intake specialist can be translated into many related careers, including:

  • Administrative assistant

  • Case manager

  • Court clerk

  • Health care administrative assistant

  • Health care social worker

  • Lawyer

  • Legal assistant

  • Paralegal

  • Paralegal assistant

  • Receptionist

  • Registered nurse

  • Secretary

Jobs similar to an intake specialist

If you're considering a career as an intake specialist, the following 10 job titles may offer similar opportunities:

1. Outreach specialist

2. Legal assistant

3. Intake coordinator

4. Client relations manager

5. Data entry specialist

6. Patient coordinator

7. Referral intake specialist

8. Patient advocate

9. Healthcare administrator

10. Legal clerk

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