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  • Synopsis: The medical assistant position offers a chance to enter into the medical field that can lead to a stable and reliable career path - Published: 2009-02-07 (Rev. 2010-07-03). For further information pertaining to this article contact: Michael A. Morales.

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The medical assistant position offers a chance to enter into the medical field that can lead to a stable and reliable career path.

Medical assistants play a vital role in both the administrative and clinical aspects of medicine. This means working with patients and doctors alike and becoming efficient in numerous aspects of business in the healthcare industry.

To get started in medical assisting there is some training that is required. Potential medical assistants will have to find a academic program that will prepare them with the variety of skills that will be required to be successful in administrative and clinical responsibilities. The basic curriculum students will need to know ranges from familiarity with medical law, records, billing, insurance, communications. On the clinical end students will learn patient preparation, become trained in aspects of medical testing and practice as well. This will prepare the student to handle a range of duties that will often exceed those of a nurse or medical office assistant. In a sense, a medical assistant will be expected to perform both to some degree.

With this preparation students can go on to sit for professional exams to become a Certified Medical Assistant or CMA. Another professional exam exists to become a Registered Medical Assistant or RMA. Those considering a future as a medical assistant will want to be sure that the training program they choose will provide eligibility and preparation for whichever one or both of these credentials, depending on the requirements for the position they seek. Most training programs will also require students to complete a training at a medical facility. This is essential to learn the basics of patient care that will be part of the medical assistant role.

Coming out of thorough training program, medical assistants will find an abundance of opportunities that await them. The United States Department of Labor even predicts the opportunities available for medical assistants will continue to grow. This is because medical assisting involves both ends of the healthcare business and a good medical assistant can allow the matters of clinical and administrative duties to flow smoothly by performing well.

Going forward, medical assisting can lead to nearly every career outcome by furthering training. From working as a medical assistant, one will generally make a decision to advance their training in either one of two directions. If they find they are more at home in the office environment, there are many degree opportunities in healthcare management at both the Bachelor's and Master's level. Taking this path can lead to upper level management positions in hospitals or insurance companies. Those that feel drawn towards the clinical aspect may choose to go on to study medicine with the goal of becoming a registered nurse or even a doctor. Becoming a medical assistant will allow the opportunity for a person that is new to the medical field to get experience and learn about the various positions before making that important decision on the direction of their career.

The median salary for medical assistant positions will start off in the upper twenties or lower thirties. The pay can vary depending on the number of duties expected in the position as well as the experience and training held. Some medical assistants will look to continue quickly in their training to attain an LPN and take on more clinical responsibilities to increase their pay. Other available training on the administrative end, such as a course in ICD-9, or continue training to become certified in other areas. Those looking into increasing their pay and advancing in the area of healthcare management can become a Certified Professional Coder Apprentice or a Registered Health Information Administrator, depending on their interests.

Medical assistants are in high demand due to a rapidly expanding healthcare industry.

In fact, the profession is projected to be one of the fastest growing careers in the coming decade. Most of the medical assistants are hired directly by the physicians whereas the rest, approximately 30 percent, either work in the hospitals or assist various other health practitioners including Chiropractors, Pediatrics and Optometrists. In 2006, United States employed nearly 418,000 medical assistants. The job growth is set to increase by 35%, in the next eight years, translating into another 150,000 new vacancies.

Education

While working under a physician, many medical assistants could easily acquaint themselves with the basic techniques. It is not a preferred method, anymore. Now, most physicians prefer medical assistants with at least a high school certificate and preferably a specialized diploma or an associate degree. Serious candidates always get at least a one year diploma or a specialized course. Few even acquire an associate degree, lasting two years. While there is no pre-requisite to gain entry into any of these programs, certain advanced short courses may require licensing. These specialized courses include specific knowledge regarding eye care, cast making and surgery assistance.

Training

Training is provided by vocational technical high schools, vocational post secondary institutes and to a lesser extent by community colleges. The two well recognized accrediting health bodies are The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). According to a recent survey, there are more than 400 institutions in USA who are officially evaluated by these two organizations.

Cost

The basic cost of a specialized degree ranges from $5000 to $8000. Like any other medical degree, the additional costs associated with medical books, laboratory equipment and related lab fee can easily increase the total to exceed $10,000. While evaluating the costs, it is generally recommended that candidates review the entire fee structure as Institutions often ask for supplementary fee not listed in the prospectus.

Course Outline

Candidates with initial high school studies in Biology, math, bookkeeping, typing, computers and clerical skills may find it easier to navigate the medical assistant course structure. The two distinct types of subjects taught pertain to medical issues and clerical work. Medical courses shed light on courses such as first aid procedures, human anatomy, medical terminology, medical laws and physiology, while administrative education involves record-keeping, patient relations, medicinal subscription and basic accounting. A graduate of these courses may also be trained in procedures such as taking blood, giving medications, performing X-rays, conducting laboratory tests and assisting physicians with physical checkups. For an advanced specialization a clinical experience may exceed 200 hours. Before any clinical experience, candidates are required to show proof of good health, immunizations, drugs, health insurance coverage and even a criminal background test.

Job Placement

Most of the schools have some sort of job placement assistance but fresh graduates are able to find work on their own. It is also a good idea to talk to medical recruitment agency which can utilize their extensive social network to locate a well paying job. Due to a very high demand, the job placement success rate is relatively higher then many other professions. A medical assistant can earn between $20,000 and $30,000 thousand annually depending upon specific training, and locality. The opportunities to transfer to other health care fields are always good for medical assistant. The kind people interested in Medical Assisting varies but it is certainly a field of work that is in high demand, as well as rewarding. The health care field is growing by leaps and bounds creating openings for many types of health care professionals, this includes Medical Assisting personnel, as they are necessity to the overall medical community.

Being a Medical Assistant is a career to look forward to, a career to be proud of. Over the years the field has grown and as the demand increases so will the requirements, now is a ground floor opportunity to gain a wonderful career. The requirement goals are reachable for any socioeconomic bracket, and the pay is an opportunity to support any future goal you might decide upon. Being a Medical Assistant is a career to look forward to, and definitely career to be proud of.

Medical Assistants are able to get a fast start in the healthcare field. For those that may be a little unsure what potential direction they would want to see their career go, medical assisting will be an opportunity to gain field experience without spending an abundance of time and money on their training. It is a chance to be a vital part of a medical facility, learn and practice a number of various skills, and to make a difference in the lives of others every day. The best part is, it is the beginning to any healthcare career one might want.

Reference: Michael Morales is an EMT - Paramedic and program director for Vital Ethics Inc., providing basic and advanced life support training and certification programs to health care professionals. www.vitalethics.org/medical-assistant-training.html








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