Medical assistants provide a valuable service to doctors and patients. Keeping accurate records of patient medical histories as well as recording vital signs play an important role in diagnosis. A medical assistant, or MA, also can assist by preparing a patient for an exam, or be helping a doctor during the exam itself.
A medical assistant education is a significant investment, however. Coursework typical requires 800 hours of study, divided between classroom time, externship, and the lab. Before investing this time, many prospective students want to know what is the projected growth and career outlook for MAs?
Career Growth for MAs
Medical assistants are expected to be one of the top growing positions in the healthcare industry. At a job growth rate of 29%, employment in this career is expected to be easily found over the next few years. This position is highly sought after, in part, because many people use this as an entry into the healthcare field, moving on to obtain additional nursing certifications.
Regional Job Demand
The regional demand for MA's can vary. Typically, markets with a higher demand will offer higher wages, although this can also mirror higher living costs in larger cities. The west coast offers the highest wages, average almost $17 an hour, followed by the northeast at about $15 an hour. The middle of the United States, as well as the south, offer somewhat lower salaries, around $13-$14, but there are some higher wages to be found in the Dakotas and Minnesota area around $15.50. This would be quite a high wage and lower cost of living combination for most residents.
Opportunity for Advancement
The sky's the limit when it comes to opportunities for career advancement for MAs. Advancement generally goes in a choice of three directions. Some MAs move into management such as team leaders and office managers. Other MAs specialize, choosing to assist in fields like pediatrics or cardiology. A third path is to continue on to a nursing degree. MA training provides a valuable base in both courses and real-world nursing experience.
Department of Labor Projections
While some sites may show job growth at higher yearly levels, the Department of Labor projects job growth at 23% over a ten year period (until 2024). This is much higher than average. The most recent data report from 2014 lists over 591,000 MA jobs in the US. These jobs are located in physicians offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other healthcare facilities.
By 2024, the department predicts there will be over 730,00 MAs jobs nationally. This increase is thought to be spurred in part by the aging baby boomer population. As this population grows older, their need for preventative medical care will increase. Most preventative medicine is conducted through physicians, the main employer of medical assistants.
While the job outlook for MAs is good, there are additional ways to make yourself attractive to future employers. A medical assistant who is familiar with electronic health record systems, or EHAs, is expected to be more attractive potential employers. MAs with medical certifications are also expected to attract more demand and higher salaries.
In summary, the projected growth for MAs looks good. Actually, this position looks very good, with thousands of new positions being added each year, graduates should have a short job search. Compensation will vary slightly based on additional skills and regional demand, but the position averages at least $13 or higher across the United States.