The healthcare world is rapidly changing and adjusting to demographic shifts and healthcare demands. If you are interested in starting a career in healthcare, there are lots of options when it comes to areas of study. If you don’t want to jump into a program that demands years of advanced academics, clinical work and residencies or simply find the financial and time commitment daunting then there are some other opportunities such as the profession of being a certified medical assistant.
Medical assistants are fully integrated into the world of healthcare and patient support. They work in various settings in both general and specialized practices. It is a profession where healthcare and helping people meld together offering rewarding and gainful employment. Without medical assistants, hospitals and other busy healthcare venues would be running less smoothly and have other healthcare professionals overworked.
Medical Assistant Salaries by State
The wide breadth of medical assistant skills means employment opportunities are present in many areas of health care. The support they offer to various medical practices is significant especially when it comes to patient care through both front and back-office duties. Having skills in the area of administration as well as those that are patient-focused are both required when taking on this job.
Medical assistants are trained to record patient vital signs, interact with patients for scheduling and notation about health, they compile medical histories as required and can administer medications if being supervised by a physician. They can also work administratively scheduling appointments, doing accounts payable and receivables as well as helping patients with completing insurance forms and other medical paperwork. A good medical assistant can help streamline the medical process and make any medical facility run efficiently. This is a critical aspect in healthcare as the system and its insurers are always looking for ways to cut costs and run in a more efficient manner.
As with any profession, medical assistant’s salaries vary depending on multiple factors. Variables include experience, education, certification, work setting and geography. The level of salary is going to vary state to state based on various factors including professional demand and cost of living. The following list includes the average salary for medical assistants by state.
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You will notice that the most money earned on average is in the state of Alaska. This state along with Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, California and Vermont all have high costs of living compared to the rest of the country. That means that for a medical assistant to work in the area, they are going to need a higher wage to live there. Salary levels will often tie into the immediate costs of living in the area, so they balance out. Salary may be high, but the cost of living means it is spent quicker. Here are the top 10 states with the highest average salary per year for those who are medical assistants.
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The states with the lowest average yearly salary are those who not only have a lower cost of living but also may have a lower need for medical assistants or have their healthcare priorities set up in a way that the need isn’t yet substantial. That doesn’t mean there is not a market for the medical assistant profession, just that the variables affecting salary are different than the top 10 states.
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Every state’s salary will be impacted by the cost of living and the demand for the profession within that state. As medical costs increase, medical assistants will become needed as there is an attempt to streamline practices as well as reduce staffing costs as well. Having a well-trained medical assistant who is certified can take some of the burdens off other healthcare and administrative professionals and reduce overall staffing costs while improving healthcare efficiency.
Best Paying Cities for Medical Assistants
While gauging a medical assistant’s salary by the state can be helpful when making employment decisions, knowing which cities offer good salaries can be a help when trying to decide where to settle for work for an extended period of time. Similar to gauging state average pay for the position, there has to be consideration of the cost of living along with professional demand.
The list below highlights the best-paying cities for medical assistants, but they have been adjusted according to the cost of living index of each area. The wages are listed to account for the difference, so salary is fairly balanced for comparison across the states. The positions for general medical assistant positions with no specialties and do not include any benefits beyond salary.
- Cedar Rapids, Iowa – This city tops the list for the best medical assistants’ salary in the US. The average salary is $38, 030 and can go as high as $49,000. The bonus of working here is that the cost of living is 26% cheaper than in all major cities. It is affordable and when salary is adjusted for the cost of living it comes out at $51,371.
- Lincoln, Nebraska – This capital of Nebraska is one of the biggest cities in the state. They offer a yearly average salary for medical assistants of $36,540 and this can go up to $49,000. The cost of living index is 21% lower than the other major cities. The adjusted salary comes in at $46,274 with lots of job opportunities in their multiple hospitals, clinics and private practices.
- Greensboro, North Carolina – Is a fast-growing city that is home to families and new and up-and-coming businesses. It is a logistical hub for many US companies and continues to grow. Education and health are two of the top industries within the city borders. Because it is growing but not exploding, the cost of living is still relatively low and attractive to younger healthcare professionals. The cost of living is 25% cheaper than the majority of cities and offers a great place to live on a competitive wage. The average salary for a medical assistant in Greensboro is $34,350 topping out at $42,000. When adjusted for comparison to other cities the yearly salary comes out at $46,017.
- Fargo, North Dakota – This city is where almost 20% of North Dakota residents live. Fargo’s growth has been steady but fast-paced. There is a substantial healthcare field present that offers many employment opportunities for medical assistants. The average yearly salary for this city is $38,770 and reaches up to $49,000 which tops the earlier listed cities. The cost of living index is higher but still comes at 13% cheaper than many of the main cities in the US. The adjusted salary is $44,571 when the cost of living is considered.
- Omaha, Nebraska – Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska and is home to many Fortune 500 companies as well as many billionaires. The population is almost half a million with CHI Health being the second biggest employer within the city boundaries. Omaha has made the list as one of the best cities for business and careers. The salary for a medical assistant in Omaha comes in at an average of $37,370 and climbs to $50,000 for those in the 90th percentile. It is 15% cheaper to live there compared to other US cities. When salary is adjusted it averages out to be $43,896.
- Memphis, Tennessee – This well-known music city is one of the largest cities in Tennessee. Medical assistants generally make anywhere from $34,170 to $43,000 for the top earners. The cost of living is 22% lower than average across the US and when income is adjusted for these, medical technicians make $43,613 on average.
- Modesto, California – This is a modest city that sits between a lively San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. It is a busy place with multiple medical centers. The average annual income for medical assistants in this city is $37,510 and can range as high as $51,000. With the cost of living being 14% below average an adjusted income for a medical assistant is $43,431.
- Green Bay, Wisconsin – Green Bay may be on the chilly side, but they have a busy city that has substantial medical care facilities. These facilities offer medical assistant salaries that range from $37,040 to $47,000 for those in the upper percentiles. The cost of living is 14% cheaper and when income is adjusted for this percentage the average yearly pay comes in at $43,195.
- Boise, Idaho – This booming city is the headquarters of many major corporations including St. Luke’s Health Systems who are the main employer in the city. The medical assistants in Boise can attain a salary anywhere from $35,710 up to $45,000. The cost of living comes in at 17% cheaper than other cities on average and with an adjusted salary, medical assistants can make $42,878 per year.
- Anchorage, Alaska – Anchorage is the biggest and most populous city in the state of Alaska. The city is tax-friendly and engaging for those who want to work there. It offers a great lifestyle for those who love the outdoors and a solid economy. Medical assistants can make an average salary that ranges from $45,100 up to $59,000 for those in the upper percentiles. However, the city’s cost of living index is 10% higher than most US cities. This means when averaging out the annual salary it comes in at $41,080. It doesn’t offer one of the highest incomes, but it offers a lifestyle that many enjoy.
All these salaries are in line across the country when it comes to choosing your city of employment. The comparison of cities by income when including the cost of living is somewhat different than basing a decision on income alone. The other noticeable point with this list of cities is that it offers a wide range of lifestyles to match the income you prefer. If you have the ability to relocate or simply think you would enjoy another area to live, medical assistants can find work in places that are home to the great outdoors, have music and sports lifestyles and are home to the arts.
Being a medical assistant offers livable pay in areas that you may never have considered before. As the medical and healthcare fields adapt to an ageing demographic as well as cuts to health care, the employment opportunities for medical assistants should increase and possibly raise the average salary as well depending on professional demand.
Skills That Can Affect Medical Assistant Salaries
While having the skills to be a general medical assistant is great, there are also specialties that can affect a medical assistant’s salary in a positive way. The skills that come with a specialty designation can increase pay grades based on that specialty and the demand in the field. These skills are especially helpful when employers are looking for a specific skill set with the medical assistant they hire whether it is in a hospital or clinic. Employers want specific education credentials not only showing that the applicant has graduated from an accredited medical assistant program, but they have completed their education in their specialty field as well. Here is a list of skills relating to specialties that can affect medical assistant salary both the annual wage and hourly wage.
Allergy Medical Assistant
While the job of medical assisting covers the administrative basic skills, having an understanding and skills to work with an allergist is helpful and will increase the salary with that specialization. Because allergies can be life-threatening for some, proper notation skills are critical for these medical records. The inputting of patient information, being able to track vital signs and medications are all important.
Cardiology Medical Assistant
Being a medical assistant in this field pays well as there are skills required beyond general medical assistance. In this job, a certified medical assistant will be assisting with phlebotomies, cardiac imaging, and EKGs (electrocardiography) as well as cardiac stress tests. This is all done under physician supervision but is office support that is helpful to reducing staff overwork. A job in a cardiology office is also a career situation where notation skills are important as is knowing how to take blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates along with measuring height, weight. Taking a patient history must be accurate. Verification of medications is extremely important as well. Skills in a cardiology situation will increase a medical assistant’s average salary.
Skills required in this specialty focus on understanding diagnostic procedures, so the proper medical equipment is ready. Because dermatology is about treating issues with skin, nails and hair, cleanliness is a must for patient and staff safety. Proper collection of cultures and samples is required as is making sure these samples are collected and delivered for testing in a timely manner. Having the skills to do this without further on-the-job training will increase negotiable salary.
Dealing with glands and hormones means their various diagnostic tests needed for patients. Medical assistants will need to be able to understand and assist with tests such as thyroid function and testing levels of blood sugar. The skills needed will include assisting with these tests as well as scheduling, preparing and educating patients and their families about the procedures and how they relate to the endocrine system. Having the skills to educate as well as assist is important when working with patients one on one.
This specialty is one that is complicated and involves assisting with challenging tests and examinations. A medical assistant will need to have skills that can make patients comfortable and walk them through procedures. Phlebotomy, ultrasonography, stool exams, barium swallows along with endoscopies all must be supported along with assisting in procedures that are meant to study a patient’s GI tracts. The skills needed by a medical assistant are both administrative and personal as a medical assistant will need to detail medical history but also engage with the patient to trace GI issues they may or may not understand. Some questions around drinking alcohol and use of medication can be very personal so there must be skill and tact used around this area of questioning. People skills are a must.
This is a growing field that cares for the elderly. This demographic is growing quickly in the US. An ageing population means demand for those medical assistants who are trained in the area of disease and disorders that affect the older demographic. As this part of the population grows, a need for care in this area will be in demand.
Neurology is a field that works with patients who have issues with the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The nervous system is the focus, so skills need to be highlighted in this area for medical assistants. Assistants will be asked to help with various neurological tests as well as procedures that can be invasive such as lumbar punctures. Having a good bedside manner along with being competent in these testing areas can lead to a higher salary.
This specialty focuses on women, their pregnancy as well as childbirth. It can often go in conjunction with gynecology. While much of the care here is done in scheduling and patient prep, there are some diagnostic procedures that will need assistance. Understanding this specialty field is critical in being able to be a physician assistant properly when procedures and tests are being done.
These various specialties go beyond the ones listed and can also include dental assistants, medical transcriptionist, clinical medical assistants as well as ones who work in oncology, pediatrics and mental health. Any time a medical assistant has schooling that takes their skills beyond the basic medical assistant skills, they can increase negotiating power for a higher average salary and hourly wage.
Medical Assistant Careers and Salary Outlook
Medical assistant jobs have become a high-demand career as medical facilities are working to streamline and cost-cutting. These professionals are a critical part of all medical facilities across the US. They are skilled administrators and clinical workers in private practices, clinics, hospitals, assisted living venues and other healthcare facility centers. They make sure things run smoothly and that patients obtain the best care possible.
A medical assistant career involves being trained specifically as a certified medical assistant as well as any special schooling that is required for specific job postings. They have good work hours, professional workplace settings and a respectable income as well.
Salary for Medical Assistants
The average salary for a medical assistant is fairly good considering schooling while important is not extensive. Once a medical assistant has completed a certified medical assistant program, they can earn a salary that averages about $33,000 per year. They can also receive employment benefits to fill out their compensation package. These benefits tend to include, paid vacation, dental benefits, medical insurance, vision care, disability coverage, sick leave and often life insurance as well. Some employers will even pay for their medical assistant’s membership in the AAMA and their professional conferences as well. Compensation is much more than just base pay.
Because demand for medical assistants, especially those who have specialized training, there is a demand that is growing for well-trained medical assistants. Job postings are increasing in number and frequency which means the salary trends are going to be upward for both wage and benefits. Most medical assistants are paid an hourly wage with only a minority being on salary. The hourly average has climbed to $18 per hour. Most jobs include 40 hours per week and are deemed to be full-time employees.
This hourly wage is usually determined by the level of experience, specialties and certification. The entry-level wage for those who have 0-2 years’ experience begins at around $15.70 per hour. This jumps to $20 per hour once there are over 15 years of experience.
While there are certified medical assistants, if this certification is done through the AAMA, those in these positions will get a premium pay rate. Employers want to hire CMAs as those in the organization are certified as competent and have received the proper training and had the appropriate background checks as well as exams that promise competency. While this certification may cost an employer more, it will save money that could be spent on fending off malpractice suits and issues that come from having improperly trained medical assistants. Job postings and job openings will often have noted in them that certification is a must because it assures training standards, proof of knowledge and that the candidate is capable of offering high-quality medical care.
Medical Assistant Job Growth and Job Outlook
The medical assistant career outlook is positive. It is an occupation that is expected to have fast growth over the next ten years. The field is going to grow almost 25% into 2028. As with other medical jobs, healthcare advancements, an ageing demographic that will place pressure on the healthcare system for increased services so job prospects will go from good to excellent. Primary care is increasing so new practices are opening on a regular basis.
With the growing demand for qualified medical assistants, salaries will increase as well. Regulations and control in the healthcare field are growing and that means those who are certified will be in demand so health care agencies can meet those regulation demands. Getting your training now and adding in specialty education means you will be able to find work quickly and with good pay. It’s a good time to enter the field. Job growth and the outlook for expanded career options are positive.
The good thing about being a medical assistant is that while there are jobs in the general area of medical assistance there are expanded roles such as a physician’s assistant, medical administrative assistant, physical therapy assistant, nursing assistant, dental assistant and other healthcare facility support staff. There are also specialized positions for those who are an administrative medical assistant. Specialized skills can be honed and highlighted for perfect job placement. With projected growth, the field is stable and offers good wages and benefits, especially for those who are full-time.