Medical Assistant Career Pros and Cons

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The position of medical assistant is an entry-level health care role that offers you access to a broad range of tasks and stable employment. However, below-average pay and demands from patients and doctors are challenging. Someone in this role generally supports doctors by performing a variety of clerical and administrative tasks.

Broad Range of Tasks

  • Typical medical assistants perform a variety of basic patient care duties, and their diverse work helps prevent boredom and disengagement. Assistants have the chance to build relationships with patients during initial patient screenings where the assistant gleans medical history and current symptom details. People who enter health care to help people appreciate this direct involvement. Supporting doctors during physical exams and administering shots are also common duties. Assistants prepare blood for testing as well. In addition, assistants have the opportunity to develop their skills and specialize in areas such as ophthalmology, optometry and podiatry. Specializing also commonly leads to higher pay potential.

Job Growth and Stability

  • The health care industry is one of the most stable employment industries -- people always need health care. Because medical assistants play a vital supporting role in hospitals, clinics and offices, they enjoy a significant level of stability as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 29 percent for assistants from 2012 to 2020, which is well above the overall growth rate for all occupations. The majority of medical assistants also have full-time employment.

Below-Average Pay

  • As the position of medical assistant is an entry-level one, pay is well below the overall average for all jobs and is below many other health care positions. As of May 2013, assistants earned $30,780 per year, according to the BLS. Twenty-five percent of assistants earned salaries at or below $25,160 per year. Ten percent made $21,280 or less. As a comparison, licensed practical nurses who perform many of the same patient care tasks averaged $42,910 per year as of May 2013.

Physician and Patient Demands

  • When you work in a job that primarily supports other people, drawbacks often center on situations when demands are high. When doctors deal with high patient volume and stressful scenarios, they rely on assistants to quickly and effectively help with many tasks. Some patients are also needy, pushy and abrasive in their dealings with medical assistants. On busy days, physical stamina is a must, as assistants rush around to aid doctors and care for patients. Going back and forth between clerical tasks and patient care roles can get confusing on busy days as well. Handling blood, body fluids and fecal matter and interacting with emotional family members are additional drawbacks.

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