a medical assistant holding a stethoscope

The Pros and Cons of a Medical Assistant Job

A medical assistant handles many different tasks. One of these positions could involve administrative work and even hands-on patient care, such as taking vital signs. The primary role of an assistant is to aid doctors and other medical professionals while helping the facility or department run smoothly. It is important to understand the pros and cons of this career if you are considering becoming a medical assistant.

Pros

  • Job Outlook
    Medical assistants are currently in demand. They are expected to remain in demand for at least the next decade. Medical assistants are a necessary part of health care even if certain procedures become automated. If you enter this field, you can expect that existing jobs will remain largely secure into the foreseeable future. There might even come a time when there is a shortage of these kinds of personnel as the health care system expands to keep up with an aging population.
     
  • Brief Training
    It can take a doctor eight or more years of training and education to qualify for a position. A benefit of medical assistant jobs is that much less training is required to start. An assistant could complete a program in just a single year or less, especially if on-the-job training is provided by an employer.
     
  • Specialization Options
    There are opportunities to specialize within the medical assistant career field. You are able to pursue specializations in areas like psychiatry, education, or even general medicine if you find those fields particularly interesting. Specialized medical assistants are generally in higher demand in certain areas. Specializing provides a way to advance a career and learn new things.
     
  • Patient Interaction
    A final benefit is that medical assistants get to interact with patients. An assistant could help to prepare a patient for surgery, measure blood pressure, or assist people with limited mobility. You might find this regular interaction rewarding because it directly helps patients. This type of interaction is what separates medical assistants from some other clerical and administrative health care positions.

Cons

  • Stressful Workloads
    Workloads can be stressful for medical assistants. Assistants must be able to multitask between clerical tasks, patient care, and the unexpected needs of colleagues and doctors. An influx of patients could create a backlog that takes extra effort to resolve. Medical assistants need to be able to perform well under stressful conditions.
     
  • Irregular Hours
    Most jobs in the medical field will have irregular hours at some point. Medical assistant jobs are no different. A medical assistant might be required to regularly work nights and weekends in rotating shifts. Some shifts could be much longer than traditional work hours. If you are thinking of becoming a medical assistant, it is important to prepare to put in unusual or irregular hours.
     
  • Lower Compensation
    Medical assistants do not have the high salaries of other medical professionals, such as doctors. The median annual salary is around $29,000. This is roughly $14 per hour. This is lower than what most registered nurses and doctors make. While this salary might seem low, it is still higher than a number of other starting salaries in careers outside the health care industry.
Last Updated: April 15, 2015