According to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical assistants earn an average annual salary of $36,930 per year ($17.75 hourly). Graduates starting their first job straight out of school will need to gain experience as a medical assistant to grow beyond an entry level wage and approach the national average.
Average estimates for pay can vary widely based on the state in which you practice, your level of experience in the field and type of healthcare facility you work in (hospital, physician’s office, assisted living, etc.).
The highest paid medical assistants – in the top 10% - earn $50,580 per year on average. You can only reach this tier with years of experience and a strong body of work to support it.
|State||Per hour||Per year|
|District of Columbia||$21.80||$45,340|
|State||Per hour||Per year|
All salary data courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job outlook: expected future need for medical assistants
The BLS projects employment for medical assistants will grow by as much as 18% from 2020-2030, more than four times the average rate for all occupations. Given the growth of the baby-boom population, the need for medical services is expected to rise and increase the demand for medical assistants and more kinds of healthcare workers.
Medical assistants (MA – CMA if certified) perform administrative and certain clinical duties under the supervision of a physician. The two basic types of medical assistants are clinical medical assistants and medical administrative assistants. Depending on the position, you will be responsible for various medical tasks. There are a few common working environments for medical assistants:
- Front office. Tasks include answering the phone, scheduling appointments, informing the physician about patient concerns and greeting patients when they enter the office.
- Back office. This is a great opportunity to interact with patients. Responsibilities may include measuring vital signs, obtaining the patient’s medical history, and you may even assist in treating patients.
- Laboratory. You may be responsible for drawing blood, pregnancy tests, drug screens or other in-house lab procedures.
The duties of a medical assistant are difficult to pinpoint since it varies so widely between facilities and roles within them. You will have the opportunity to discover your strengths and preferences working in healthcare. This makes medical assisting an instructive first stop in healthcare to help you determine a career path.
Career pathways as a medical assistant
Starting out as a medical assistant can be an excellent springboard into a variety of careers in healthcare. Your experience can help you qualify for a position as a manager, administrator or other medical specialist (provided you also meet any further educational requirements).
Medical assisting vs. related careers in healthcare
If you’re weighing your career options and considering medical assisting, take a look at the average national salary compared to similar common paths in healthcare—based on 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Keep in mind the educational requirements for each position vary widely. Not all positions listed are entry-level and typically require a specialty degree. For instance: you must earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing to be eligible to go from MA to RN; dental assistants typically need to earn their diploma or associate degree in dental assisting before being able to practice (requirements vary by state).
How do I advance my career?
Your experience as a medical assistant can be very valuable if you are looking to branch into new job opportunities in healthcare. After you've earned a diploma or associate degree and gained experience as a medical assistant, you may consider an online health sciences program to complete your bachelor's degree and qualify for the next level of jobs in your field.
Learn more about the medical assisting career path options and in which specialty fields medical assistants can thrive.