What’s a Medical Assistant?

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On average, doctors can treat up to 20 patients per day. This workload requires them to move seamlessly from patient to patient, while still giving each person the highest quality of care.

And to accomplish this task, they need a team of professionals helping them out—which is where medical assistants come in! These allied health professionals act as liaisons between doctors and their patients by providing support from the beginning to the end of the visit.

Whether they’re supporting patients or working to improve the flow of their clinic, medical assistants are key in helping doctors provide top-notch treatment. It’s vital assistants and the medical professionals they support have a great partnership, and you can use this guide to learn all about this important role. 

What is a Medical Assistant? 

A medical assistant is an allied health professional tasked with working closely alongside primary care doctors and specialists. They aid in the care process by completing clinical and administrative duties as needed to maintain the efficiency of the clinic.  

Through it all, their main goal is to help patients feel comfortable while keeping the medical clinic running efficiently.  

Medical Assistant Job Description 

Typically, medical assistants perform both clinical and administrative duties. They may check patients in at the front desk, take vital signs in the exam room, and draw blood at the end of the visit. In between appointments, they also answer phones, handle medication refill requests, and prepare the exam room for the next patient. 

The duties of this role vary from clinic to clinic and from day to day, based on things like practice location, size, and specialty. At any given time, these healthcare professionals can expect to perform any of the following duties: 


  • Bringing patients to their exam room and preparing them for tests and procedures 
  • Recording current patient symptoms, taking vital signs, and updating medical histories 
  • Changing wound dressings and/or removing sutures 
  • Drawing blood and collecting lab specimens for testing 
  • Administering electrocardiogram tests 
  • Informing patients about their care instructions  
  • Managing prescription refill requests 


  • Answering phones and handling clinic correspondence 
  • Scheduling appointments 
  • Welcoming patients to the clinic  
  • Completing insurance forms 
  • Setting up lab tests and hospital admissions  
  • Using electronic health record systems to store, track, and update patient details 

By performing these duties, medical assistants can help doctors focus on the patient care process. And as a result, doctors are better able to perform the exams, tests, and procedures needed to help their patients get the treatment they need. 


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Want to learn more about allied health professionals? Check out our post: 7 Vital Allied Health Professionals and What They Do.



Getting a job as a medical assistant is possible with only a high school diploma or GED. But to truly excel in the field, these allied health professionals need the right combination of hard skills, soft skills, and certifications. 

Hard or Technical Skills 

To excel in their role, these health professionals need to hone their clinical and administrative technical skills. They can start building all the right skills through an educational program or on-the-job experience. 

Here are some highly useful hard skills for medical assistants and a breakdown of how they apply them: 

Vitals: At the start of every appointment, medical assistants take each patient’s vital signs. They typically record the patient’s blood pressure and heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate. If any of the readings are outside the normal range, they’ll report them to the doctor right away. 

CPR & first aid: Medical personnel need to know basic life support procedures to work in a healthcare setting. They must complete CPR and first aid training before getting a job and renew their certifications as needed to keep them current. 

Infection control: Knowing the latest infection control procedures is a must for medical assistants. They should know how to effectively handle biological material, sterilize tools and surfaces, and follow all other disease control protocols. 

Phlebotomy: Healthcare centers without dedicated phlebotomists often have medical assistants draw patients’ blood and send it to the lab. So, it’s important that these professionals know how to safely collect and prepare blood for lab testing. 

Wound care: Doctors usually leave the wound care and suture removals to these healthcare assistants. To prepare for that process, these professionals must learn how to clean the area, remove sutures, apply the right dressings, and watch for signs of infection. 

Clerical duties: Medical assistants need to know the computer and phone systems inside and out to perform their jobs well. They often need to use these systems to schedule appointments, record patient notes, and authorize prescription refills. 

Specialized tasks: Depending on the unique needs of their healthcare center, medical assistants may also need to be trained in medical coding, EKG test procedures, EHR system usage, and other specialized duties. 

Soft or Durable Skills 

With the right durable skills, medical assistants can greatly improve the care experience for their patients. These skills are often ingrained, although they can be learned over time through schooling or hands-on experience. 

Soft skills that come in handy in the medical assistant field include: 


Because many medical assistant openings are considered entry-level, certifications are not necessary to land the job. However, they’re something to consider if you want to move up in this career path.  

The three main certifications in the medical assistant field are: 

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) 

The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification is available through American Medical Technologists (AMT). Before taking the exam, medical assistants need to have 720 clinical training hours and five years of work experience under their belt. After that, they have to pass the 230-question exam. 

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) 

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. To qualify, medical assistants must first complete an approved accredited educational program. Then, they’ll need to earn a passing score on the 200-question exam. 

National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) 

The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) credentials. Medical assistants need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, graduate from an accrediting training program, and work full- time in a healthcare setting for two years. Upon completing those steps, they will need to earn a passing grade on the 150- question exam. 

Medical Assistant Interview Questions 

Whether you’re looking for a rewarding career as a medical assistant or want to bring an accomplished allied health professional on board, these interview questions can help you achieve your goals: 

What led you to become a medical assistant—and how did you prepare for this career?  

How do you prioritize your daily tasks to ensure everything gets completed on time?  

What are your best ways to handle upset, stressed, or otherwise aggravated patients?  

How do you stay up to date on all the latest medical practices and terminology?  

Where do you see your medical assistant career taking you in the next five years? 

Career Outlook and Salary 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the medical assistant field will experience 16% growth through 2031. That rate is much faster than average, resulting in 117,800 new jobs for these allied health professionals. Job security will continue to improve as the baby boomer generation’s need for medical care services increases with their age. 

In addition to excellent job security, medical assistants often enjoy an excellent work-life balance and stable pay. The median pay for this role is $37,190 annually or $17.88 per hour. With experience, the rate can go up to $48,170 per year. 

Are You Looking for the Right Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants are crucial to healthcare teams, as they perform a range of important duties that help to ensure the quality and efficiency of patient care while simultaneously managing vital administrative and operational tasks. 

If you’re looking to boost patient care experience and clinic efficiency, it might be time to bring a new medical assistant onto your team. Fill out the form below to get started!  

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