What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants wear many hats. These healthcare professionals typically cross-train to perform administrative and clinical duties. They are crucial to keeping fast-paced physicians’ offices and other healthcare facilities organized and running smoothly.

Medical assistants — MAs as they are sometimes called — may do different tasks based on the size, type or speciality of a medical facility. In some practices, medical assistants specialize in either administrative or clinical duties but not both. The best detail? As healthcare needs grow, so do employment opportunities in this field. 

Does this in-demand career sound interesting to you? Learn more about what kind of training is required, hear from a medical assistant why she loves her job, and many more details.

$ 30,800 - $ 49,900
$ 38,400
A medical assistant takes a patient’s blood pressure
Medical assistants play an important role in keeping doctors’ offices running smoothly. (Credit: VGStockStudio/Shutterstock) 

Job Responsibilities

  • Record patient history and other confidential information
  • Learn and master the office's preferred electronic health records (EHRs) system
  • Take patient’s vital signs
  • Explain procedures to patients and make them feel at ease
  • Prepare examination rooms, including sterilizing equipment
  • Assist the physician or nurse during an exam
  • Prepare samples for lab tests
  • Answer phones and emails
  • Schedule appointments
  • Some MAs manage billing, do medical coding and insurance forms

How To Become a Medical Assistant: FAQs

What are the requirements to become a medical assistant?

First, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent. Students typically complete formal training and become certified because employers prefer assistants with these credentials. However, you can also learn MA skills through on-the-job training and then decide to take a certification exam. There are also some apprenticeship programs for medical assistants that combine supervised training and education in one program that's free to the student.

What other qualifications do I need?

As mentioned, many MAs become certified by graduating from an accredited program and passing an exam. In most states, students must be 18 years of age to sit for the exam. No special license is required. Many organizations, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), offer specific certifications, but the options vary by state. Here's a good list of medical assistant certifications.  

You can earn certifications for medical skills, clinical skills and even specific skills, like drawing blood. None are required, but employers like candidates who have them. 

How long does it take to become a medical assistant?

Programs typically last one year and training options are available from community colleges, technical schools and trade schools. These programs usually lead to a certificate. Longer programs result in an associate degree, which takes two years. All programs include classes in anatomy and medical terminology.

What’s the demand for medical assistants?

U.S. News And World Reports ranks medical assisting as one of the best health care support jobs. It's one of the fastest-growing jobs in the nation, expected to grow 16% from 2021 to 2031, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a lot of job openings! The secret is finding the best situation for your skills and interests. 

Where can medical assistants work?

Medical assistants are needed in many different medical settings, including hospitals, general medical offices, specialty physician offices and any type of healthcare clinic.

What color scrubs to medical assistants wear?

You may be surprised by this question, but a lot of people want to know! Not every practice uses color-coded scrubs, but many bigger facilities do because it establishes a dress code and helps patients determine who’s doing what task. However, each healthcare center or medical practice establishes its own rules — such as dark blue scrubs for medical assistants and burgundy for nurses. Unfortunately for patients, those rules don’t translate to other medical facilities.

Can medical assistants give injections? Do medical assistants draw blood?

State laws determine if a medical assistant’s responsibilities include giving patients injections as directed by a doctor.

In contrast, individual medical office rules typically determine if a medical assistant can draw blood. Drawing blood, or basic phlebotomy, is typically covered in MA training programs. 

To know how it works in the state you want to work in, see this scope of practice chart from the American Association of Medical Assistants.

What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Many successful medical assistants share these top traits: 

  • Good communication skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • A good understanding of medical terminology 
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Able to prioritize tasks
  • Good analytical and technical skills
The bottom line:

If you’re still wondering, is medical assistant a good career? The answer is yes! This in-demand job can help you become an integral part of a patient-centered health team. You’ll typically work daytime hours, have weekends and evenings off — and you’ll be helping patients get the treatment they need as you learn new skills.

After you’ve been in a medical setting for a while, you may decide you want to take on even bigger challenges and pursue more medical education. Either way, you’ll be gaining experience in a valued profession.

What's It Like To Be a Medical Assistant?

Destiny Powell works as a medical assistant at St. Theresa’s OBGYN in Snellville, Georgia

What's It Like To Be a Medical Assistant?

Destiny Powell has only been a medical assistant at St. Theresa’s OBGYN in Snellville, Georgia, for a few years, but it’s a job she always knew she wanted to do. 

Her mother, who has progressive multiple sclerosis and lupus, was a huge motivation.

“I told my mother that I would take care of her as she gets older,” says Destiny.

She loves her job because she's able to create a relationship with each patient she meets. 

“I build a bond with them,” says Destiny. “I help make them feel comfortable when they’re seeing the doctor.”

Find out what else Destiny likes about being a medical assistant.

Medical Assistant Training in Your Area

School logo for Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana

Medical Assisting, A.A.S.

Ivy Tech Community College - Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne (0.0 Miles)
Bluegrass Community and Technical College logo

Medical Assisting- Phlebotomy Certificate

Bluegrass Community and Technical College
Lexington (0.0 Miles)
Osceola Technical College - Poinciana Campus logo

Medical Assisting

Osceola Technical College - Poinciana Campus
Kissimmee (0.0 Miles)
Saddleback College logo

Clinical Medical Assistant Certificate of Achievement

Saddleback College
Mission Viejo (0.0 Miles)
McCann School of Business and Technology logo

Medical Clinical Assistant

McCann School of Business and Technology - Monroe
Monroe (0.0 Miles)
School logo for Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana

Medical Office Administration, Certificate

Ivy Tech Community College - Kokomo
Kokomo (0.0 Miles)
Community College of Vermont logo

Clinical Medical Assisting Certificate

Community College of Vermont
Montpelier (0.0 Miles)
Rasmussen University - Ocala logo

Medical Administrative Assistant Certificate

Rasmussen University - Ocala
Ocala (0.0 Miles)
Ross Medical Education Center - Morgantown logo

Medical Assistant Certificate Program

Ross Medical Education Center - Morgantown
Morgantown (0.0 Miles)
Miller Mott College logo

Medical Clinical Assistant Certificate

Miller Mott College - Augusta
Augusta (0.0 Miles)
School logo for Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana

Outpatient Insurance Coding, Certificate

Ivy Tech Community College - Columbus
Columbus (0.0 Miles)
Lake Washington Institute of Technology logo

Medical Assisting Certificate of Proficiency

Lake Washington Institute of Technology
Kirkland (0.0 Miles)