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Medical Assistants

At a Glance

  • Perform basic medical duties
  • Work in doctor's offices and hospitals
  • Wear uniforms and safety gear, such as latex gloves
  • May work evenings or weekends
  • Train on the job
  • May need to complete specific training or exams

Career summary

Medical assistants help care for patients. They carry out routine treatments, run lab tests, and maintain office records.

Medical assistants may specialize in either clinical or administrative work, depending on the size of the medical practice or hospital. They do both in smaller clinics.

Clinical medical assistants

Medical assistants take medical histories and record patients' weight, pulse rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs. They explain treatments to patients and prepare them for exams. Assistants help the doctor during the exam.

They also prepare laboratory specimens. Assistants may perform basic lab tests. They also instruct patients about medication and special diets.

Medical assistants’ duties vary by state. Some states allow medical assistants who have specialized training to draw blood or take x-rays. Additional duties include giving EKGs, changing bandages, and removing stitches.

After exams, assistants clean the room, dispose of used materials, arrange equipment, and sterilize used instruments.

Administrative medical assistants

Medical assistants also answer telephones, greet patients, escort them to exam rooms, and update medical records. They fill out insurance forms and schedule appointments. They also arrange for hospital admission and lab services.

Some assistants handle billing and bookkeeping. The size of the office determines how much time assistants spend on clerical duties. Assistants are supervised by doctors, other health workers, or office managers.

Ophthalmic medical assistants

Medical assistants who specialize in ophthalmic care do basic eye tests, fit frames, and teach people how to use contact lenses.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to medical assistants.

Common work activities

Medical assistants perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, medical assistants:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Medical assistants frequently:

It is important for medical assistants to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for medical assistants to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Medical assistants need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a medical assistant, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most medical assistants learn their skills through formal training programs. Professional-technical and two-year colleges offer medical assisting programs. A one-year program grants a certificate. Two-year programs grant an associate degree. Courses include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical law, and ethics. Office courses include typing, recordkeeping, accounting, and insurance processing. You also gain skills in lab techniques and first aid.

On-the-job training

Some medical assistants learn their skills on the job. Through on-the-job training, a physician or another medical assistant in the office teaches you medical terminology, the names of the instruments, how to do daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other tasks. You also learn how to code both paper and electronic health records and how to record patient information. Training typically lasts several months.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be medical care technicians. Training lasts seven to 52 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Training in Washington

In Washington, most employers prefer applicants with at least one year of formal training as a medical assistant.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Some employers prefer graduates of medical assistant programs, or applicants with experience. They may also prefer applicants who are certified or registered. Other employers hire high school graduates who have related work experience and train them on the job. Employers may have applicants take drug-screening tests.

Employers look for applicants who have basic computer skills. Readable handwriting, attention to detail, and good telephone skills also are important. Some employers prefer applicants who have medical transcription skills. Speaking a second language may be an advantage.

National certification is a plus. Certification is available through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) to graduates of medical assistant programs accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Assistants who complete the requirements can use the title Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). The certification exam fee is $125 for members, CAAHEP or ABHES school completing student or recent graduate, and $250 for non-members. Medical assistants must renew their certification every five years by taking an exam or continuing education courses. They must also have current CPR certification.

Medical assistants can also become registered medical assistants through the American Medical Technologists Association. Although certification is not presently required, it may be in the future.

Employers look for applicants who are dependable, tactful, professional, and able to learn quickly and adapt to change. They also seek applicants who can work as part of a team, communicate well, and keep patient records confidential. The ability to speak Spanish may be helpful for jobs in some parts of the state.


Students must have good keyboarding skills before they will be accepted into some formal training programs. Volunteer or summer work experience in a health-related organization is helpful.

Costs to workers

The cost for comfortable shoes and uniforms varies depending on personal preference. Other costs include reference books, additional college classes, and seminars to keep up with changes in the field. Some may wish to join a professional association and become certified through the American Association of Medical Assistants.

#No changes to info in this section 3/3/15 cj. no change to cert fee 2/8/16 lh. No changes to section 12/5/16 cj. no change to cert fee 1/30/18 lh, 4/9/19 cj.


Medical assistants who practice in Washington State must have a professional medical assistant credential issued by the Department of Health. This credential consists of four different categories: medical assistant-certified, medical assistant-hemodialysis, medical assistant-phlebotomist, and medical assistant-registered. Each category is based on the job duties performed by the assistant and each has different credentialing requirements. A certified medical assistant is the highest credential with the broadest scope of practice. Registered medical assistants can only practice at the clinic, group practice, or with the health care practitioner they were endorsed by, and the endorsement is not transferable.

Assistants must renew their credential every two years.

For detailed information on credentialing requirements and fees, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Health Systems Quality Assurance
Medical Assistants Program (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Medical assistants (SOC 31-9092)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $15.14 $16.93 $19.53 $22.87 $25.44
Monthly $2,624 $2,934 $3,385 $3,963 $4,409
Yearly $31,490 $35,210 $40,620 $47,560 $52,920
    Bellingham Hourly $16.38 $17.43 $19.13 $22.08 $25.48
Monthly $2,839 $3,021 $3,315 $3,826 $4,416
Yearly $34,075 $36,258 $39,795 $45,927 $52,997
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $16.46 $17.73 $19.86 $23.15 $25.59
Monthly $2,853 $3,073 $3,442 $4,012 $4,435
Yearly $34,244 $36,889 $41,298 $48,146 $53,212
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $13.06 $14.92 $17.29 $19.31 $22.92
Monthly $2,263 $2,586 $2,996 $3,346 $3,972
Yearly $27,146 $31,050 $35,959 $40,167 $47,671
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $12.93 $14.89 $17.27 $19.41 $22.18
Monthly $2,241 $2,580 $2,993 $3,364 $3,844
Yearly $26,896 $30,975 $35,916 $40,383 $46,132
    Longview Hourly $14.16 $16.72 $19.74 $22.86 $24.82
Monthly $2,454 $2,898 $3,421 $3,962 $4,301
Yearly $29,457 $34,775 $41,068 $47,559 $51,627
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $16.16 $17.49 $19.65 $22.71 $24.83
Monthly $2,801 $3,031 $3,405 $3,936 $4,303
Yearly $33,612 $36,396 $40,878 $47,223 $51,655
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $15.84 $17.32 $19.54 $23.37 $26.99
Monthly $2,745 $3,002 $3,386 $4,050 $4,677
Yearly $32,946 $36,018 $40,637 $48,609 $56,138
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $16.87 $19.31 $22.11 $24.78 $28.00
Monthly $2,924 $3,346 $3,832 $4,294 $4,852
Yearly $35,100 $40,158 $45,991 $51,546 $58,249
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $14.02 $15.93 $17.84 $19.76 $23.45
Monthly $2,430 $2,761 $3,092 $3,424 $4,064
Yearly $29,145 $33,130 $37,126 $41,113 $48,770
    Vancouver Hourly $14.33 $17.09 $19.93 $23.01 $24.98
Monthly $2,483 $2,962 $3,454 $3,988 $4,329
Yearly $29,801 $35,549 $41,450 $47,859 $51,942
    Walla Walla Hourly $13.29 $14.60 $17.23 $19.29 $21.29
Monthly $2,303 $2,530 $2,986 $3,343 $3,690
Yearly $27,645 $30,387 $35,824 $40,118 $44,295
    Wenatchee Hourly $14.45 $16.17 $17.92 $19.97 $22.90
Monthly $2,504 $2,802 $3,106 $3,461 $3,969
Yearly $30,063 $33,631 $37,269 $41,536 $47,647
    Yakima Hourly $13.98 $16.02 $17.62 $19.18 $20.85
Monthly $2,423 $2,776 $3,054 $3,324 $3,613
Yearly $29,085 $33,312 $36,652 $39,891 $43,374
United States Hourly $11.92 $13.65 $16.16 $18.84 $22.72
Monthly $2,066 $2,366 $2,801 $3,265 $3,937
Yearly $24,790 $28,400 $33,610 $39,190 $47,250

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The assistant's level of education, experience, and responsibility also affect wages.

Medical assistants who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Medical Assistants (SOC 31-9092)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 14,705 30.3% 16.1% 2,675
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 651 13.8% 13.4% 90
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 215 22.8% 8.6% 34
    Benton and Franklin Counties 656 36.9% 15.0% 131
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 559 36.0% 11.9% 111
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 1,164 34.1% 15.2% 222
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 856 30.1% 14.1% 155
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 858 28.3% 14.6% 152
    King County 5,460 29.9% 19.6% 987
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 753 30.3% 13.8% 139
    Pierce County 1,280 35.2% 15.2% 249
    Snohomish County 909 31.8% 12.4% 168
    Spokane County 1,337 29.9% 13.9% 241
United States 686,600 22.6% 5.2% 99,700

National employment

Over half of all medical assistants work in a doctor's office.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow significantly. With the growth in the aging population more medical administrative services are provided by medical assistants. This means physicians can see more patients. New insurance policies will also mean more people will seek medical treatment.

Most job openings will be in doctors' offices and clinics. Job prospects should be excellent for medical assistants who have formal training or experience with electronic medical records.

Other resources

American Association of Medical Assistants (external link)
20 North Wacker Drive, Suite 1575
Chicago, IL 60606
American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants (external link)
109 1st Street
Itasca, IL 60143-2114
Health Occupation Students of America (external link)
548 Silicon Drive, Suite 101
Southlake, TX 76092


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters