Medical clinics and hospitals manage a complicated array of administrative and medical procedures. The medical assistant provides vital support, playing a critical role on the front lines of medical care by ensuring that such logistics proceed smoothly.

Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant

On a typical day, a medical assistant performs a variety of duties. In a small, private practice, a medical assistant may wear many hats, reporting directly to an office manager or care provider. In a larger practice or hospital, a medical assistant can specialize in a specific area as part of a team of medical assistants under the supervision of a department administrator.

Administrative duties may include:

  • Updating and filing patient medical records
  • Completing and submitting insurance forms
  • Arranging for medical services, such as hospital admission and lab tests
  • Taking care of medical office correspondence, including answering phones and greeting patients
  • Processing billing and bookkeeping

Clinical responsibilities may include:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Recording vital signs
  • Preparing patients for medical examination and explaining treatment procedures
  • Assisting physicians during exams
  • Collecting and preparing lab specimens and performing basic tests
  • Preparing and administering medication under physician supervision

The type of medical clinic where a medical assistant works may also shape their job description and responsibilities. Some of the specialized roles available to medical assistants include:

  • Ophthalmic medical assistants — An ophthalmic medical assistant may conduct diagnostic vision tests using specialized equipment. They often instruct patients in proper eye care and may administer eye medication under the direction of a physician. They may also assist the ophthalmologist in surgery.
  • Optometric medical assistants — An optometric medical assistant generally offers the same level of support to an optometrist as noted in the section about opthalmic medical assistants. They instruct patients about contact lens use and care, conduct some diagnostic tests, and provide other assistance under the direction of the optometrist.
  • Podiatric medical assistants — Podiatric medical assistants help podiatrists during surgery, make castings of feet, and expose and develop X-rays.

Medical assistants who work for insurance companies make home visits to perform basic exams on patients. And a medical assistant employed by a county jail arranges appointments and transportation for inmates who need to see outside doctors.

Typically, medical assistants find it rewarding to assist physicians and put patients at ease. And if they see the same patients often, they develop a friendly rapport. But a medical assistant's hours can be long and unpredictable, especially when an emergency arises or the office is short-staffed.

Important Characteristics for Medical Assistants

What kind of person makes a good medical assistant? In general, a medical assistant should be patient, compassionate and have good people skills. They should also have good computer skills and pay attention to detail. In some settings, it is important that a medical assistant be flexible enough to work in the field or to work extra hours when emergencies arise.

Typical Steps for Becoming a Medical Assistant

There are several routes to becoming a medical assistant. You can learn how to become a medical assistant on the job, but most employers expect some formal education from medical assistant schools. Generally, the path to a medical assistant career looks something like this:

  1. Build a knowledge base for your medical assisting career in high school by taking courses in health, biology, mathematics, bookkeeping, computers, and office skills.
  2. Volunteer at a local hospital or clinic to gain experience and insight into the medical assisting career.
  3. Earn a certificate, diploma, or associate degree in medical assisting. Medical assistant training programs typically include a combination of classroom and hands-on clinical training. You can find one- and two-year programs in medical assisting at vocational or technical high schools, adult vocational schools, and colleges. A one-year medical assistant certificate training program leads to a certificate or diploma in medical assisting, while a two-year investment can earn an associate degree.
    • Tip: Look for schools that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education School (ABHES).
  4. Pursue an internship to learn practical skills beyond what is taught at medical assistant schools. Post-secondary programs often help students find internships in a physician's office, hospital or some other health care facility.

Becoming certified by nationally recognized medical assistant organizations can provide a competitive edge. While national certification may not be mandatory for employment, it can lead to better pay and increased job opportunities. Certification options are as follows:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) — This designation is conferred by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Individuals who have graduated from accredited medical assistant training programs are eligible for this certification, which is earned by passing a test.
  • Medical Assistant (RMA) — This is another popular and valuable certification, and it's conferred by the American Technologists (AMT) agency.


  • Medical Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition,  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Medical Assistant Education Overview and Career Guide

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Medical Assistant Education Overview and Career Guide jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 29,120 $35,800
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 19,350 $32,350
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 16,000 $32,190
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 13,280 $30,500
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 12,260 $33,990
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 11,570 $32,210
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 10,930 $30,450
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 9,710 $43,070
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 7,400 $31,330
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 7,300 $31,100
Total Employment for Medical Assistants - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Total Employment for Medical Assistants

Use our handy tool to see what employment numbers look like for two different metro areas

Salaries for Medical Assistants - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Salaries for Medical Assistants

Use our handy tool to see what salary numbers look like for two different metro areas

Total employment and salary for professions similar to medical assistants

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Medical Assistant Education Overview and Career Guide

To find out more about building a career as Medical Assistants, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Most Popular Industries for
Medical Assistant Education Overview and Career Guide

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 377,260 80% $28,260
Hospital 61,220 13% $29,790
Office Services And Staffing 7,140 1% $28,250
Education 6,890 1% $28,860
Nursing And Residential Care 6,300 1% $24,600
Government 4,990 1% $27,320
Click the Visit School Site buttons to go directly to a school's website and learn more about the school and programs it has to offer. School website will open in a new tab.
Click the Request Info buttons to request more information from a representative at the school.
Results:  10
Matching School Ads
  • Medical Assisting
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Billing & Coding Specialist
  • Offers accelerated programs w/ flexible schedules & professional instruction
  • Multiple accredited campuses across 9 states including CA, TX, NV, & PA
  • 10 + programs including Practical Nursing, Dental and Medical Assisting
  • Provides professional development training & career planning resources
  • Military Student Center (MSC) is committed to the success of military students
camnpus icon
Chula Vista
Request Info
  • Medical Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Medical Office Specialist (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Dental Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
  • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
  • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • Certificate - Veterinary Assistant
  • Offers a program that translates work and military experience into college credit, transfers in credit from other college programs, and offers the flexibility of day, evening and online coursework.
  • Provides in-person tutoring, IT support, access to library resources, and job placement assistant for graduates.
  • Features a new blended-learning curriculum, which involves a mix of campus and online courses.
  • Has 11 campuses across Southern California, Washington, and Alaska, and online courses with campus support. 
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Medical Assistant
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Dental Assisting
  • Offers a free trial period so students can attend classes before paying tuition.
  • Provides blended courses that combine traditional classroom instruction with online learning.
  • Lets students connect with peers at any time, and instructors during office hours with online chat rooms.
  • Gives students the chance to participate in externships and clinical training work under the general supervision of college staff.
  • Has accelerated programs that allow students to take the same coursework in a shorter timeframe.
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Medical Assistant Program
  • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Program
  • Physical Therapy Aide/Sports Rehab Program
  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
  • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
  • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
  • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • A Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited Business, with an A+ rating.
  • Computer Support Technician program is based on guidelines set by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and Microsoft.
  • Offers free student services, including tutoring, campus internet access, career placement, and a student lounge.
  • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 locations in Cathedral City and Twentynine Palms, California.
camnpus icon
Cathedral City
Request Info
  • Medical Assisting
  • Administrative Medical Assistant
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Master of Public Health
  • Earn your Master of Public Health Online from GW in 12 months.
  • GRE waivers available for qualified applicants.
  • Advance your career in a range of industries, including epidemiology, public health and biostatistics.
  • M.B.A.: Health Systems Management
  • B.S. in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
  • There's still time to apply to Grand Canyon University and pursue your education. Learn more today!
  • Study on your schedule - GCU offers many programs 100% online to fit your busy lifestyle.
  • GCU offers a variety of opportunities to reduce the cost of furthering your education. Campus students may qualify for scholarships, while online students can take part in limited special offers.
  • A regionally accredited university, GCU also holds specialized accreditations and approvals for some of our core program offerings.
  • Degrees in business, education, nursing, humanities and social sciences, theology and more. Find the degree that fits you.
  • Talk to us today to learn more about financial aid and start dates!

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Medical Assistant Education Overview and Career Guide.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

Back to Top