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FAQs on Medical Assisting

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the medical assisting profession.

Duties vary from office to office, depending on location, size, and specialty.

Administrative duties may include the following:

  • Using computer applications
  • Answering telephones
  • Greeting patients
  • Updating and filing patient medical records
  • Coding and filling out insurance forms
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Arranging for hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Handling correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping

Clinical duties vary by state, but may include the following:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients
  • Preparing patients for examination
  • Assisting the physician during the exam
  • Collecting and preparing laboratory specimens
  • Performing basic laboratory tests
  • Instructing patients about medication and special diets
  • Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
  • Transmitting prescription refills as directed
  • Drawing blood
  • Taking electrocardiograms
  • Removing sutures and changing dressings

Medical assistants are the most versatile allied health professionals. They are cross-trained to perform clinical and administrative responsibilities.

Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks under the direct supervision of a physician.

Physician assistants examine, diagnose, and treat patients under a collaboration agreement with a physician, who may or may not be on-site.

Medical assistants work alongside physicians, mainly in outpatient or ambulatory care facilities, such as medical offices and clinics.

Most full-time medical assistants work a regular 40-hour week. Some work part time, evenings, or weekends.

Medical assistant compensation varies according to many factors, including location, work setting, and experience. Find out more by viewing Compensation and Benefits.

CMA (AAMA)® certification offers proof to employers that a medical assistant has achieved the highest standards of education and credentialing in the medical assisting field.

Graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. For more information, go to Exam Eligibility Requirements.

In August 2019, a three-year pilot program began that would allow graduates of qualified postsecondary (college-level) medical assisting programs to submit documentation for review to determine their eligibility to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam if the medical assisting program met certain requirements, including the program being part of an institution accredited by an accrediting body recognized by either the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). For more information, go to Eligibility Pilot Program.

Also, review the Candidate Application and Handbook for the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination.