How to Become a Medical Office Assistant

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Medical offices are very complex and the completion of administrative and clerical tasks is essential for effective function. Trained professionals are required to carry out a variety of tasks to keep the medical office running smoothly and to help other medical professionals. This is the job of medical office assistants.

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What does a medical office assistant do?

Medical office assistants perform many different administrative tasks for a variety of medical offices such as private physician, chiropractor, podiatrist, and other health practitioner offices. The responsibilities often vary by employer, location and size of the office. In small practices medical office assistants perform many different tasks and in larger practices they often specialize in a certain area. Medical office assistants update and file medical records of patients, arrange for hospital admissions, fill out insurance forms, and set up laboratory services. They also perform clerical tasks such as greeting patients, answering telephones, scheduling appointments, handling correspondence, and handling bookkeeping and billing. They often use specialized software and understand medical, pharmacy, and laboratory data.

What kind of training does a medical office assistant need?

Medical office assistants must have at least a high school diploma. Many have diplomas, certificates, or associate degrees in medical office assisting. Most programs provide instruction on medical terminology, health insurance billing, medical software, and medical coding. Many medical office assistants complete internships to gain practical experience in healthcare facilities. Most employers provide medical office assistants with on the job training. Medical office assistants can gain voluntary certification to become competitive in the field. They must stay current on technological advancements and do so by completing continuing education courses and attending seminars, workshops, and conferences.

What are the prospects for a career as a medical office assistant?

Employment of medical office assistants is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 35% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The expansion of the healthcare industry and technological advances will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be excellent especially for medical office assistants with advanced education, experience, and certification. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace medical office assistants that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do medical office assistants make?

As of October 2009, the average annual salary for medical office assistants is $39,000; average annual salaries vary greatly on location, employer, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a medical office assistant is a great choice for individuals who are interested in the medical field and performing administrative tasks. Medical office assistants must have a neat and well-groomed appearance and have excellent oral and written communication and interpersonal skills because they work with a variety of patients and medical personnel. Patience, dependability, good eye-hand coordination, and a pleasant manner are essential characteristics. Medical office assistants must also be discreet and respect the confidential nature of sensitive medical information.

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