If you are interested in starting your career in healthcare quickly, you may consider becoming a medical assistant. Medical assistants complete clinical and administrative tasks in healthcare organizations and their duties vary with location, specialty and practice. You can earn your diploma in medical assisting in as few as 10 months or your associate degree in as little as 20 months.
Medical assistants are vital to the healthcare system, but there are a few false assumptions about the profession. Here is a list of five of the most common misconceptions:
1. There is a decline in medical assisting positions
Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 15% growth rate from 2019-2029 that will create around 2.4 million new jobs. Many healthcare careers, like nurse practitioners and occupational therapists, are seeing high demand heading into 2024. While the healthcare climate is changing, this does not mean that medical assistants are being phased out in place of other careers.
According to the BLS, medical assisting careers are expected to grow by 19% through 2029, which is much faster than the national average. This means that there will be around 139,200 new jobs created from 2019-2029, and this anticipated need for medical assistants is due in part to the aging baby boomer generation as well as changes to the industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
2. Medical assistants are the same as nurses
Medical assistants and nurses are not the same, but this doesn’t make them inferior to nurses. While medical assistants have some similar responsibilities to nurses such as recording medical history, explaining some treatments to patients and assisting physicians during a patient exam, they work directly under a doctor or a registered nurse (RN) and carry a larger administrative role. In order to go from medical assistant to registered nurse, you'll need to earn additional education.
Medical assistants have a multifaceted role in healthcare. They will schedule appointments, record insurance information and help patients as soon as they walk in the door. Since they are often the first person patients encounter when visiting a healthcare facility, medical assistants are typically responsible for helping put the patient at ease. Some medical assistants also take vital signs, prepare exam rooms, perform certain lab procedures and more.
3. Medical assistants only work in doctor’s offices
Another common misconception is that medical assistants only work in doctor’s offices and clinics. While it’s true that more than half of all medical assistants work in doctor’s offices according to the BLS, it’s not the only place they can work. Medical assistants also work in hospitals, urgent care centers, medical laboratories and outpatient care centers. If you are the type of person that likes a lot of variety, you might even consider becoming a travel medical assistant.
4. Medical assisting is an easy job
Some people assume that since you can earn a medical assisting diploma or degree quickly, it is a simple job and an easy career field to get into. Just like with any job, medical assistants need to have specific skills for a successful career. In addition to technical skills, medical assistants rely on a variety of soft skills, like staying calm under pressure because they often work in fast-paced and high-stress environments.
Certification is becoming increasingly important, and it’s one way to show you have the skills needed to be successful on the job. While requirements vary by state, certifications can help you stand out from other job candidates in the field. After you have completed your degree or diploma program, you might consider sitting for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) and Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification exams.
5. Medical assisting is only a stepping-stone to another career
While many individuals do view medical assisting as a way to get a foot in the door in the healthcare industry because the education requirements can be completed quickly, not all go on to other careers. Many medical assistants enjoy the mix of administrative and patient care work and stay in the role for years or decades, and some gain enough experience in their position that could make them eligible for promotions within their department.
For medical assistants who are interested in continuing their education, earning a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration or nursing degree could be a logical next step.