Health Salaries: How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make?

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Medical Assistant

In 2016 the Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicted employment to increase by 11.5 million over the 2016-26 decade.

As baby boomers retire, they leave empty chairs at the board room table, ready for filling by the coming generations. And as the baby boomers age, they also open the door for a big need in the medical field.

A growing elderly population will require more health care workers than the greatest generation before them simply because there are more aging people.

So while the iGeneration receives a push from their parents to consider a four-year degree that leaves them with a piece of paper but few skills, you should consider the medical field that doesn’t require a four-year degree.

Not everyone in the medical field goes to medical school.

Introducing the medical assistant field.

Medical assistants are not nurses or doctors, but they play a key role in the field that leads to a successful healthcare experience for patients.

So, what is a medical assistant? How does one become one? And most importantly, how much does a medical assistant make? Read on.

What is a Medical Assistant?


A medical assistant in short assists nurses and doctors. A CMA (certified medical assistant) does whatever the clinic or hospital needs, both in the front and back office.

Picture the jack of all trades in the medical field. That’s your medical assistant.

So the duties for a medical assistant include but aren’t limited to removing sutures, drawing blood, caring for paperwork, prepping exam rooms, billing, reading laboratory tests, helping administer EKGs, and taking vital signs.

If you to really help people and gain a solid understanding of a clinic setting, the CMA role will do this for you.

The medical assistants do the work that makes the clinic run smoothly. They allow the physician to give the best treatment to his patient because of their support. The doctor knows medicine, the assistant knows the procedures.

Training takes anywhere from 8 months to two years after high school. IT is not a four-year degree where you pay tens of thousands of dollars and then end up with a piece of paper that means you’re smart but not necessary qualified to do any one particular job.

Medical assistants do the work. And for so little training, they’re compensated well.

Where Does a Medical Assistant Work?


Medical assistants can work in just about any healthcare setting. And where you work can help answer that all important question, how much does a medical assistant make?

Furthermore, If you’re interested in the healthcare field, you should do some research to see options available both for medical assistants.

Front office

The front office of a small clinic or medical office will usually require a medical assistant to do act a liaison between the patient and the nurses and doctors. Communication skills matter most here along with the basic knowledge you’ve learned when in CMA training.

The typical front office will not require you to do much of the manual labor in the medical assistant field. So you while you won’t be removing sutures, you should be able to handle the patient questions about where you need the knowledge but do not necessarily have to do the grunt work required.

You do not remove the sutures, but you can handle patient questions about when to come back to have them removed. Front office medical assistants would help with billing and would communicate between physicians and patients. Pay is $12-15 an hour

Back Office

Unlike the front office, the back office offers less paper shuffling and more physical labor. These people care for patient needs directly.

The back-office CMAs take the vital signs and basically do the grunt work before the doctor comes into the office. If you’re not squeamish, this position is a great one because you’re on ground-zero for the interesting medical procedures.

Typically back-office work pays more than front-office work, coming in around $14-18 an hour depending on the medical assistant’s experience.

Private Practice

Private practices offer the cushiest setting typically. These are the specialty physicians, so as a certified medical assistant you often will specialize in a few specific procedures.

Because of the nature and specialty of private practice, medical assistants earn the most in this setting, receiving compensation between $17 and $18.50 an hour

Clinic Setting

A medical assistant in a clinic needs to genuinely have the jack-of-all-trades mentality simply because of the enormity of a clinic setting. You will need to have excellent communication skills as you will be working with a variety of people from the front office clerks to the nurses to the doctors to the patients.

Those medical assistants in a clinic setting typically make between $10 and $15 an hour.

Floating Position

Every once in a while as a medical assistant, you may find a floating position. This is a great way to get your feet wet and gather experience from a variety of positions.

A floating position is typically temporary and entry level. You will not have the guarantee of a long-term job with benefits, but you will have the chance to snag some great experience and money. Typically floaters make between $16 and $20 an hour.

How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make in a Year?


Few medical assistants receive a salary. In fact, the 2018 Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Compensation and Benefits Report put out by the American Association of Medical Assistants says that approximately 98 percent of full-time medical assistants are paid hourly.

As far as hourly wages go, the answer varies based on experience, certification, and location.

The CMA also states wage ranges from $13.25 an hour for CMAs with 0-2 years living in the East South Central region to $22.65 an hour for CMA with 16-plus years of experience living in the Pacific region.

So all told, without benefits, salaries range from around $24,000 to $43,000. A nice benefits package that includes health insurance and retirement bumps the whole package up another $10,000-$15,000.

In short, a Certified Medical Assistant with just two years of training can make some good money and enjoy a rewarding career. If you’re enjoying long-term health and happiness, then this may be a great career for you.

A Medical Assistant Career May Be For You


While a medical assistant isn’t raking in the huge chunks of change you may see with a doctor or even a nurse’s salary, it also does not come with the massive college loan debt other medical professionals incur.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in medicine, a medical assistant career will give you the taste of the field without the big investment. Then once you’ve worked in healthcare for a period of time, you’ll know if you want to go back to school to pursue nursing or even training medical doctor training.

You’ll have the added benefit of appreciating the medical assistants you work within the future as well.

As you can see, when you ask the question, “How much does a medical assistant make?” you’re really not just talking about the money. You’re making some nice money, but you’re also making a difference both in your life and in the lives of the patients and other staff.

If you’re looking at a current dead-end career or just have the itch to move into a different field, seeking training as a medical assistant may just be for you.

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