What is a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are allied health professionals that assist physicians in daily administrative and clinical tasks including medical records keeping and administering injections.

MA’s duties may vary from office to office, and are largely dependent on the location and type of physicians they work for. Industry-relevant knowledge, computer literacy and organizational skills are some of the key attributes required for a medical assistant to effectively and efficiently manage the font and back office of a health care practitioner. Read more about Medical Assistant Job Description.

Work Environment

According to US Statistics, over 50% of all medical assistants work in physician offices. You will also find medical assistants in office of chiropractors, podiatrists, and other health practitioners. Others work in private and public hospitals, long-term care facilities, universities, colleges, outpatient care centers, and research laboratories.

Work Schedule

Medical assistants usually work 40 hours a week. It can include evenings, weekends and holidays depending solely on office hours of clinics and health facilities they work in.

How Much Do Medical Assistants Make

The average annual medical assistant salary is $30,780. The lowest 10% of  medical assistant salaries are less than $21,280. The top 10% of medical assistant salaries reach more than $41,910. The average medical assistant hourly salary is $14.80. Medical assistant’s annual income is rather low compared to many other healthcare professionals. Majority of medical assistants are found working in office of physicians and hospitals. The highest paying industries are insurance carriers, personal care services and scientific research/development services. For those who can relocate, assistants living in the following metropolitan areas get paid the highest: Champaign, Illinois; Rochester, Minnesota; San Francisco; and Oakland, California.

Average Medical Assistant Salary vs. Related Occupations

Medical assistants take home an annual salary of $30,780. They make slightly more than veterinary assistants ($25,110), certified nursing assistants ($26,020), and medical receptionist ($27,450). Compare to many other health care providers, their pay is considered to be on the low end. For example, physician assistants earn around $116,500 annually, while dental hygienists and ultrasound technicians make $71,530 and $67,170, respectively.

Job Outlook

A career in medical assistant is very promising. Expected job growth in this field is 29%, or an increase in 162,900 jobs by 2022 in the United States alone. It is one of the fastest growing healthcare occupations today. The high demand is largely due to an increase in medical facilities along with advancement in medical technologies and treatments among a rising population of aging baby boomers. Medical assistants will see their roles and responsibilities continue to expand as more and more physicians find less time to spend with their patients. Other factors such as prevalence of chronic medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases also contribute to a growing demand for medical assistants.

Medical assistants with certifications, experience, or relevant training should have no problem in finding job opportunities. In fact, being a certified medical assistant, which is a two years training program resulting in an associate’s degree, allows individuals a distinctive advantage over non-certified MA’s when applying for entry-level positions.

Medical Assistant Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$30,780 per year
$14.80 per hour
Top 10% Salary$41,910 per year
$20.15 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$21,280 per year
$10.23 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013571,690
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Medical Assistant Salary: Influential Factors

As the demand for medical assistants increases, medical assistant salaries tend to follow the same upward trend. In 2004, medical assistants made an average of just over $25,000 per year. In 2008, the average salary rose to $29,000 per year, or almost a 15% increase. It comes as no surprise that as of the May 2013 findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 571,690 individuals employed as medical assistants earning a mean annual salary of $30,780.

A growing demand for more skilled medical assistants, which is attributed to the whole healthcare industry implementing stricter regulations and control, has led to an increase in salary. Other factors influencing medical assistants’ salaries include experience, industry employment and a variety of geographic forces as well.

Experience and Education

Experience can essentially double the salary of medical assistants, especially because it often indicates the specialization of skills for different settings. Typically, individuals just entering this industry are expected to make around $20,000 each year, whereas medical assistants with significantly more experience earn an average of $41,570.

Individuals possessing the minimal education for this position are more likely to complete general work in a physician’s office, whereas more experienced medical assistants tend to acquire more unique positions not necessarily in a physician’s office. Those with a higher educational background are more likely to be hired and even at a higher starting rate than those who do not possess any sort of training. In fact, becoming a certified medical assistant will boost your starting salary by as much as $15%.


Over half of all medical assistants are employed in the offices of physicians, and, not surprisingly, this industry is not in the top five highest paying market sectors for this profession. In fact, no more than 4,000 individuals are employed in each of the highest earning industries, suggesting that specialized skills are highly influential. The top paying industries are insurance carriers, followed closely by medical assistants working for personal care services, as well as in scientific research and development services. This suggests that a different skillset can affect annual salary in a significant way.

Medical assistants working under hospital settings generally are better paid than those that work in physician offices. Their duties are more specialized; as a result, extensive on-job training and knowledge is a must for those who wish to work there. These departments are surgery, radiology laboratory, ambulatory and postoperative. The starting pay for these individuals can range anywhere between $15 to $18 per hour.

Medical assistants are classified into two main categories, which are administrative and clinical. Administrative medical assistants generally work in the front office of a physician’s clinic. They handle day to day clerical tasks including answering the phone lines and maintaining patient charts. These individuals require less experience and on-site training which results in a lower income, or more specifically a salary of $9 to $12 per hour. On the other hand, clinical medical assistants typically earn a higher starting salary (e.g. $11 to $14 per hour) as their roles are more complicated, such as gathering a patient’s medical information, taking vital signs, or administering medications and injections. In most cases, their job duties require them to possess a level of education and training from accredited programs not necessary for administrative medical assistants.


States that are sparsely populated by medical assistants are those that are the top paying locations for these healthcare workers. For example, Alaska is the highest paying state at a mean annual wage of $39,610, however only 1,340 of the approximately 571,690 total medical assistants in the US are employed here. The District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Washington are also among the highest paying states, none of which contain a large number of medical assistants in the population.

Metropolitan areas situated in the top paying states are more likely to yield higher annual wages for medical assistants, especially in Washington and Alaska.

Nonmetropolitan areas with the highest levels of pay are those that employ no more than 200 medical assistants. These nonmetropolitan areas are also associated with states that tend to pay medical assistants higher wages. This suggest that these states must have a high demand for medical assistants but cannot keep up with the relatively lower supply. Individuals seeking for work as medical assistants should relocate to these states if permits.