Multi-functional and dynamic, medical assistants are invaluable healthcare team members who provide vital support to doctors, nurses, and medical offices in a variety of ways. While the rising demand for healthcare professionals often spotlights physicians or nurses, medical assistants remain highly sought-after individuals who facilitate many of the administrative and clinical duties required to provide high-quality care for patients. 

If you’re considering an allied healthcare career and find yourself in search of a fast-paced, fulfilling role that serves others, a medical assistant career may be an ideal path. To help you understand what it’s like as a medical assistant, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to the medical assistant role, including medical assistant duties, work environments, and medical assistant programs.

In This Article: 


What is an MA in Healthcare?

In the healthcare field, medical assistants are sometimes simply referred to as MAs, or CMAs if they’ve obtained certification. Medical assistants serve as a link between providers and patients, and are often the first and last people that patients see or talk with when they visit a healthcare facility. They handle many of the clinical and administrative tasks necessary to keep a medical practice, outpatient center, or acute care center running smoothly and efficiently. The specific roles of a medical assistant can vary greatly by practice and team, but generally, these indispensable individuals help provide a foundation of excellent patient care wherever they’re located. 

Types of Medical Assistants

In general, medical assistants maintain both clinical and administrative skills for utilization in their place of employment. However, some medical assistants may opt to choose roles that focus more specifically on the clinical or administrative side. Others may also pursue official MA certifications and additional specializations, aligning their roles to the fields they’re most passionate about. Below, we’ve outlined the key differences between clinical and administrative medical assistants, as well as possible specialization options to further your MA career. 

Clinical Medical Assistants

Ideally suited for those who would prefer to have more involvement with patient care as opposed to office tasks, clinical medical assistants have responsibilities that can include everything from sterilizing medical instruments and equipment to assisting physicians with patient exams. The exact duties of a clinical medical assistant will depend on state laws and regulations. 

Administrative Medical Assistants

On the alternative side of the role, administrative medical assistants are more heavily engaged in administrative tasks like processing insurance, scheduling appointments, and maintaining medical records. While some administrative medical assistants may have tasks that delve into areas such as medical billing and coding, they generally do so at a surface level. Other routes for pursuing more administrative healthcare roles could involve completing a Health and Medical Administrative Services AAS Degree or a Healthcare Administration BS Degree.

Medical Assistant Certifications & Specializations

Medical assistants can specialize in a specific area of medicine, such as working with a set age group or with patients who have certain conditions. Having a specialization allows medical assistants to perform duties they might not have as a general medical assistant. For example, medical assistants with a specialization in oncology handle tasks related to cancer care, such as providing support for chemotherapy teams. If you have a strong interest in a particular area of medicine or if you prefer working with patients in a certain age group, you can explore your options for MA specializations to build a rewarding career

Other MA specializations related to specific areas of medicine within the healthcare field include:

  • Cardiology

  • Oncology

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

  • Chiropractic Care

  • Podiatry 

  • Dermatology

  • Neurology

  • Gastroenterology

  • Orthopedics

  • Pediatrics

  • Gerontology

  • Surgery


Medical Assistant Job Description Overview

What is a medical assistant’s day like? The MA duties you can expect to handle on the job can vary, depending on the kind of medical facility you work at and other factors, such as state laws. 

With experience, medical assistants can grow to supervise a team in a medical practice or in a clinical care facility. A medical assisting certificate can be the first step to a rewarding career in healthcare that may inspire you to advance your education into a degree program in fields like healthcare management and nursing.

Medical Assistant Duties & Skills 

Tasked with a wide range of responsibilities, the necessary soft skills for a medical assistant include adaptability, problem-solving, and organizational skills. Additionally, as the connection between providers and patients, medical assistants should also have strong interpersonal and communication abilities. 

Both clinical and administrative medical assistants will likely need to be familiar with medical terminology and basic technical skills, such as navigating the facility’s scheduling software or operating the phone systems. It’s important to note that the duties of a medical assistant will also depend on state laws and regulations regarding their involvement in patient care. Other medical assistant roles and responsibilities include but aren’t limited to the following: 

  • Logging patients’ medical histories 

  • Taking patients’ vital signs

  • Updating medical records and insurance

  • Processing insurance payments and billing

  • Assisting physicians with patient exams

  • Checking patients in and out of the office

  • Sterilizing medical equipment and instruments

  • Scheduling appointments and processing referrals


Where Do Medical Assistants Work?

Ranging from outpatient care centers to surgical hospitals and senior living communities, the unique skill sets of medical assistants are needed in a variety of allied healthcare settings. The physical demands of a medical assistant in clinics are largely reliant on their role, varying from long days standing or walking to provide patient care to time spent mostly seated and handling administrative tasks. 


Medical assistant duties for those who work in clinics might include both administrative and clinical tasks, especially in smaller clinics. Medical assistants who work in clinics might have other duties as well, such as answering phones and scheduling patient appointments. MAs might work regular hours or be expected to work after hours or on weekends, depending on the type of clinic they work for, such as an urgent care clinic. In specialty clinics such as rehabilitation clinics or pediatric clinics, medical assistants may also take on additional tasks related to the location’s specific area of expertise. 


MAs who work in hospitals often have duties that are tied to the department they work in, which can include a mix of administrative and clinical responsibilities. In some cases, MAs who work in hospitals might have lab-based duties, such as obtaining samples of urine, blood, or stool and performing lab tests. MAs in hospitals might also have similar duties as those who work in clinics, such as updating medical records and measuring vital signs. Those who work in hospitals may have irregular hours or longer shifts and might need to work on holidays or weekends since these medical facilities are open around the clock.

Private Practices

Medical assistants who work in private practices might perform clinical and administrative duties or focus more on one type or the other. Smaller private practices might expect medical assistants to help with both administrative and clinical duties as needed, and may also have more standard hours of operation as opposed to hospitals and clinics. 

Medical Assistant Salary & Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the number of new medical assistant positions will grow by 14% between 2022 and 2032. This same projection estimates approximately 114,600 medical assistant job openings each year across the country. One of the reasons for this demand is the aging population in the U.S. and the general increased need for healthcare professionals.

The greatest number of medical assistant jobs are offered by private medical practices, according to the BLS, and the five states with the highest number of jobs for medical assistants are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia. Salaries can vary depending on your experience, geographical location, and whether you work in a private practice or a larger medical center. On average, the highest wages for medical assistants are paid by outpatient care centers.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

There are several different medical assistant career paths available to aspiring healthcare professionals, and choosing the right medical assistant training program is the first step toward becoming a medical assistant. While a college degree is not required to be a medical assistant in most facilities, you do need proper training to qualify for certain positions. More than this, many doctors and hospitals prefer medical assistants who have successfully completed a formal program and passed a national credentialing exam.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistant programs can help prepare you for the challenges you may face during your career and can build a solid foundation of knowledge. To be accepted into a certificate program for medical assistants, you need to have earned your high school diploma, GED, or secondary education from another country. The completion timelines for medical assistant certificate programs and degrees vary, but most take between nine months and two years to complete.

What Training Is Needed to Be a Medical Assistant?

Regardless of the program you choose, training to become a medical assistant should be extensive and include acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to:

  • Proficiently assess and record an individual's vital signs

  • Understand the ins and outs of medical terminology and regulations

  • Understand anatomy and physiology

  • Perform clinical tasks

  • Understand medical ethics

  • Understand insurance billing 

  • Know how to handle patient records correctly 


Choose CHCP for Medical Assistant Training Programs

The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) offers a comprehensive medical assistant program that helps prepare students to pursue their chosen career in medical assisting. In as few as 36 weeks, you can train to be an essential part of the healthcare industry either online or at one of our nine Texas campuses. CHCP is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), and financial aid is available for those who qualify.

The medical assisting program at CHCP consists of eight learning modules. Below are examples of the topics covered in the program:

  • Infection control

  • HIPAA and OSHA laws

  • Medical terminology

  • Anatomy

  • Medical clinical procedures

  • Medical office management

  • Managing medical records


Students in the CHCP Medical Assistant Program take the Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant examination (NRCMA) offered by the National Association for Health Professionals (NAHP) before beginning their externship. Becoming certified is not mandatory to get a job as a medical assistant, but it adds to your resume and lets potential employers know that you have completed specific training for the job. After this, students will be able to apply the professional skills developed in the classroom in a practical healthcare setting during their externship. 

For more continuing education opportunities, visit the American Association of Medical Assistants. To learn more about training to be a medical assistant at CHCP, visit or call us at (800) 487-6728. One of our admissions advisors will be able to answer any questions and help you get started.