A Career up Close: Medical Office Assistants

When you first start out in the field of healthcare administration, you may not immediately be put into a management position. This is especially likely if you have limited work experience or have less than a master's degree in a relevant area. The term "administration" applies not just to managers and supervisors, but anyone who contributes to the administration of a healthcare facility – typically the people seen behind desks in clinics and doctor's offices. One such position is that of the medical office assistant.

Medical office assistants have a variety of responsibilities that help keep a physician's office or clinic running smoothly. They answer phones and direct calls to other staff members, schedule and confirm appointments, and maintain medical records and files. They are often the first person a patient sees when he or she walks in the room, and thus are responsible for greeting the patient and alerting the appropriate staff member to his or her presence. They compile records and write reports, as well as send out letters, bills, and notices via fax, email, and the mail. They might also partake in certain clinical duties, such as taking patient histories and getting insurance information, or keeping track of inventory and ordering new supplies when necessary. The technology that medical office assistants should know how to use is typical to what one would find in any office, including credit card processing machines, fax machines, photocopiers and scanners, and computers that use software specific to the job, such as programs for accounting and scheduling.

Although no degree is required to get a position in this field, a number of institutions offer certificates in medical office assisting. According to O'NET, a partner of the American Job Center Network, 61% of people in the field have some college background, but did not obtain a degree, while only 2% earned an associate's degree. The rest have not gone beyond high school. People who seek a degree in medical office assisting will take classes in laboratory procedures, patient communication and care, clinical assisting, and medical insurance and billing. They might also take classes in health topics, such as nutrition, the digestive system, or electrocardiography.

The good news for people pursuing degrees in healthcare administration is that they can find a job as a medical office assistant while in school, since no specific degree is needed. Getting work experience early on can help students enter the field after graduation at a higher level – potentially even as a manager. Regardless of education status, people in this field must have strong oral and written communication skills, time management skills, and have the ability to think critically, problem solve, and use deductive reasoning.

People in this position, on average, make a little over $31,000 a year, which is a great starting point for people in school for healthcare administration. The field is expected to grow by about 29% from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than average. Most of the reason for this growth is specifically related to its connection to the health services industry, as secretaries and administrative assistants in other fields will only experience a meager 12% growth over the same period. It's even higher than the 25% growth expected from other health-support occupations, which means that it's an ideal field to enter into that will offer both job security and opportunities for advancement.

Sources:

http://work.chron.com/medical-office-assistant-8118.html

http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/43-6013.00

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Office-and-Administrative-Support/Secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm#tab-1

About the Author:
Iris Stone is a freelance writer, editor, and business owner who has written on a range of topics. She has experience covering content on medicine, healthcare, and career training, as well as education. Iris is also interested in science and mathematics and is currently studying to be a physicist. Check out her Google+ Profile.

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