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Medical Assistant

What is a medical assistant?

Medical assistants perform a variety of administrative and clinical duties under the supervision of a more senior caregiver such as physician, registered nurse or licensed vocational nurse.

Medical assistant job description1

  • Schedule patient appointments.
  • Maintain medical records, billing, and coding information for insurance purposes (often working with an EHR system*).
  • Take and record vital signs and medical histories.
  • Prepare patients for examination.
  • Assist physician with patient examinations.
  • Draw blood and prepare sample for laboratory tests.
  • Administer medications and give injections as directed by physician.

*Electronic health records (EHRS) are changing medical assistants' jobs. More and more physicians are adopting EHRS, moving all their patient information online. Assistants need to learn the EHR software that their office uses.

What is the difference between a medical assistant and physician assistant?

Medical assistants (MA) should not be confused with physician assistants (PA). While both work under a physician's supervision, physician assistants have more responsibility and autonomy than medical assistants and therefore require more training. PAs are able to examine, diagnose, and treat patients, conduct tests, and draw conclusions. Medical assistants are not allowed to make any independent diagnoses or assessments. Physician assistants must complete a Master's degree (about 8 years) while medical assistant programs can be completed in 1-2 years2, or in less than a year at Charter College.

Where Do Medical Assistants Work1

  • Physician office
  • Hospital
  • Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Nursing Home
  • Home Care Agency
  • Outpatient Clinic

Do I want to become a medical assistant?4

If you are considering a new career as a medical assistant, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you a good communicator?

    Medical assistants need to be able to both listen well and communicate effectively with patients and a health care team.

  • Are you a people person?

    A career in healthcare requires that you interact with a variety of people every day. If you are interested in working closely with people, MA may be a good fit.

  • Does serving others appeal to you?

    A medical assistant is first and foremost a caregiver. If you enjoy helping others, a job as an MA may be a good choice.

Learn more about why you should become a medical assistant.


1 United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, retrieved on 5/22/15,
2 The Medical Assistant Atlas website, retrieved Jan 8, 2013
3 CNN Money, It's not just a low wage Recovery. Retrieved on Nov 1, 2012 from
4 United States Department of Labor, O*NET Online Website , retrieved on 5/22/15,
5 Business Insider, Inc., Max Nissen, "30 Fastest Growing Jobs in Ameirca," December 20, 2013, retrieved Jan. 23, 2014,