What is a Medical Assistant (MA) Salary? icon

What is a Medical Assistant (MA) Salary?

| NurseJournal Staff

Medical assistants work in essential entry-level positions in the healthcare industry. They handle different tasks, including administrative duties like filling out patient paperwork, coding insurance forms, scheduling appointments, and organizing lab testing. MAs also take on clinical tasks, such as performing basic lab tests, changing wound dressings, or preparing patients for x-rays. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual medical assistant salary reached $34,800 as of May 2019. With over 680,000 MAs in the field, salaries vary considerably by employer and location. Individuals interested in learning more about entry-level positions in the healthcare field, can find more information here. Read on to learn more about the medical assistant job outlook and salary potential.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a medical assistant different from a physician assistant?

Although the two jobs have similar names, they involve very different responsibilities. Physician assistants must hold a master's degree. They work as licensed healthcare providers and can evaluate and diagnose patients. In contrast, MAs mostly perform administrative and basic clinical tasks at healthcare facilities.

What education is encouraged for medical assistants?

Some MAs can find entry-level work with just a high school diploma. However, many improve their job prospects by enrolling in a postsecondary medical assisting program. Some community colleges or vocational schools offer one-year certificate or diploma programs, while others offer two-year associate degrees.

Is a medical assistant job a good job?

Medical assisting is a growing profession that provides a stable, regular salary. MAs often view their job as an entry-level position in the healthcare industry, offering insight into how hospitals or doctor's offices work. Many go on to pursue higher-level roles.

Where is the best place to work as a MA?

In general, outpatient care centers offer the highest salaries for medical assistants. When it comes to location, Alaska, New Mexico, and Maine boast the highest concentration of medical assistants, according to the BLS. BLS figures demonstrate that Alaska, Washington, D.C., and Washington state offer the country's highest salaries for MAs.

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Top Paying Industries for Medical Assistants

While all MAs work in the healthcare industry, some specific fields and settings pay higher salaries than others. Outpatient care centers are among the most lucrative settings, offering an average medical assistant salary of about $36,810 per year. Hospitals, physician's offices, and chiropractic offices also ranked in the top four industries for MAs.

Top Paying States for Medical Assistants

Salary figures vary based on many factors, including the states in which MAs work. According to BLS data, Alaska offers the highest medical assistant pay in the country, with MAs earning a mean annual wage of $45,630. Washington, D.C., Washington state, Massachusetts, and Minnesota follow Alaska among top-paying states for MAs, with mean annual salaries ranging from $41,710-$44,530. The BLS also provides statistics on the states employing the highest concentration of MAs: Alaska, New Mexico, Maine, Oregon, and Hawaii. Mean annual salaries in these states vary significantly, with MAs in New Mexico earning about $31,500 and those in Hawaii and Oregon making nearly $40,000 a year.

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Medical Assistants

Just as state of residence influences medical assistant pay, the individual city or town can also impact an MA's earning power. According to BLS data, many metropolitan areas in California pay MAs some of the highest figures.The Vallejo-Fairfield, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa areas come out on top, with MAs in these regions earning $46,000-$49,000 annually. MAs in the Seattle, Anchorage, and Barnstable Town, Massachusetts, areas also enjoy high wages, with the average medical assistant salary reaching $45,00-$47,000 in these areas. Some of the top paying nonmetropolitan areas for MAs include Alaska, northern Minnesota, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. Annual mean wages for these places range from about $41,600-$48,000.

Salary and Job Growth for MAs

Thanks to an aging population demanding more medical care, the healthcare industry as a whole continues to grow much faster than average. The BLS projects that healthcare support occupations could grow by 17% from 2018-28, and the MA profession could grow even faster than that. In fact, the BLS projects that the number of medical assistants may increase by 23% from 2018-28. Overall, job prospects for MAs appear positive. MAs can improve their job prospects even more by earning certification or obtaining skills with electronic health records.

How to Become a Medical Assistant (MA)

MAs can find employment with only a high school diploma. However, many go on to pursue postsecondary training or education to better prepare themselves for the role. Candidates can find one-year certificate or diploma programs or two-year associate degrees at vocational schools and community colleges. These programs often include courses on record keeping and insurance coding, in addition to the basics of human anatomy and medical terminology. You can find an in-depth resource about certified medical assistant programs here. MAs can also earn professional certification in medical assisting. Although most states do not require certification, extra credentials can boost medical assistants' job prospects. As a part of the certification process, MAs must pass an exam that evaluates the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the role.

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