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Going from EMT to Medical Assistant:
What You Need to Know

EMT vs. medical assistant: pivoting to a new role in the field of healthcare

Making the move from emergency medical technician (EMT) to a medical assistant (MA) offers you the opportunity for new clinical skills, regular hours, and career advancement in outpatient settings. 

With broader responsibilities, including patient care and administrative tasks, it provides a stable career path with potential for professional growth and work-life balance.

Ready to get started? Here’s the need-to-know info about transitioning from an EMT to a medical assistant.

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Medical assistant at front desk holding tablet smiling with patient

1. EMT v. medical assistant duties and responsibilities

Both EMTs and medical assistants provide direct care to patients and require some medical knowledge. However, there is still a significant difference between the roles—one being the work environment.

EMTs provide immediate medical care in high-stress emergency situations. They assess vital signs, administer emergency first aid, perform CPR and transport patients to hospitals and clinics. It can be a very physical job, as you may carry emergency equipment—and people—in and out of ambulances.

As a medical assistant, you’ll provide medical care in a more structured, typically non-emergency setting. Medical assistants often get to spend more time interacting with patients in a less hectic environment. This is ideal for those who enjoy building rapport with patients and providing ongoing care and support.

Other MA duties include:

  • Assisting physicians will patient exams
  • Taking vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature
  • Giving injections, including vaccinations and other medications
  • Drawing blood, if you are skilled in phlebotomy

Medical assistants may also perform administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments, stocking supplies, and maintaining patient records.

EMTs typically work in higher-stress ambulatory care settings, ambulance services, or provide medical support at events. Because emergencies can—and do—happen at all hours, an EMT’s schedules may vary and include nights, weekends, and holidays. Some EMTs work long shifts, including 10 or 12-hour shifts.

Unlike EMTs, medical assistants typically work regular business hours in healthcare settings, including doctor's offices, clinics, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. This may offer a preferred work-life balance and more predictable schedule.

"A Medical Assisting graduate can typically have better work-life balance, less physical stress, safer and more structured environment, opportunities for a better work schedule with holidays off, and choice of what specialty you desire. Medical assistants have more flexibility to advance in the work environment. They can perform as a medical assistant in the clinical setting, administrative setting, phlebotomist, billing and coding, and opportunity to advance into an office manager position. Our medical assisting program allows student an opportunity to transition into more advanced degrees (diploma, associate, and bachelor’s degrees)."

Alberta Smith, MSTD, RMA, AHI (AMT)

Medical Assistant / Medical Office Administration Program Chair

2. Education requirements

While both roles require a high school diploma or GED, some employers prefer that medical assistants have additional education and certification. A medical assistant program typically takes less than 2 years to complete depending on the credential you pursue, and includes coursework including topics such as:

  • Medical terminology
  • Fundamental anatomy and physiology
  • Insurance claims processing
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Administrative skills for the medical office

You’ll also take part in hands-on labs and clinical experiences. Not only does this provide you with key foundational knowledge for working in a clinical setting, it can also help if you build skills for a wide variety of career possibilities after working in medical assisting—such as a specialty field in allied health, or even nursing.

Diploma in Medical Assisting Online Program

  • Program length: 10 months
  • Classes: View the curriculum
  • Credential earned: Diploma in Medical Assisting

Associate Degree in Medical Office Administration Program

  • Program length: 20 months
  • Classes: View the curriculum
  • Credential earned: Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Services
Waived Enrollment Fee

Now Through June 30th

3. Getting certified as a medical assistant

There are no states requiring MAs to earn certification, with the exception of Washington (though employment is still possible depending on the job title). 

Even if you aren’t legally required to be certified, many employers will require certification and it can make you available for more job opportunities, better pay and greater chance for advancement.

Sitting for and passing either the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam may open many more doors to start your career as a medical assistant.

4. Salary

Average pay for EMTs and medical assistants is highly comparable overall across the United States. 

The average figure according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics very slightly favors medical assisting, but this can vary widely depending on the state of employment, experience level, prior education, and other factors.

Transitioning to a career as a medical assistant may offer opportunities for higher earning potential, particularly with specialized certifications and experience. Depending on the employer, your prior experience as an EMT may bolster your resume to compete for higher paying entry-level positions as a medical assistant.

Average salaries*

Job / careerPer hourPer year
Emergency Medical Technicians (BLS)$20.72$43,100
Medical Assistants (BLS)$20.84$43,350

5. Job outlook

While employment of both EMTs and medical assistants is expected to rise from 2022-2032, the expected rate of increase is significantly higher for medical assistants, according to the BLS.

Now is a great time to consider working towards the education you need to potentially compete for a growing number of medical assistant jobs in the future.

Projected employment growth*

Job / career% increaseNumeric increase
Emergency Medical Technicians (BLS)5%9,300
Medical Assistants (BLS)14%105,900

6. Where you may work

Going from EMT to medical assistant can represent a significant transition in both your day-to-day working environment and overall work-life balance.

IndustryMedical AssistantsEmergency Medical Technicians
Offices of Physicians56.5%1.2%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals15.2%20.3%
Outpatient Care Centers9.3%1.8%
Offices of Other Health Practitioners7.9%0.1%
Employment Services2.2%0.6%
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly1.0%0.1%
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools1.0%0.2%
Other Ambulatory Health Care Services0.8%48.2%
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)0.8%0.0%
Local Government, excluding Schools and Hospitals (OEWS Designation)0.6%24.5%

i. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023). Occupational employment and wage statistics, May 2023: All data. United States Department of Labor. This table includes a selection of the top industries for each occupation. That’s why there are only 10 industries listed and percentages do not add to 100%.

Examples of how to interpret this data:

  • 56.5% of all medical assistants are employed in offices of physicians
  • 48.2% of all EMTs are employed in other ambulatory health care services

Medical assistants are much more likely to be employed in physician’s offices, outpatient care centers, or offices of other health practitioners. MAs much less commonly work in ambulatory health care services or local government.


7. Future career possibilities

While transitioning from an EMT to a medical assistant involves a shift in responsibilities and work environment, it also opens up avenues for career growth and advancement after working as a medical assistant

Medical assistants can pursue specialized certifications and may eventually transition into roles such as office manager or medical administrative specialist. 

Working as an MA is also a great foundation if you choose to pursue a career in nursing or another medical care profession.

Take the first step down a new career path

Making a move from EMT to medical assistant is a great way to level-up your skills and open new doors in the healthcare field. You can expand your skills, enjoy work-life balance, and continue to make a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of others. Start on your new career path today!

Learn more about Herzing University’s medical assisting program options


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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