A Medical Assistant’s Salary: Expert Insights to Help Understand the Numbers AND the Profession
The demand for medical assistants today is extremely high. As crucial healthcare professionals, they perform a wide range of duties at clinics, medical offices, and other healthcare facilities. So what’s the potential salary for a medical assistant? We’ll answer that question below. But we’ll do a lot more than that.
With the help of the Orion HR Group, a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation analysis, we’ll include specific data on a medical assistant’s potential income.
Plus, we’ll share insights from Gail Spiegelhoff, Program Chair of Northwestern Health Sciences University’s Medical Assisting Programs and Robin Galloway, Faculty and Clinical Coordinator for the program. They’ll discuss why the medical assistant profession is a rewarding career path.
A medical assistant’s salary: Making sense of the numbers
Based on a review of several published compensation surveys, Larry Morgan of the Orion HR Group reports the following salary estimates for a medical assistant working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area as of February 2021:
- One year of experience: $37,500 annually with data varying from $34,000 to $43,000 annually
- Five years of experience: $40,000 annually with data varying from $37,000 to $44,000 annually
- Ten years of experience: $44,500 annually with data varying from $41,000 to $48,000 annually
Remember, this is information for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area. Many variables go into formulating reliable salary estimates. That’s why providing a single nationwide number is not the most accurate way to understand what a medical assistant earns.
As you consider the above data, keep in mind these additional points from NWHSU’s Spiegelhoff and Galloway:
Medical assistants are in high demand. Although there are no guarantees when it comes to gaining employment, the current demand for medical assistants in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas is very high.
Galloway is in regular contact with healthcare employers in the region. “Based on what they tell me, the need for medical assistants is greater than I’ve ever seen it before.” She says she’s also seeing sign-on bonuses being offered for medical assistant positions.
The need for medical assistants is also reflected in information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says, “An increasing number of group practices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities will … need support workers, particularly medical assistants, to complete both administrative and clinical duties.”
More specifically, over the next decade, the BLS expects the growth rate for the medical assistant profession to be 19%—that’s nearly five times the average growth rate for all occupations.
Overtime pay is possible. Medical assistants generally work full-time or part-time on an hourly wage basis. According to Galloway, this is an especially important point considering the current job market.
“There’s such a shortage today in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, for example, that overtime pay is possible for medical assistants,” she says. This would ultimately mean a higher annual salary.
Employee benefits are a key part of overall compensation. Medical assistants are professionals who work at private or public healthcare facilities. That means they typically will receive employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and tuition reimbursement.
“I think it’s really important to think about employee benefits as a part of your total compensation. When you’re younger, you may not fully appreciate just how important they are,” says Spiegelhoff. “But that usually changes. Having health insurance is a good example. It becomes a lot more important as you get older.”
Be aware that geography matters. Galloway says, “Where the demand is outpacing the number of available medical assistants, you could see higher than average incomes.”
Establish a career in healthcare within a relatively short amount of time
Spiegelhoff and Galloway say the income numbers alone don’t fully express what a smart career choice the medical assistant profession can be for some people.
If you’ve wanted to join the healthcare field but had concerns about the time and expense it could take to pursue a four-year degree, the medical assistant profession could be a great option.
In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranks the medical assisting profession No. 7 for Best Jobs Without a College Degree. (It also ranks medical assistant No. 10 for Best Health Care Support Jobs and has the profession on its list of 100 Best Jobs.)
Enjoy a smoother path to becoming a healthcare professional. Galloway says, “It’s possible to have your diploma in medical assisting in about a year. And compared to a lot of other education paths, the transition from being a student to an employee isn’t just faster—it’s much smoother. It can actually happen the very next day.”
Northwestern Health Sciences University’s Medical Assisting Programs give students two options: You can obtain a Medical Assisting diploma, which takes one year, or you can earn an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Medical Assisting, which takes 20 months.
Spiegelhoff explains that the diploma option gives you the opportunity to start working as a medical assistant in one year. If desired, you can continue towards the A.A.S. degree.
Additional advantages of becoming a medical assistant
There are other factors that make medical assisting a rewarding professional path. According to Spiegelhoff and Galloway, here are some of the most important.
Be part of a highly cooperative team environment. “Most students who end up doing really well in this profession enjoy being part of a professional, cooperative team,” says Galloway. “You can’t get through your day without working closely with a variety of staff, from the receptionists to the doctors to your fellow medical assistants.”
Spiegelhoff adds, “You all work like a well-oiled machine where everyone has their own part to play in ultimately helping patients. But you also become like a family. And that can be a really satisfying part of your job.”
Experience the rewards of helping people. A visit to a clinic can be stressful or uncomfortable for patients. A medical assistant’s warm, friendly demeanor, says Spiegelhoff, can help patients feel more at ease.
“You’re not only applying your healthcare expertise but also establishing an emotional connection with patients. And sometimes they’re more open and comfortable with a medical assistant than with a doctor. You’re in a position to help create trust and make their experience a positive one,” says Spiegelhoff.
Although there are other career opportunities where the financial compensation may be similar, Spiegelhoff says, “Don’t forget about job satisfaction. Medical assistants are on the front lines of helping people with their most important asset—their health. That can be incredibly rewarding.”
Enjoy a great work schedule. Medical assistants typically work in clinics or other medical office settings that operate during regular daytime hours. That means you’re much more likely to enjoy having weekends, evenings, and holidays off as a medical assistant.
If, however, you do want to work evenings and/or weekends, Galloway says clinics and urgent care facilities also need medical assistants for various shifts. On top of that, she says medical assistants generally have plenty of opportunities for part-time positions.
“This is a profession that offers lots of flexibility in terms of finding a schedule that works best for you. That’s why being a medical assistant can be a good option for parents trying to accommodate the needs of their family,” says Spiegelhoff.
Find a healthcare field that you’re passionate about. Because medical assistants are needed in so many specialty areas, you’ll have a greater opportunity to find a niche that matches your passion, says Galloway.
For example, these are just some of the areas you could work in as a medical assistant:
- Primary care
- Internal Medicine
- Gerontology Cardiology
- Occupational Health
Galloway says this point shouldn’t be underestimated. “When you change medical assistant positions and work in a different specialty, it can feel like you’re doing a completely different job. And that’s a great feature of this profession. There are so many possibilities available. You don’t have to worry about being stuck.”
“As you learn more about yourself and the profession, you may want to change the kind of place you work at. Fortunately, this career allows a lot more freedom of choice than a lot of other paths, even within healthcare,” Spiegelhoff says.
Take the next step toward becoming a medical assistant
Now that you have a better understanding of just how rewarding the medical assistant profession can be, you may want to find out more. Take the next step and learn how to become a medical assistant.
Want to talk to someone right away about becoming a medical assistant? Contact NWHSU today!