Although unlicensed, medical assistants provide vital services to physicians and other health-care professionals. They may be trained on the job or in a technical/vocational certificate program. Some MAs have associate degrees. Although most work in physicians’ offices or other health-care facilities such as clinics, in some states they are permitted to work in hospitals. In all cases, the MA provides clinical, technical or administrative support under the supervision of a physician or registered nurse. Some jobs pay more than others; these tend to be in certain geographic areas and in specialty offices, or they pay more because the MA is nationally certified. The average annual salary for an MA in 2013 was $30,780, according to the BLS.
Major Work Settings
The highest-paying work settings for MAs were not in health care in 2013, according to the BLS. However, these work settings offer fewer opportunities. For example, only 70 MAs worked in grantmaking and giving services, where the average annual salary was $34,930. Colleges, universities and professional schools paid an average of $35,040 a year. MAs in scientific research and development services earned an average annual salary of $35,370. In personal care services, the average annual salary was $36,270. Insurance carriers were the top-paying work setting, at an average salary of $37,180 a year. Specialty hospitals were the highest-paying health-care setting for MAs in 2013, with an average annual salary of $34,850.
Location can make a big difference in an MA’s salary, as can working in a metropolitan area. Even some top-paying rural areas offer more than the national average. For example, in Massachusetts, MAs earned an average of $37,460 a year, and in the District of Colombia, they earned $38,870. Alaska was the top-paying state at $39,610 a year. Two metropolitan areas in California were among the top three payers in 2013. MAs in the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward area earned $40,910 a year, and those in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood city area earned $43,680. Champaign-Urbana, in Illinois, offered the highest MA wages for a metropolitan area at $48,920. The top three non-metropolitan areas for MAs were Southeast Alaska, North Central Colorado and Railbelt/Southwest Alaska, with average annual salaries of $38,770, $39,930 and $43,610, respectively.
Experience Boosts Salaries
Experience affects MA salaries, according to the "2014 Medical Assisting Compensation and Benefits Report" from the American Association of Medical Assistants. For example, nationally certified medical assistants with 16 or more years of experience earned $35,573 a year in 2014, according to the AAMA. MAs without certification and the same amount of experience earned less, but still more than the BLS national average, at $33,618. The AAMA found the Pacific region, which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, was the highest-paying region, and a CMA with 16 or more years’ of experience could earn $40,514 a year in that region.
Certification, Specialty and Education
Certification affects MAs’ salaries, according to the AAMA, and so does the specific work setting when the CMA works in a physician's office. Although it was below the BLS average salary, the AAMA found CMAs earned an average annual salary of $29,600 in 2014. Their uncertified counterparts earned $27,261. The top salary in a physician’s office or clinic was $35,517 a year in 2014. The top CMA salary in primary care was $34,905 and in specialty care with only one specialty it was $36,153. CMAs who worked in a multi-specialty office could earn a top salary of $35,316. The top salary across all MA work settings and locations, however, was in education, according to the AAMA, where MA educators with 16 or more years of experience earned $60,720 a year.
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