Types of Medical Assistants

Medical assisting is one of the field that students are turning to in large numbers due to the high pay, short time in school requirements, and demand for educated individuals. With a growth outlook for 31% according to BLS.gov, there are few that are having trouble finding work pursuing this path. What many students miss out on is the various options they have when entering the field. There are three primary paths a medical assistant student can take. Each of those paths will be discussed in this article. So read on to learn about where you may find your perfect fit within the medical assisting industry.

Medical Assistants

This is the primary role most students pursue. This career straddles the two specialized career paths that will be discussed in this article. You will understand how best to handle the balance of administrative and clinical work that is expected from trained medical assistants. This is less of a specialized role and more of a jack of all trades path. The advantages are numerous, primarily the fact that employers highly regard those that can fill the role needed for the day. For example, if a clinical medical assistant is not able to make it to work, a medical assistant will be able to take over their role for the day. If things get busy on the administrative side, a medical assistant can step in and help.

Medical assistants also earn a significant income. According to indeed.com, the current average salary for those in the field is around $43,000 a year. This is up to date, information as of the time of this writing. While BLS.gov only shows an expected income of around $30,000 a year, which is based on numbers from when the data was pulled, not the current outlook. With that being said, your experience and level of education will have a significant impact on your income, as will the location you work and your employer’s standard salary for those in your field.

In general, you can earn your degree or certification to enter the field in under two years. Schools like Penn Foster College, which offer associates programs, allow you to learn at your own pace online. You can finish your education in 18 months depending on how aggressively you pursue your work. The end result will depend on the type of education you pursue and how much time you dedicate to the work.

Clinical Medical Assistant

Clinical Medical Assistants are the specialized role of the field that focuses on work done on the clinical side in the office. In this role you will work with patients on their health issues, discussing treatments and medications, answering health related questions and taking samples and vitals for testing and treatment purposes. You will also be in charge of tracking patient’s health progression and keeping tools and rooms sterilized between visits. You will also work more directly with the doctors and nurses in the office in this role.

Indeed.com reports an average income of $42,000 a year. While this is slightly lower than the traditional medical assistant profession, the income will vary, again, based on education, and experience. You will find that the more specialized role will require a bit more work to find a position, but will rarely take you long at all.

Your education can be completed even faster than that of a general medical assistant since you are focusing your studies on clinical work. Depending on the type of education your pursue, you could be working in as little as a year, though many pursue an associate’s degree and take 18 months to two years to finish. Again, the choice is up to you in this area and only research will give you the correct answer for you.

Administrative Medical Assistant

Those that wish to work more in the administrative area of the industry will find that this path is the fastest way to start a career, but they will generally be delegated to working behind the front desk. Duties will include checking in patients for their visit, medical billing and insurance work and scheduling patients for future appointments. While you will work with patients frequently, you will have less interaction in regards to their well-being and more interaction in regards to payment for services and ensuring they are finding the right schedule for follow up visits.

Expect an income of about $38,000 a year, according to indeed.com. Since you require less medical training, you will also find that you can complete your education much faster than the other options found on this list. In less than a year you can start working as an administrative assistant, and you will even find programs that will get you into your career in six to eight months. Online options are plentiful, so you should have little trouble finding a good balance between work, life and school schedules. Globe University, for example, offers an online program that allows students to earn a 2 year degree or a 1 year diploma, and these can be completed even faster if you take on a heavier school load.


In any role, you can pursue a certification as a medical assistant. Certification will prepare you in a way that employers will highly respect. The American Association of Medical Assistants offers a certification examination that is low cost, but thorough and will ensure that you bring a vast amount of knowledge to your career. You will find plenty of information on the requirements to take the CMA exam as well as plenty of study aides through their website. Certification may not be right for every student, but you would be wise to explore the options, speak with employers about the benefits, and see if your current employer will help you prepare and cover the costs of your certification exam.

All of these options are open to all students, but you don’t need to make your choice right now. Simply start your education and see where it takes you. In time, you will find the perfect role for you, and your career will be a beneficial one that give you the lifestyle you desire and deserve.