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The job description for a medical assistant is not easy to pin down. They perform many different tasks, depending on the day and the particular environment they are working in. This page will describe the duties the job entails and help you determine if it is a good fit for you.

What Do Medical Assistants Do?

Daily responsibilities of a medical assistant typically include maintaining and updating patient medical records, scheduling appointments, and sending reminders via phone, message, or email. They also play a crucial role in managing office and medical supplies, ensuring a well-stocked and organized environment.

To work on the clinical side, you will need a full knowledge of anatomy and physiology, but also pharmacology and chemistry. Equally important is the ability to communicate with the patient and the rest of the clinical staff. When patients arrive at your office or clinic, you might need to take their vitals, collect blood samples and perform diagnostic tests. You will then report to the doctor who can assess the information.

Medical assistants are excellent communicators who can translate complex medical or pharmacological information into understandable language for patients. They can also translate everyday patient concerns into more technical medical jargon to better help technicians, nurses and physicians treat the patient. Written communication plays a big role when medical assistants enter data into a patient’s chart. They must be able to succinctly describe an ailment or treatment plan and use the right diagnostic codes so that providers can bill accurately and have a thorough record of the patient’s health history and treatment.

On the administrative end, medical assistants are called upon for their strengths in a wide range of areas. They may do light bookkeeping, filing, transcriptions or scheduling. When it comes time to enter in billing information, they will need to know the insurance codes so that the office can receive payment for the services provided for patients. Ultimately, a qualified medical assistant is the glue that holds an office or clinic together. They keep the lines of communication between the patient, administrative and clinical sides open and functioning.

Medical Assistant Job Duties

Since the job of a medical assistant is so varied, the list of possible job duties is long and involves areas that are full-time jobs for some people. While you may need these skills, in practical application you may find that your particular job life focuses on a few once your strengths are determined. As your career builds, so will your strengths.

Administrative Duties

  • Medical billing and diagnostic coding. All of the duties you will face as an MA are important, but this one determines if, and how well, your office is reimbursed by insurance companies. When you master medical diagnostic and insurance codes, you will be an asset to patients as well as the doctor you work for.
  • Reporting. When you write in a patient’s chart, your word usage must be precise so that the doctor can later gain a full picture of the patient’s condition.
  • Bookkeeping. You won’t need to be the office accountant, but you may need to track expenditures for things such as office supplies, bandages and patient gowns.
  • Telephone duties. Often you will be called to take a turn on the phones, fielding patient inquires as to their pending appointments, medications or lab results.
  • Maintain clinical spaces. Ever wonder who keeps the cotton balls, tongue depressors and bandages stocked? That is often the job of the medical assistant.
  • Laboratory maintenance. The lab needs absolute sterility, and you will be asked to maintain this part of the facility.

Clinical Duties

The clinical duties you can perform vary by state. For instance, some may require specific licensing to take blood or administer an ultrasound. Check with your state regulators to learn more about what you can and cannot do.

  • Vital Signs. When a patient comes in for an examination, you may need to take their vital signs and perhaps a blood sample.
  • Surgery assistance. Sometimes doctors perform minor surgeries in the office. For this, you may need to assist by preparing the operating theater and providing toolsget for the doctor.
  • Diagnostics. On top of vital signs, you may need to perform simple tests such as an EKG to test the patient’s heart rate. In some states, you may also perform ultrasounds.


Median annual salary for medical assistants


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2022

Should You Become a Medical Assistant?

If you are very detail-oriented, enjoy multi-tasking and are an excellent communicator with endless patience, then you are on track to be successful as a medical assistant. You should have a love of science and medicine, but also the organizational capabilities of the best office managers. The industry is growing and there are opportunities for you to create a fulfilling career in healthcare. If what you’ve read here sounds like you, then take the first steps toward becoming a medical assistant by researching accredited school programs online or in your area.