Profession Profile: Medical Assistant
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Profession Profile: Medical Assistant

Are you interested in medical assisting but aren’t sure what the job requires? Find out what it takes to work as a medical assistant career professional.

Are you interested in medical assisting but aren’t sure what the job requires? A medical assistant career professional cares for patients, engages in a wide variety of physician’s office duties, and serves as an integral part of the health care delivery team. If you would like a role as liaison between the doctor and patient, the role of medical assistant may be right for you!

Typical Responsibilities

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. The medical assistant is often a liaison between the doctor and the patient. While duties vary depending on the specialty and the size of the practice, medical assistants typically do the following:

  • Record patient history and personal information
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Help the physician with patient examinations
  • Give patients injections or medications as directed by the physician and as permitted by state law
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Enter patient information into medical records

Education and Training

Most employers prefer medical assistants who graduated from an accredited medical assisting program. Accredited medical assisting programs are offered through postsecondary vocational schools, community colleges, and colleges and universities. Completion of a post-secondary program may take either 1) one year or less, which results in a certificate or diploma, or 2) two years with an associate degree. Most accredited programs include an internship that provides practical experience in a health care facility or physicians’ office. Some high schools and career tech schools offer courses covering the necessary topics, which along with volunteer work in a health care setting can provide enough education to begin a career in medical assisting. Formal training is not mandatory but recommended. Some professional medical assistants learn their skills through on-the-job training.

Choosing an Accredited Program

Accredited Programs: It is a wise decision to choose a school program that is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Certification/Licensing: Medical assistants are not required by most states to be certified in order to work. However, employers prefer to hire medical assistants who are certified. To get certified, you must meet certain eligibility criteria as a “route” to certification and pass an exam. These routes include graduation from an accredited program or work experience or both. There is more than one organization offering certification for medical assisting. Choosing which organization to go with may be made easier by scanning your local job advertisements to see which medical assistant certification is sought by employers in your area.

AMT provides certification to medical assistants who, upon passing the exam, become members of the AMT professional association and can use the designation Registered Medical Assistant (RMA). AMT certification is a national certification and is not limited to specific states. AMT offers certification to working medical assistants through a work experience route as well as for graduates of medical assisting programs.

Is It Right for You?

Medical assistants must be able to understand medical charts and diagnoses on paper charts or electronic health records. Medical assistants should be able to use basic clinical instruments to take a patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure. They need to be precise when taking vital signs or recording patient information and able to keep that information confidential and discuss it only with other medical personnel who are involved in treating the patient. They often interact with patients who may be in pain or in distress, so they need to be able to act in a calm and professional manner.

If you are interested in becoming certified through AMT as an RMA visit our Medical Assisting page to determine if you are eligible.


Medical assistants held about 591,300 jobs in 2014. These assistants can work in healthcare facilities and more than half hold jobs in physicians’ offices. Employment is expected to grow by 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand will stem from physicians hiring more medical assistants to do routine administrative and clinical duties so that physicians can see more patients. The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to spur demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians. As their practices expand, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients. Assistants will likely continue to be used in place of more expensive workers, such as nurses, to reduce costs.


The earnings of medical assistants vary, depending on their experience, skill level, and location. Median annual earnings of medical assistants were $31,540 in May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $45,310.

Where to Learn More

Visit the Beaureau of Labor Statistics


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