A medical assistant is an allied health professional who performs administrative and clinical duties in a medical facility. Medical assisting duties may include scheduling appointments, updating medical records, taking vital signs, or prep a patient for physical exams.
Fortunately for those interested in a medical assisting career, the outlook for this field is excellent: the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of medical assistants will grow 29 percent by 2026. This is much faster than the national average for all other professions.
If a medical assisting career sounds appealing to you, you might be wondering what the pros and cons of this occupation are. Any career has advantages and disadvantages, and this is also true for medical assisting. Taking a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of medical assisting can help you determine if this is the right job for you.
Pros of Medical Assisting
Medical assisting is a career that has a lot to offer. This is especially true for those looking to work in a rapidly expanding industry, complete a short training program, and interact with different people, among other things. There are plenty of reasons to become a medical assistant.
The job outlook for medical assistants is much better than the national average. According to the BLS, projected employment growth for medical assistants is 29 percent, compared to 22 percent for other healthcare support occupations and seven percent for all occupations.
This is because America’s aging population keeps growing, especially as baby boomers are getting older. More people are in need of preventive medical services, which are typically provided by physicians. As a result, physician’s offices—where medical assistants usually work—will hire more assistants to serve these patients.
Aspiring medical assistants can enroll in an allied health career training program that is much shorter than a traditional four-year college degree program. Students can obtain an associate degree from a community college program, which normally takes two years. Or, they can get a diploma from a vocational school (or community college), which usually takes less than a year. Delta Technical College’s medical assistant training program may be completed in nine months. This allows graduates to start looking for an entry-level job quite quickly.
Medical assistants have the opportunity to gain medical and technological expertise during their training and on-the-job. They learn medical terms, anatomy and physiology basics, office management skills, and keyboard techniques. Medical assistants can also follow the latest advances in the healthcare field, including new lab techniques and medical procedures.
Variety in job duties
The job duties of a medical assistant can be quite varied. Medical assistants typically perform both administrative and clinical tasks. Administrative responsibilities may be scheduling appointments, completing health insurance forms, processing billing and coding information, and greeting patients. Clinical duties can entail recording vital signs, taking medical histories, preparing patients for exams, drawing blood, or administering medications as directed by the physician. Each workday can look different.
Working with people
If you enjoy interacting with people, medical assisting is a great career for you. You are part of a medical team, so you work with medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and other assistants. Of course, you also interact with patients when you greet them, prepare them for an exam or procedure, measure their vital signs, or draw their blood. You can help patients feel more at ease.
Clean work environment
Since medical assistants are employed by medical facilities, they work in hygienic environments. Physician’s offices in particular are clean and typically quiet. So, if you’re looking for a workplace that has a clean and calm atmosphere, medical assisting may be the right choice for you.
Medical assistants can specialize in certain fields by enrolling in additional training. Specializations can include pediatric-, psychiatric-, or general medicine. Some medical assistants may also specialize in education. Specializations can help boost a medical assistant’s earning potential.
Medical assisting also has a number of career advancement opportunities. With sufficient experience, medical assistants can move into leadership roles. Some may also choose to obtain further education and advance into other medical professions like registered nurse, physician assistant, or nurse practioner.
Cons of Medical Assisting
Just like any career, medical assisting has a few downsides. However, many of these challenges may be overcome by choosing a medical assisting career path that works best for you.
Odd work hours
Some medical assistants have to work evenings and weekends. Patients may be in need of medical care at odd hours. Certain shifts can also be longer than traditional work hours. However, most medical assistants work regular schedules.
Limited job responsibilities
Compared to other medical occupations, medical assistants have somewhat limited job responsibilities. Tasks like patient treatment, clinical procedures, and health assessment are mostly restricted to physicians, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners. If you want to perform any of these duties, you have to obtain further training, for example, as a nurse or physician assistant.
Working with needles
Part of the job of a medical assistant is to work with needles when they draw blood or inject a patient. So, you can’t be too squeamish in that regard. However, medical assistants who work in large facilities like hospitals may have the chance to focus only on administrative work.
If you want to learn more about medical assisting, check out our guide on how to become a medical assistant.