As a potential medical assistant, you have plenty of choices to make and a solid future ahead of you. There are multiple ways to enter this profession and most of the choices you make will have a significant impact on your salary. You will have to choose between a short education so you can start your career earlier, though at a lower salary, or a longer education that will likely lead to a higher income. You will also need to decide what type of education you want to pursue because of all the factors that can come with different types of educations, this won’t be a simple choice. Ultimately, the end result will allow you to enter a fast growing field, with skills that are in demand, potential to move up in your career, and a fair entry level salary.
Deciding on an Education
There are a few things students don’t think about when they are enrolling in a medical assistant program. Most are degree or certificate programs that take a year or a little more. While this is a fantastic way to get into the field early, you need to consider your future. Are you entering the medical assistant career path as your path to retirement, or is this a starting point to give you a better quality of life as you continue to advance your education? There isn’t a single answer that is correct, you just have to keep these things in mind.
If you ever plan on continuing your education it is key that you talk to the advisors at the schools you are interested in about the potential to transfer credits. You may want to move to a university later, or you may want to move to a higher level degree within the same learning institution. Ultimately, you need to understand the potential for your future education. With that foundation in place, you can start to move towards your career and start sooner than you expect.
What is a Medical Assistant?
In most areas, medical assisting is considered an entry level position in the medical field. You will work in a clinical office and complete administrative and clinical tasks for the physicians, chiropractors or other health practitioners that you work with. Your employer will ultimately set your daily tasks, but expect tasks that include cleaning patient rooms, administrative work, such as paperwork and insurance billing, scheduling, taking vitals and getting initial information from patients. It is rare that you will have two days that will be just the same, but that is often what drives people into this career.
So, What can I Make?
This isn’t as easy a question to answer as you may think. First, BLS.gov reports that the median pay in 2010 was $28,860 a year. Salary.com reports that the current national average is around $31,800 a year. Finally, indeed.com has medical assistants salary averaged out at $43,000 a year. So, those three numbers should give you a fair assessment of what you can earn, but there are a number of factors that you should take into account.
First, the BLS.gov numbers are likely low because they were last updated in 2010. You can expect an increase in pay because the projected growth numbers are at 31% which is much faster than average. Salary.com has a national average that is reported from human resources departments from all sizes of companies, but does not clarify what level of education employees have. The amount of time an individual is in a position is also not considered. Finally, indeed.com looks at the most current postings and salary offerings, which can also be a little misleading, but is definitely the most up to date information. The key here is that the current average is somewhere between $31,800 and $43,000 a year.
Your level of education and your time on the job are going to be the two key contributing factors to what you can expect as a salary. If you are able to start working for an employer now, that gives you some additional experience which will be helpful in commanding a higher wage. Balancing that work and your studies can be a little intimidating to say the least, though. Fortunately, plenty of schools offer online degree or certification programs for those interested in the medical assisting career path.
Online learning has really found its stride recently. While it is still in its infancy compared to most ways of learning, it has been around long enough to become efficient and cost effective. Similar to correspondence learning of yesteryear, online learning allows you to learn on your schedule, at your own pace. While most have a few deadlines to keep you on track for the semester, some programs are fully self-paced and simply provide instruction and guidance. Search around at some of the big name schools to see what type of programs they offer, and what benefits you will gain from this new-fangled way of learning. The results will likely surprise you.