Medical Assistant, Is it Worth for You
All jobs come with good and not-so-good aspects, and medical assisting is no exception. On the one hand, this career allows you to land your dream job after a short period of training. But, on the other hand, it demands extended hours of working than usual. If you are still in dilemma whether this career is the right choice for you or not, you must weigh the pros and cons of being a medical assistant.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Medical Assistant Job?
The career of a medical assistant is no less than a roller coaster ride, both rewarding and demanding at the same time. Along with many excellent perks, it offers you some challenges. Here, we have covered the pros and cons of this career in detail to help you arrive at the informed decision.
Pros of Medical Assisting Career
Below are the advantages of working as a medical assistant.
- Get into the Job in Relatively Shorter Time: Unlike certified nursing assistants and registered nurses, who require extensive training and certification to get a job, medical assistants need not have any college degree or certification to pursue the career. They can seek entry-level jobs just after completing the high school diploma. Experienced nurses and physicians provide on-the-job training to the newly hired medical assistants to hone their skills and acclimatize them according to the work environment.
- Opportunity to Work in Different Work Settings: As a medical assistant, your services are not confined to clinics and hospitals only. Depending on your skills and expertise, you can work in a wide range of settings, such as diagnostic laboratories, chiropractor offices, retirement communities, emergency departments, medical billing and coding departments, cardiology offices, etc. Each new setting offers you new work opportunities and responsibilities.
- Variety of Job Duties will Never Let you Get Bored: Each workday of the medical assistant is quite different from the previous one. Depending on the requirements, they are assigned varied clinical and administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments, documenting information of the patients, maintain their health records, taking vital signs, administering medications, preparing patients for medical tests, etc.
- Hygienic Work Environment: All the medical facilities pay more heed to provide a hygienic environment for the patients and healthcare providers. Thus, as a medical assistant, you always work in clean and safe conditions.
- Lucrative Job Outlook: The rising complexities and reforms in the healthcare industry, the increasing number of the aging population, etc. are some of the primary reasons for the high demand for medical assistants in the United States. They have promising job prospects, and it is evident from a projection made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that states growth of 23% in the employment of these professionals from 2018 to 2028. This growth is much faster than the average of all professions.
- Career Advancement Opportunities: You can move up the career ladder and assume leadership roles after gaining some experience and earning certifications. You can become a Medical & Health Services Manager, Surgical Technologist, Medical Records & Health Information Technician, etc. Moreover, you can complete higher education and advance your career in other medical professions, such as nurse practitioner, physician assistant, registered nurse, etc.
- Lots of Specialization Areas: There are various streams in which you can do specialization based on your interest, such as ophthalmology, psychiatric, pediatric, oncology, geriatrics, endocrinology, cardiology, etc. You can earn certifications in more than one field to expand your knowledge, broaden your horizons, and get a hefty salary package.
- Flexible Yet Stable Career: According to the BLS, from 2018 to 2028, the change in employment for medical assistants is projected to be 154,900. As there is a massive demand for medical assistants, you will easily find jobs in your field. You can also enjoy greater flexibility with this career and can choose to work part-time or full-time in any state of the country. You can also opt to work during holidays, weekends, or night shifts. Moreover, you can pursue higher education or fulfill your family commitments along with this job.
- Job Satisfaction: This job gives you immense satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment as you make a difference in the lives of the people with your skills and help them by providing care during the time they need it the most.
- Opportunities to Increase Earning Potential: You can increase your income by working overtime, obtaining a diploma or degree from an accredited medical assistant program, gaining expertise in specialized areas, or working in the state offering a high salary.
- Enhancement in the Skills: As a medical assistant, you work with patients of all ages, coworkers with varied knowledge, and seniors with different experience levels. It helps you learn a variety of hands-on skills. Furthermore, your communication and interpersonal skills also get strengthened. You also get to learn new tools and technologies of treatment, diagnosis, and monitoring.
- Monetary and Non-Monetary Perks: Apart from salary and overtime, many employers offer various other benefits to their employees, such as paid time-off, retirement plans, tuition fee reimbursement, health insurance, dental and vision coverage, etc.
Cons of Medical Assisting Career
There are a few downsides to being a medical assistant. Take a look!
- Long Working Hours: Though medical assistants have to work standard 40 hours a week, during emergencies, they may have to work extra hours, besides regular shift hours. Many times, due to a shortage of staff, you may be asked to work during holidays, weekends, and nights. Specialized medical assistants are also supposed to be available at any time (on-call) to render their services. These long working hours expose the medical assistant to various health issues, such as sleep deprivation, fatigue, musculoskeletal disorders in the back, shoulder or neck, etc. Due to odd work schedules, it becomes difficult to strike a balance between work and life and fulfill family commitments.
- Stressful Job: The job of a medical assistant is both physically and mentally taxing. They work in a chaotic and complex environment, where they have to deal with difficult patients, death of patients, grieving families, and constant pressure to fulfill social expectations. Further, the lack of independent decision-making adds to the stress and burnout, leading to decreased personal accomplishment, depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, etc.
- Restricted Scope of Working: The scope of working of a medical assistant depends on various factors, such as education, clinical competency, laws and regulations of the state, the confidence of the doctor/physician who is entrusting the clinical task, etc. Many states restrict these professionals from performing specific tasks, like operating laser equipment, interpreting test results, administering IV medications, independently performing telephone triage, etc.
- Legal Risks: Medical assistants have to work under strict regulations imposed by the federal and state. Any breach of duty, misconduct, or negligence that negatively impacts the patient’s health can put you in jeopardy. Even an accidental error can wreak havoc on your career and open you to legal risks. Patients who suffer side effects or injury, don’t recover from medications, or are dejected from their treatment can sue you for malpractice, even if the physician has prescribed the treatment or medication.
- Lower Salary: According to the BLS, as of May 2021, the mean annual salary of medical assistants was $38,190, and the mean hourly wage was $18.36. Though this salary is higher than the wages of other professionals outside the medical industry, it seems low and doesn’t justify the challenging and multitasking role MAs play on a daily basis.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Medical Assistant Training?
As stated above, there is no need for formal education to become a medical assistant. However, training is considered essential for varied reasons. It keeps you on the top of the latest innovations in the healthcare industry, makes it easy for you to work in the fast-paced working environment, and improves career advancement opportunities. Let’s delve deep into the advantages and disadvantages of medical assistant training.
Pros of MA Training
Here are some significant benefits:
- Short Duration: If you want to start your career in the medical field quickly, you must pursue MA training, which can be completed in 9 months to 2 years, depending on the program (diploma, certification, or associate’s degree) you take up. Some accelerated programs also offer 6-week programs. The programs comprise classroom lectures, laboratory sessions, and internship (clinical session).
- Online Programs: If you can’t attend the regular classes, you have the option to enroll in online medical assistant programs. The theoretical part of the program can be completed sitting in the comfort of your home, but for completing the clinical sessions, you will have to visit the nearby clinic or hospital, in-person. Online programs are flexible; you can take up the classes at any time as per your convenience. These programs also save you time and money in commuting.
- Financial Aid: Many accredited programs offer financial aid to the eligible candidates in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships, which help cover your training expenses. For availing the financial assistance, you will have to submit the filled FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
- Practical Training (Internship): These programs offer you rigorous clinical training and hands-on practice under the supervision of experienced licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and doctors, in a simulated work environment. You learn various skills, such as taking vital signs, scheduling patient appointments, patient charting, etc. An internship makes it a lot easier for you to acclimatize yourself in the real work settings quickly.
- Makes you Eligible for CMA Certification: Only those candidates who have completed the training from an accredited medical assistant program can appear for the CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) certification examination conducted by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). As employers prefer to hire certified candidates, this certification will be a great value addition to your resume.
Cons of MA Training
The major disadvantages of medical assistance training are:
- Limited Transfer Credit Options: If you want to pursue a registered nurse program after completing medical assistant training, you will get limited transfer credit options for classes you studied during your certificate or degree program. Most of educational institutions do not allow you to transfer credits.
- Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction in Online Classes: Although online classes offer you convenience and flexibility, you will not get the opportunity to interact with other students of the course and instructor, face-to-face. Moreover, you require self-discipline, organization, and time management skills to submit assignments and take tests on time.
Should You Become a Medical Assistant?
The career of a medical assistant is rewarding in many ways – you can jump-start your job quickly, work in any of the states of the USA. It offers you varied career options, and so on. But at the same time, it exposes you to stress and health-related risks. That’s why the field of medical assisting is not for everyone.
Becoming a medical assistant or not entirely depends on your aspirations and career goals. If you are one among those who are willing to help others and want to serve humanity without fretting about the challenges, you must go for this profession. But if you can’t manage stressful conditions, can’t work in a fast-paced environment, and are short-tempered, this career is not for you.
So, before making any decision, do a reality check, and ensure whether your knowledge and skills match the requirements of this profession and if you are capable enough to go through the hardships of this job.
Written by : Casey Gardner
Casey Gardner is both a healthcare support professional and an accomplished content creator. She has been working as a certified health care professional with marketable skills as a physician assistant, and a qualified medical assistant for last two decades. She has dedicated her nursing career to produce over hundreds of content pieces since 2001, and her work has been published both online as well as offline.