Medical Assistant Salary Guide

Maura Deering, J.D.
Updated July 6, 2023
Reviewed by
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Medical assistant salaries may be lower than other healthcare roles, but the short education timeline quickly leads to higher-paying opportunities. Check out more like the highest paying states and how to increase pay.
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Becoming a medical assistant can be an entry point into the healthcare field and a bridge to career advancement. Medical assistants also earn steady pay increases that correspond with experience, and the majority receive benefits, such as health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, and membership in the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

Discover information about average salaries, the highest- and lowest-paying states, how medical assistant salaries compare to nursing salaries, and ways to increase your income.

Fast Facts About Medical Assistants

  • chevron-rightEmployment of medical assistants is projected to increase by 16% from 2021-2031.
  • chevron-rightMedical assistant salaries range from $29,000-$48,000.
  • chevron-rightPhysicians’ offices are the largest employers of medical assistants.

Average Salary for Medical Assistants

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average annual salaries and hourly wages for medical assistants are as listed below, with the bottom 10% earning $29,070 a year, or $13.98 per hour, and the highest 10% making $48,190 per year, or $23.16 an hour.

How much medical assistants make can depend on geographic location, workplace setting, and skills and experience.

A comparison of average annual salaries for medical assistants versus similar occupations shows medical assistants earn more than other types of healthcare assistants and aides, except in the case of licensed practical or vocational nurses, who earn higher incomes.

Average Annual Salary

Source: BLS, May 2021

Average Hourly Wage

Source: BLS, May 2021

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What Kind of Salary Growth Can Medical Assistants Expect?

Medical assistants can expect an upward trend in their salaries and opportunities for career advancement the longer they stay in the profession. Learning new skills as a medical assistant and increasing medical knowledge can lead to higher-level positions and more leadership opportunities in healthcare. Clinical specialties can also open doors to more responsibilities, as can certification and additional degrees.

A 2020 study conducted by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) found that, of the 197 employers of medical assistants surveyed, 35% believe that medical assistants have more responsibility than in the prior year and perform more advanced skills.

For example, 48% of the organizations report that their medical assistants conduct phone screening and triage, 39% say their medical assistants handle medical scribing, and 37% use medical assistants as health coaches.

Highest- and Lowest-Paying States for Medical Assistants

The tables below list the highest- and lowest-paying states for medical assistants. The geographical variations in pay rates often result from factors like cost of living and employment demand.

As shown below, top-paying Alaska, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts rank among the states with the highest cost of living. The lowest-paying states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas count among the top six states with the lowest cost of living.

According to the BLS, Arizona stands in second place for the highest concentration of medical assistant jobs and location quotients.

Highest-Paying States for Medical Assistants
StateAverage Salary
Washington, D.C.$46,690

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Medical Assistants

Salaries in metropolitan areas also vary due to cost of living and employment demand. The five highest-paying cities listed below reside in expensive areas like San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.

In addition to topping the list for average medical assistant salary, the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro area ranks #10 among locations with the highest employment level of medical assistants.

Highest-Paying Metro Areas for Medical Assistants
CityAverage Salary
Vallejo—Fairfield, CA$58,670
San Francisco—Oakland—Hayward, CA$54,930
San Jose—Sunnyvale—Santa Clara, CA$53,870
Santa Rosa, CA$53,530
Sacramento—Roseville—Arden-Arcade, CA$51,530

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Workplaces for Medical Assistants

The table below includes the five most common workplaces for medical assistants, listed by average salaries. The BLS reports that more than half of all medical assistants were employed in physicians’ offices in 2021, followed by hospitals. Specialization areas for medical assistants who work in offices of physicians include ophthalmology, optometry, and podiatry.

Typical duties in doctors’ offices encompass taking patients’ vital signs and recording health information, maintaining electronic health records, and assisting with examinations. In some offices, medical assistants may also perform administrative tasks, such as answering phone calls and scheduling patient appointments.

Hospital and clinical medical assistants may, if allowed by their state laws, conduct tests, sterilize medical instruments, advise patients about their medications, and perform basic healthcare tasks and first aid.

Highest-Paying Workplaces for Medical Assistants
Workplace SettingAverage Salary
Outpatient Care Centers$44,680
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals$39,550
Employment Services$38,840
Offices of Physicians$37,610
Offices of Other Health Practitioners$33,710

Source: BLS

How Do Medical Assistant Salaries Compare to Other Healthcare Roles?

The chart below illustrates how medical assistants’ average annual salaries stack up against similar assistant and aide positions. As shown, licensed practical and vocational nurses earn more, and transitioning into nursing may be an attractive career advancement move for medical assistants.

4 Ways to Increase Pay as a Medical Assistant

With the top percentile of medical assistants’ earning annual salaries of $48,170, this section discusses some ways to earn more as a medical assistant.

  1. 1

    Become a Certified Medical Assistant

    There are many benefits to becoming a certified medical assistant. According to the NHA survey of employers, 89% encourage or require medical assistants to get certification, 72% report using certification as screening criteria, and 63% increase salaries for employees who become certified.

    Organizations that certify medical assistants include American Medical Technologists, Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants, National Healthcareer Association, and National Center for Competency Testing.

    Qualification to take certification exams generally requires completion of an accredited or approved college-level medical assisting education program, with coursework in anatomy, mathematics, pharmacology, and physiology.

  2. 2

    Seek Per Diem Medical Assistant Work

    Per diem medical assistants work varying schedules, depending on the days they have available and the needs of the employer. Per diem work often entails substituting for medical assistants on vacation or sick leave or in facilities experiencing staff shortages.

    Workplaces might include clinics, hospitals, and outpatient facilities. According to ZipRecruiter in February 2023, the average per diem medical assistant salary totals more than $56,000 a year, which exceeds even the top-end salaries for non-per diem medical assistants.

  3. 3

    Earn Your Degree

    Medical assistants have a solid foundation for advanced roles in medical professions, including nursing. Having already completed a postsecondary certificate in medical assisting, medical assistants may have transferable credits toward an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Relevant coursework includes anatomy, first aid, medical law and ethics, and medical terminology, along with pharmacology, pathology, and physiology.

    Earning an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing can result in increased job opportunities, career advancement, and higher salaries. Medical assistant-to-registered nurse (MA-to-RN) bridge programs can streamline the path to an RN license.

  4. 4

    Change Practice Settings

    Increasing your medical assistant salary may require changing your work setting. Among the settings that employ the most medical assistants, outpatient care centers pay the highest wages, with average annual earnings of $44,680. Hospitals take the second spot, with average earnings of $39,550 per year.

    Payscale reports that acquiring certain skills can result in above-average pay, such as operating electronic medical records, phlebotomy, and triage. Specialization can also pave the way to better-paying positions in the offices of dermatologists, optometrists, and podiatrists.

Frequently Asked Questions: Medical Assistant Salaries

What type of benefits do medical assistants have access to?

According to AAMA figures, approximately 86% of certified medical assistants receive paid vacations, 83% have dental coverage, and 74% benefit from major medical coverage. Other benefits include vision coverage, disability coverage, sick leave, and professional liability insurance.

Is a medical assistant a stable job?

The BLS’s projected 16% employment growth for medical assistants from 2021-2031 points to solid job stability. Driven by an aging population, the demand for preventative services should continue to increase, and physicians will need medical assistants for clinical and administrative tasks.

Can I go from an MA to an RN?

Like medical assistants, RNs are also in high demand. Bridge programs that accelerate the educational timeline from medical assistant to RN offer a seamless transition from one profession to the other. Medical assistants have already taken many of the courses required to complete an MA-to-RN program during their medical assisting training.

What are the best opportunities for advancement as a medical assistant?

Advancement opportunities include pursuing national certification and earning a nursing degree. Developing certain skills, such as operating electronic health records, phlebotomy, and triage, or pursuing a specialization, can also lead to career advancement. Leadership and management experience often provide the potential for promotions as well.

Learn More About Medical Assistants

Page last reviewed December 15, 2022

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