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Medical Assistant Salary

A medical assistant is someone who performs clinical and administrative tasks in a health care environment. These tasks can vary between greeting clients, scheduling appointments, conducting follow-ups, filing, billing, and updating patient records. Although some physician's offices may provide on-the-job training, most people who are interested in working in this field need at least a two-year associate's degree or one-year certificate from a vocational or technical school. There are many advantages to getting a diploma or certificate in the field, including advancement opportunities and a higher medical assistant salary.

The certification for medical assistants, offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), is a credential that shows competence in the field. The AAMA is regarded as holding the highest standards in the profession. The certified medical assistant (CMA) collects data regarding patients' physical, psychological, spiritual, cultural, and social needs. The CMA records and reports information to a physician concerning a patient's condition and his or her reactions to medications or treatments. He or she prepares patients for examination, procedures, and treatment. The CMA obtains patient histories and vital signs and assists the physician during treatment, examination, and testing of patients. Some CMAs provide instructions to patients and their families regarding medications and treatment or prepare and maintain supplies, equipment, and examination rooms. The CMA is a member of the clinical team and should be able to function in any area of the clinic.

To qualify for the exam, the applicant must have completed an accredited medical assisting program. This exam is offered at testing sites throughout the country with a cost of about $125 for AAMA members. It is recommended that candidates recertify every 60 months in order to ensure their continued competency and knowledge.

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In 2011, the AAMA conducted a salary survey of more than 3,800 medical assistants. The survey showed the following:

  • Nearly 95 percent of full-time medical assistants are paid hourly, and the amount varies by years and experience.
  • A medical assistant who holds a CMA earns more on average than other medical assistants ($14.94 versus $13.43 per hour)
  • Increasingly, employers are demanding that medical assistants have their CMA certifications due to the pressures of malpractice suits and mandates by managed care organizations.
  • Generally, 84 percent of medical assistant educators are paid $49,000 a year, with more than 16 percent earning over $65,000.
  • The highest earnings were paid to medical assistants in the Pacific region, who earn an average of $16.85 per hour. The Midwest region had the second-highest average earnings of $15.53 an hour.
  • Of those responding to the survey, 62 percent held a certificate or diploma in medical assisting; 43 three percent had an at least an associate's degree and 11 percent received on-the-job training.
  • More than 52 percent of respondents worked in single specialty practices with fewer employees than multispecialty offices. Most medical assistants worked in physician offices.
  • The highest salaries were paid to people who worked in emergency and outpatient hospital departments and medical and surgical specialties. People with more than 16 years of experience earned more than $37,000 respectively.
  • Nearly all full-time medical assistants received benefit packages from their employers, such as major medical, dental, vision, and disability insurance.
  • About 20 percent of the medical assistants said that their employers paid their AAMA expenses, while more than 50 percent of full-time educators said their employers paid for membership dues, conferences, and travel expenses.

Medical Assistant Salary and Certification Review


Last Updated: 08/23/2018

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