Types of Medical Assistant Jobs, Opportunities and Salary

Updated March 3, 2023

Health care jobs are popular because the medical field is rapidly growing. One of the many ways to join a health care team is to become a medical assistant. There is a wide variety of opportunities for medical assistants, from administrative duties in a large hospital to specialized clinical tasks in a small physician's office. In this article, we discuss what a medical assistant is, the different opportunities they have, how much medical assistants make and some different medical assistant specializations.

What is a medical assistant?

Medical assistants are important health care workers who offer assistance to other medical professionals like doctors, nurses, specialists and administrators. They support the work of their fellow health care providers by handling medical records, doing administrative tasks, working with patients, helping doctors with clinical procedures and being a liaison between doctors and patients. Medical assistants complete routine tasks so that physicians can devote more time to quality patient care. Most medical assistants have a passion for health care and helping people.

Related: Learn About Being A Medical Assistant

Medical assistant opportunities

Medical assistants work in a variety of environments such as hospitals, clinics, physicians' offices and psychiatric offices. There is a growing demand for this role in the workplace, and it typically takes two years or less to complete a diploma or certificate program. Because of this, becoming a medical assistant is one of the fastest ways to get into health care. The education for becoming a medical assistant can serve as a foundation for additional education and career growth.

Related: Medical Assistant Job Description: Duties, Education and Experience Required

Medical assistant salary

Because medical assistants are in high demand and the field is growing, it's likely the average salary will increase over time. The national average salary for a medical assistant is $36,349, while the top earners in the field can make about $45,000 a year. Although there are many types of medical assistants, the average salary is fairly consistent regardless of specialty. For example, the national average salary for an administrative medical assistant is $34,216 and the national average salary for an ophthalmic medical assistant is $31,550.

Related: Medical Assistant vs. Nursing Assistant: What's the difference

Types of medical assistants

Medical assistants work in a variety of fields and are responsible for numerous tasks so it's helpful to understand the different medical assistant categories. There are four main types of medical assistants: clinical, administrative, specialized, and registered or certified. Each type of medical assistant has different day-to-day tasks, work expectations and patient involvement. Here is a description of the different medical assistant categories:

Clinical medical assistant

Clinical medical assistants work directly with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. They often work in hospitals, clinics or physicians' offices. Some of their roles and duties include:

  • Communicating with patients and doctors

  • Preparing patients for exams or procedures

  • Sterilizing equipment and prepping exam rooms

  • Performing diagnostic tests like echocardiograms

  • Taking vital signs of patients

  • Administering medications to patients

  • Collecting specimens or drawing blood

  • Assisting during exams and procedures

  • Showing compassion and using interpersonal skills

Administrative medical assistant

Administrative medical assistants spend most of their time working behind a desk doing administrative duties for patients and doctors. Occasionally, an administrative medical assistant may also help doctors in the treatment room or perform hands-on treatments with patients. Some daily tasks for an administrative medical assistant include:

  • Using basic computer skills for medical billing and insurance coding

  • Filling out insurance forms with patient information

  • Scheduling patient appointments and following up with patients

  • Answering the phone and managing the front desk

  • Ordering and inventory of supplies and equipment

  • Managing patient records and keeping them up to date

  • Performing other administrative tasks as requested

  • Overseeing other employees in the office

Certified and registered medical assistant

A certified medical assistant receives credentials through the America Association of Medical Assistants by passing a 30-minute, 200-question exam and retaking it every six months to stay certified. Similarly, a registered medical assistant receives credentials through the American Medical Technologists by passing a two-hour exam and retaking it every three years. Certification or registration is not a requirement for being a medical assistant, but the extra credentials may provide you with more opportunities.

Specialized medical assistant

Specialized medical assistants go beyond general education and learn a specific area of medicine, such as dermatology, pediatrics or chiropractic care. If you have an interest in a certain area of medicine, you can target it during your education and when you apply for medical assistant positions. Each type of specialized medical assistant position will vary in its responsibilities and requirements.

Related: How Long Does It Take To Become A Medical Assistant?

Specialized medical assistant jobs

In almost every area of medicine, there is the opportunity to become a specialized medical assistant. Here are some common specialized medical assistant positions and the roles and duties frequently associated with them:

Obstetric medical assistant

OB/GYN doctors specialize in the health and care of women of all ages. An obstetric medical assistant might help the obstetrician or gynecologist in a variety of ways, including:

  • Assisting with pregnancy care

  • Measuring vital signs like blood pressure and temperature

  • Helping with testing procedures like breast exams

  • Administering and explaining medications to patients

  • Preparing patients for appointments

  • Assisting the OB/GYN during appointments, procedures and surgeries

  • Performing laboratory tests, collecting samples or drawing blood

Podiatric medical assistant

Podiatrists treat disorders or injuries with the feet and ankles. A podiatric medical assistant performs specialized tasks related to podiatric medicine like:

  • Making and applying casts to patients' feet

  • Administering pretreatment foot exams

  • Taking and developing X-rays of legs, ankles or feet

  • Caring for patients' toenails

  • Completing diabetic foot exams

  • Assisting the podiatrist with surgical procedures

  • Organizing and ordering supplies

  • Greeting patients, scheduling appointments and updating records

Chiropractic medical assistant

Chiropractors specialize in treating the musculoskeletal system and a variety of medical conditions with a holistic approach. A chiropractic medical assistant may perform tasks like:

  • Fulfilling clinical and administrative duties

  • Preparing rooms for chiropractic procedures

  • Greeting patients, managing the schedule and updating medical records

  • Reviewing symptoms with the patient and preparing them for their appointment

  • Applying heat, electrical muscle stimulation or other therapies

  • Taking X-rays and images of the patient's skeleton

  • Assisting the chiropractor with patient exams

Ophthalmologic medical assistant

Ophthalmologists and optometrists diagnose eye ailments and correct vision problems. An ophthalmologist medical assistant performs specialized tasks such as:

  • Showing patients how to insert, remove and care for contact lenses

  • Administering preliminary eye testing and exams

  • Assisting ophthalmologists in surgical procedures

  • Taking anatomical and functional ocular measurements

  • Explaining medications or procedures to patients

  • Gathering patient information to help with diagnoses

  • Maintaining and cleaning ophthalmic equipment

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