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How to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant

By Ibrahim Okunade

Published:

Are you interested in pursuing a career in the healthcare field? Do you possess strong organizational skills and a passion for providing administrative support in a medical setting? If so, becoming a medical administrative assistant may be a path worth considering. Also known as medical office assistants and medical secretaries, these professionals provide administrative and clerical support to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. This guide explores the role of medical administrative assistants, the responsibilities, the skills required, and the potential career prospect.

Career Summary

Medical Administrative Assistant Salary

Medical Administrative Assistant Salary

Your salary as a medical secretary can vary depending on the organization and the responsibilities that come with the role. According to Glassdoor, the salary breakdown of medical office assistants is as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$38k)
  • Median Salary (US$44k)
  • Executive Salary (US$51k)

Compared to the average salary across the United States, which was $61,900 in 2022, medical administrative assistants fall in the low-income category.

What does a Medical Administrative Assistant do?

A medical administrative assistant is responsible for handling administrative tasks in a healthcare setting, such as scheduling appointments, managing patient records, coordinating billing and coding processes, and providing customer service to patients. Their ability to navigate complex administrative tasks contributes significantly to the smooth functioning of medical offices and the delivery of quality patient care.

Medical Administrative Assistant Career Progression

  • Entry-Level Medical Administrative Assistant: Entry-level medical office assistants typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and some basic training in medical terminology and office procedures. They may be responsible for tasks such as scheduling appointments, answering phones, and filing paperwork.
  • Senior Medical Administrative Assistant: Senior medical administrative assistants take on additional responsibilities such as overseeing the work of junior staff, handling complex administrative tasks, and serving as a point of contact for internal and external stakeholders.
  • Lead or Supervisor: Oversees a team of medical administrative assistants, provides guidance and training, and ensures smooth workflow within the administrative department.
  • Office Manager: Some medical administrative assistants progress into office manager roles. In this position, you would have broader responsibilities, including overseeing the overall operations of a medical office or clinic. This may involve managing staff, budgeting, implementing policies and procedures, and collaborating with other departments or healthcare professionals.
  • Healthcare Administrator: With additional education, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in healthcare administration or a related field, medical administrative assistants can pursue careers in healthcare administration. These roles involve managing healthcare facilities, developing and implementing policies and procedures, financial management, and working with healthcare professionals to improve operational efficiency.
Medical Administrative Assistant Career Progression

Pros:

  • Stable job prospects due to the consistent demand for their expertise.
  • Contribution to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare operations.
  • Medical administrative assistants typically have a good work-life balance.
  • Interaction with diverse patients and healthcare professionals.
  • Opportunity to develop and refine administrative and organizational skills.

Cons:

  • Limited control over the pace and volume of work due to external factors, such as patient arrivals and emergencies.
  • Balancing the needs of patients, healthcare providers, and administrative requirements.
  • Dealing with challenging or upset patients.
  • Potential for working evenings, weekends, or holidays in certain healthcare settings

Useful Skills to Have as a Medical Administrative Assistant

  • Organizational Skills
  • Attention to Detail
  • Computer Skills
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Time Management Skills
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Cultural Sensitivity

Popular Medical Administrative Assistant Specialties

  • Medical coding and billing specialist.
  • Electronic health records specialist.
  • Medical transcriptionist.
  • Patient access coordinator.
  • Health information management (HIM) specialist.

How to become a Medical Administrative Assistant

Medical Administrative Assistant 5 Steps to Career

Complete Your Education

A high school diploma or GED is usually the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions. You must ensure you have completed this level of education to stand any chance of becoming a medical administrative assistant.

While a high school diploma may be sufficient for entry-level positions, it can also serve as a stepping stone for further education and career advancement. If you aspire to take on higher-level administrative roles or pursue additional certifications or degrees in healthcare administration, having a high school diploma is often a prerequisite.

Of course, you may sometimes find a medical administrative assistant job post that doesn’t require a high school diploma. However, these positions typically offer lower salaries. If you want to have a successful career as a medical administrative assistant, earning a high school diploma or equivalent is a good idea.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant?

While some employers may prefer candidates with a post-secondary education, such as an associate degree in medical office administration or a certificate program, a degree is not always required to become a medical administrative assistant.

The specific educational requirements can vary depending on the employer, location, and the complexity of the administrative tasks involved. Be sure to read the medical administrative assistant job description to understand the specific educational requirements.

Pursuing a post-secondary education in medical office administration, medical assisting, or a related field can give you a deeper understanding of healthcare systems, medical terminology, office procedures, and other relevant skills. Community colleges, vocational schools, and online institutions typically offer these programs. They may range from certificate programs to associate degree programs.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Associate Degree in Medical Office Administration?

Usually, an associate degree in medical office administration takes two years to complete. This timeframe is for full-time programs. Part-time programs may take longer than two years.

The associate degree prepares students for administrative work at a clinical practice, physician’s office, or hospital. The programs typically combine general education courses, core courses specific to medical office administration, and hands-on practical experiences. The curriculum covers topics such as medical terminology, medical office procedures, healthcare ethics, billing and coding, electronic health records systems, and communication skills.

Can I Become a Medical Administrative Assistant Through Online Education?

Yes, you can become a medical administrative assistant through online education. There are many different online programs available that can teach you the skills and knowledge you need to be a successful medical administrative assistant. Intending medical secretaries with multiple commitments can take the online education route. It allows them to learn at their pace while handling other things.

Many accredited institutions offer online diploma programs specifically designed for medical office administration. These programs provide the necessary knowledge and skills to perform administrative tasks in healthcare settings.

Some institutions offer online associate’s degree programs in healthcare administration or medical office administration. These programs provide a more comprehensive education, covering both administrative skills and foundational knowledge in healthcare management. An associate’s degree can provide a broader understanding of healthcare systems, business principles, and leadership skills, which can be beneficial for career advancement.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant?

There are quite a number of web resources that can be useful to you on your journey to becoming a medical administrative assistant. Some of the top ones are listed below:

  • American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA): AHIMA is a leading association for health information management professionals. Their website provides resources on topics such as medical coding, medical records management, privacy, and information governance. It can be beneficial for medical secretaries involved in medical records management and health information systems.
  • Medical Group Management Association (MGMA): MGMA is a professional association for medical practice managers and administrators. Their website offers valuable resources, publications, webinars, and networking opportunities for individuals working in medical office management and administration.
  • MedlinePlus: MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, provides reliable information on a wide range of health topics. Their website includes resources on medical terminology, patient education, and general healthcare information that can enhance your understanding of medical concepts and terminology.
  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS): HIMSS is a global organization focused on improving healthcare through information technology. Their website offers resources, articles, and educational materials on topics such as healthcare technology, electronic health records, and health information management.

Gain Experience

Seeking opportunities to gain hands-on experience in a healthcare setting is highly beneficial for aspiring medical administrative assistants. Consider exploring options such as internships, externships, and volunteering. You should also consider part-time positions that allow you to work alongside experienced medical administrative professionals and apply your skills in a practical setting.

These opportunities can offer invaluable real-world exposure to the healthcare environment, allowing you to learn about medical office procedures, patient interactions, electronic health records (EHR) systems, appointment scheduling, and other essential tasks specific to the role.

What Are Internship Opportunities for a Medical Administrative Assistant?

Internship opportunities for a medical office assistant can provide valuable hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. Here are some examples of internship opportunities you may consider:

  • Hospital Internships: Many hospitals offer internship programs for students or individuals interested in healthcare administration. These internships can provide exposure to various departments within the hospital, such as the front desk, admissions, medical records, or billing. You may have the opportunity to observe and participate in tasks related to patient registration, scheduling appointments, maintaining records, or assisting with administrative duties.
  • Clinic or Medical Office Internships: Local clinics or medical offices may offer internship positions for individuals interested in medical administrative roles. These internships allow you to work alongside administrative staff, learning about appointment management, patient communication, billing procedures, and office organization. You may gain hands-on experience with electronic health records (EHR) systems and other software commonly used in medical settings.
  • Healthcare Organizations and Associations: Non-profit healthcare organizations or professional associations may offer internship programs focused on healthcare administration. These internships can provide exposure to various aspects of healthcare administration, policy development, research, or project management. You may work on tasks related to data analysis, report preparation, event coordination, or administrative support.
  • Insurance Companies: Health insurance companies often have internship opportunities in their administrative departments. These internships can provide insight into medical billing and coding, insurance claims processing, and customer service. You may learn about the coordination of benefits and insurance policies and gain familiarity with insurance software systems.

When seeking internship opportunities, consider reaching out to healthcare facilities, professional associations, or local job boards. Educational institutions and career counseling services may provide information on available internships in your area. When seeking internship positions, be sure to optimize your profile on platforms like LinkedIn for better visibility. Keep in mind that the specific internship requirements, duration, and availability may vary depending on the organization and location.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Medical Administrative Assistant?

As a medical administrative assistant, you will develop a range of skills that are crucial for effectively carrying out your duties in a healthcare setting. Here are some key skills you can expect to learn:

  • Medical Terminology: You will learn the terminology and language specific to the healthcare industry. This includes understanding medical abbreviations, diagnostic procedures, medications, and common medical conditions. Proficiency in medical terminology enables effective communication with healthcare professionals and accurate documentation.
  • Administrative and Clerical Skills: You will acquire various administrative skills necessary for managing the daily operations of a medical office. This includes tasks such as appointment scheduling, maintaining patient records, managing electronic health records (EHR), data entry, billing and coding procedures, insurance claims processing, and maintaining confidentiality of patient information.
  • Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential for interacting with patients, healthcare professionals, and other administrative staff. You will learn how to greet patients, answer phone calls, respond to inquiries, and provide clear and concise information. Additionally, you will develop skills in written communication for drafting professional correspondence, emails, and reports.
  • Customer Service: As a medical office assistant, you will often be the first point of contact for patients. You will learn how to provide excellent customer service by being empathetic and responsive and maintaining a professional demeanor. Handling patient inquiries and complaints and scheduling appointments in a friendly and efficient manner is a key aspect of this skill.
  • Organizational Skills: Medical offices can be fast-paced environments with multiple tasks and responsibilities. You will learn how to prioritize and manage your workload effectively, maintain organized filing systems, and keep track of appointments and deadlines. Strong organizational skills ensure smooth operations and enable efficient delivery of administrative services.
  • Technology Proficiency: Healthcare facilities increasingly rely on electronic systems for managing patient records, scheduling, and billing. You will develop proficiency in using electronic health records (EHR) software, practice management systems, and other relevant technology tools. Basic computer skills, such as word processing, spreadsheet management, and email communication, are also essential.
  • Multitasking and Problem-Solving: Medical office assistants often face situations that require multitasking and problem-solving abilities. You will learn how to handle multiple responsibilities simultaneously, prioritize tasks, and adapt to unexpected situations. Problem-solving skills will help you address administrative challenges, resolve conflicts, and find efficient solutions.
  • Professionalism and Ethics: You will learn about professional ethics and the importance of maintaining confidentiality and privacy in healthcare settings. Adhering to ethical guidelines, maintaining a professional appearance, and demonstrating integrity are integral to the role of a medical secretary.

Get Certified

The next step in becoming a medical administrative assistant is to get certified. Getting certified as a medical assistant comes with several benefits. First, getting certified boosts your earning potential. It also paves the way for more job opportunities for you. In addition, certification can help you advance your career and move into more senior positions.

The Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) credential is an important medical administrative assistant certification. This credential is offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). To become certified, you must meet the eligibility requirements of the certification you want.

For the CMAA certification, you must possess a high school diploma or GED/high school equivalency and have completed a medical administrative assistant training or education program within the last five years.

The certification exam will test your knowledge of medical terminology, medical office procedures, computer applications, and other topics related to the medical administrative assistant profession. You will be awarded the certification credential once you have passed the certification exam. This credential will show potential employers you have the skills and knowledge necessary to be a successful medical administrative assistant.

CMAA certificates are renewed every two years. In addition, 10 Continuing Education (C.E.) credits are required every two years to maintain your certification. Upon the expiration of the certificate, you have one year to reinstate it.

Some other certifications to consider are:
  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Certification: This certification is offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders. It certifies your proficiency in handling medical coding in various healthcare settings.
  • Certified Medical Administrative Specialist (CMAS): Provided by the American Medical Technologists (AMT), the CMAS certification focuses on administrative skills specific to medical offices, including medical terminology, medical law and ethics, medical office management, and insurance processing.
  • Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS): Offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), the CEHRS certification is designed for professionals who specialize in managing electronic health records (EHR). It covers topics like EHR software, data management, privacy and security, and health information exchange.
  • Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM): The CMOM certification, offered by Practice Management Institute (PMI), is designed for individuals who manage medical offices and oversee administrative operations. It covers areas such as human resources, financial management, regulatory compliance, and practice efficiency.

Balancing Work and Life as a Medical Administrative Assistant

The work-life balance of a medical administrative assistant can vary depending on factors such as the specific healthcare setting, job responsibilities, organizational culture, and individual preferences. Here are some key considerations regarding work-life balance for medical administrative assistants:

  • Standard working hours: Many medical administrative assistants work standard full-time or part-time hours, typically during regular business hours. This means they may have a predictable work schedule, allowing for more stability and the ability to plan personal activities outside of work.
  • Flexibility and overtime: Depending on the healthcare facility’s needs, there may be opportunities for flexibility in work schedules or the option to work overtime. However, it’s important to note that excessive overtime or irregular schedules can impact work-life balance and may lead to increased stress or burnout. It’s advisable to discuss expectations regarding flexibility and overtime with potential employers during the hiring process.
  • Weekends and holidays: Some healthcare facilities require medical administrative assistants to work weekends and holidays, especially in settings that operate on a 24/7 basis. However, not all facilities require weekend or holiday coverage, and there may be opportunities for alternate scheduling or rotation to balance work and personal commitments.

Overall, medical administrative assistants have the potential for a good work-life balance when supported by factors such as flexible schedules and supportive workplace cultures.

Continue Learning and Developing

It is important to continue learning and developing your skills as a medical secretary. It involves actively seeking opportunities to expand your knowledge, refine your skills, and stay updated with advancements in the healthcare industry.

The healthcare industry constantly evolves, with new regulations, technologies, and best practices emerging. It’s important to stay informed about these changes by regularly reading industry publications, attending conferences, or participating in webinars. This helps you remain up-to-date with the latest trends and developments that may impact your role as a medical office assistant.

Look for professional development opportunities that can enhance your skills and knowledge. These may include attending workshops, seminars, or training programs focused on healthcare administration, medical coding and billing, patient privacy regulations, or technological advancements in medical office management. Seek out educational resources that provide continuing education credits to maintain professional certifications.

By embracing a mindset of continuous learning and development, you can enhance your knowledge, skills, and value as a medical administrative assistant. This commitment to professional growth benefits you personally and positively impacts the quality of administrative services you provide in the healthcare setting.

What’s the Career Outlook for Medical Administrative Assistants?

There are no official projections for the job outlook of medical office assistants, however, employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 16 percent from 2021 to 2031, and this includes the medical office assistants. The growth is much faster than the average for all occupations in the United States.

Thus, the career outlook for medical office assistants is good. The demand for these workers is expected to grow as the healthcare industry continues to expand. This means medical office assistants with relevant education, certifications, and experience will likely find favorable job prospects in various healthcare settings.

Medical Administrative Assistant Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Medical Administrative Assistant?

As a medical administrative assistant, the opportunities in the healthcare industry are diverse.

  • Medical Transcriptionist: Medical administrative assistants with strong knowledge of medical terminology and excellent typing skills may pursue roles as medical transcriptionists. In this role, you would listen to recorded medical dictations and transcribe them into written reports or documents.
  • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist: With knowledge of medical coding systems (such as ICD-10 and CPT) and billing procedures, medical administrative assistants can pursue careers as medical billing and coding specialists. In this role, you would assign appropriate codes to medical procedures, diagnoses, and services, ensuring accurate billing and insurance reimbursement.
  • Medical Records Technician: Medical administrative assistants can work as medical records technicians, responsible for managing and maintaining patient records, ensuring they are accurate, organized, and up-to-date. This role involves retrieving patient information, handling requests for medical records, and ensuring compliance with privacy and confidentiality regulations.
  • Patient Access Representative: Patient access representatives work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals or clinics, assisting patients with the registration and admission process. In this role, you would gather patient information, verify insurance coverage, schedule appointments, and answer patient inquiries.
  • Front Desk Receptionist: Medical secretaries can work as front desk receptionists in healthcare settings. This role involves greeting patients, answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, and directing inquiries to the appropriate departments or personnel.
  • Administrative Support Specialist: Medical office assistants may also find opportunities as administrative support specialists in healthcare organizations. In this role, you would provide general administrative support, such as managing correspondence, coordinating meetings, handling office supplies, and assisting with various administrative tasks.

What Type of Organizations Hire Medical Administrative Assistants?

Medical administrative assistants can be hired by various types of healthcare organizations and facilities. Here are some examples:

  • Hospitals: Medical administrative assistants are employed in hospitals of all sizes, ranging from small community hospitals to large medical centers. They can work in different departments, such as admissions, medical records, billing, or outpatient clinics within the hospital.
  • Physician Practices and Clinics: Medical administrative assistants are commonly hired by physician practices and outpatient clinics. These include family practices, specialty clinics, surgical centers, urgent care centers, and other healthcare facilities that provide ambulatory care. They handle administrative tasks, patient scheduling, medical records management, and insurance billing.
  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories: Medical administrative assistants may find employment in medical or diagnostic laboratories. In these settings, they contribute to administrative tasks related to sample processing, data entry, patient coordination, and record-keeping.
  • Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities: Medical office assistants can work in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They assist with administrative duties related to resident admissions, discharge procedures, medical records management, and coordination of care between the facility and healthcare providers.
  • Home Healthcare Agencies: Medical administrative assistants may be hired by home healthcare agencies that provide services to patients in their homes. They assist with administrative tasks such as coordinating visits, scheduling, maintaining patient records, and billing.

Should I become a Medical Administrative Assistant?

The decision to pursue any career path is one that should be taken after considering various factors. Thus, the choice to become a medical administrative assistant should be based on factors like your personal interests, skills, and long-term career goals.

By thoroughly reviewing the information presented in this article, you can gain insights into the responsibilities, qualifications, and potential growth opportunities associated with the role. Assess whether the job requirements align with your strengths, such as excellent organizational skills, effective communication abilities, and strong attention to detail. Consider whether you are comfortable working in a healthcare environment and interacting with patients and healthcare professionals. Once you holistically assess all these factors, you can easily come to a conclusion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Medical Administrative Assistant and a Medical Assistant?

The main difference between the two roles is that medical assistants typically have more training in clinical tasks, while medical administrative assistants typically have more training in administrative tasks.


What qualifications are required to become a Medical Administrative Assistant?

While specific requirements can vary, most employers prefer candidates with a high school diploma or equivalent. Some individuals pursue a certificate or associate degree program in medical office administration to gain relevant knowledge and skills.

Can I work remotely as a Medical Administrative Assistant?

While some administrative tasks can be performed remotely, such as managing electronic health records or handling virtual correspondence, the extent of remote work opportunities can vary depending on the employer and specific job requirements. In some healthcare settings, on-site presence may be necessary for tasks that require in-person interactions.


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Ibrahim Okunade

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