Are you ready to start your career in a medical related field in California? Learn to help others and have a great career as a Medical Assistant. Below are some helpful information regarding the industry, how to find a school and job outlook in California.
Top Cities & Medical Assistant Salaries
One of the top reasons why medical assisting is a popular career in California is because pays their medical assistants the most out of any other state. In California there are over 83,000 medical assistants employed that make on average $33,750 per year which is 7% higher than the national average. The top 10% earn over $50,000.
Los Angeles, CA – In Los Angeles the average medical assistant earns between $36,245 and $37,500. We found over 11,000 current job openings in the area.
Carson, CA – Some of the most concentrated jobs were found in Carson, CA which also had a high salary compared to the rest of California at $36,553.
Riverside, CA – The Inland Empire came in 3rd highest with an average median salary for MA’s at $34,873 however the top 10% earned well over $40,000.
West Covina, San Diego, Santa Ana, Temecula, Pasadena, Orange, Sacramento, CA – All came in about at the average for medical assistants in terms of salary however we did see a spike in the number of job opening over the last few years.
Without a doubt most of the medical assisting schools will be found in the Southern California region. There are around 25 schools that offer certificate and degree granting medical assistant programs so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a good one to attend. Make sure the school is accredited as well as look at these other areas.
Costs – Tuition costs play a big role in your education because at the end of the day it has to be affordable enough to attend school based on the salary you expect to make once you graduate. Most of the schools we have found charge between $8,500-$12,000 but we have seen schools as high as $20,000 which we feel is way too high considering you’ll be making around $32,000 per year.
Scholarships – Make sure to ask if the school offers any type of scholarships for new students. Sometimes it might be only a few hundred dollars but every penny helps.
AAMA Certification – Sometimes schools will even pay for you to become certified from the American Association of Medical Assistants. They can help you prepare for the exam which is a good certification to have and it shows your employer your commitment to the job and the industry.
We receive a lot of emails each month from individuals in California looking for answers to questions they have about the medical assisting field. Some of the questions we can answer but we wanted to get a first-hand account from a current medical assistant about what her job is really like. We talked to Shelly Sanders, a Medical Assistant in Newport Beach, CA to answer some of our emails for us.
What different types of front office duties would I be responsible for as a medical assistant?
I would say that half of your duties as a medical assistant will involve front office tasks. I’ve worked for several hospitals in California, my most recent is HOAG. It really does depend however on the size of the office you work for. When I graduated college at UCI in Irvine I worked in Irvine at a doctor’s office off Culver and I was the only MA at the office. I did pretty much everything from answer the phone to setting appointments, even handling all of the bookkeeping. Once I got to a hospital setting my roles changed drastically and I did more clinical duties.
How hard is getting trained as a medical assistant and do I need a degree?
Good question. I never liked school so for me I was pretty horrified when I decided to go back. I was 25 when I enrolled in a medical assistant school in Carson, CA and I really enjoyed it. They were really nice and taught me everything that I needed to know. The program was just a certificate program and I was able to get it done in about 11 months. After graduation I worked with their student service department and they provided me with plenty of job leads. That is where I first got a job and that happened within 3 months after I graduated.
What advice would you give someone who just graduated with their medical assisting diploma?
First off congrats!! Now that you have graduated start by working with your school to see if they have any job leads for you in the city you with to work. I found most of the jobs centered in Los Angles but Irvine, Riverside and Dana Point had a lot of openings when I graduated. The next thing I’d do is get a list of all the independent doctors in your area and start emailing them your resume. Entry level MA’s are actually having an easy time finding jobs however for you the goal is to just get hired so you can start establishing a track record. In order to get hired by one of the hospitals or find a higher paying job you really need at least 3 years of hands-on experience.
If becoming medical assistant is a plan you are considering seriously, it is important that you find out key information like required qualification, skills and salary. It is also recommended to think about where the career will take you in the long run. It is great for you as this profession has better job outlook than most careers. However, becoming a medical assistant in California is not as simple as deciding it is the right option for you. This article will provide some basic information about the occupation.
Before venturing into the details, it is important to understand what a medical assistant is. This term basically refers to an individual who is responsible for overseeing that everything at a doctor’s office, clinic or medical center is running smoothly. The job description may vary largely based on the size of business. If the practice is small, for example, your job description may include clerical and administrative activities in addition to the clinical duties. On the other hand, large-scale medical practices usually assign several medical assistants, each of whom are given a specialized area of work.
The key responsibilities of a medical assistant may vary from one practice to another. However, some of the common tasks that a health assistant must perform include scheduling appointments, filling insurance forms, arranging hospital admissions, updating medical records and handling interaction with patients. Other tasks may include recording medical history, monitoring vital signs, instructing about medication, sterilizing medical equipment, taking electrocardiograms, preparing patients for x-ray, removing sutures, etc.
Depending on the nature of the job, medical assistants can be broadly categorized into 4 different section:
- Clerical assistants
- Clinical assistants
- Administrative assistants
The job of a clerical assistant is to take care of the doctor’s appointments and assist the doctor by organizing his schedule, letters, memos, etc. He usually welcomes the patient, attends phone calls and basically does everything to ensure that the practice runs without any problems.
Task of clinical assistants is more medical related. They prepare the patient for examination, record medical history and explain the overall procedure to the patient. He is also responsible for drawing blood for tests and collecting lab specimens. Job of administrative assistants is also medical related but their tasks include scheduling medical tests, arranging admission of in-patients, handling claim forms and updating patients’ medical files. Their job may also entail some bookkeeping activities.
Like the name suggests, a specialized assistant works in specialized practices. This may include the dentist’s office, optometric, podiatric or pediatric practices. Their duties vary depending on the kind of practice they work in. The clinical duties differ based on the state you will work in and the facility you will work for. For this reason, it is important to be flexible and prepared.
In the State of California, medical assistants are not required to be registered, certified or licensed to perform procedures that are within their scope of practice. However, their employers and/or the supervising physician’s malpractice insurance carrier is expected to be certified by a private or national association. In case a medical assistant wants to train others, he/she must be certified by an approved certifying organization.
Depending on the job you wish to apply for, you can get a 1-year certification or enroll for a 2-year course. It is true that certification for health assistant is not essential but it reflects qualification and most companies prefer graduate students from accredited training programs.
Licensed medical assistants can conduct complex medical procedures such as doing electrocardiograms, replacing bandages and extracting stitches. Before performing certain tasks like administering medications by intramuscular, subcutaneous and intradermal injections, performing skin tests, or performing venipuncture, a medical assistant must complete minimum training mentioned in the regulations.
Below is a list stating required duration of training for different procedures before a medical assistant can demonstrate to his supervisor.
- 10 hours of training in performing skin tests and administering injections.
- 10 hours of training in skin puncture and venipuncture for blood withdrawal.
- Trainee must perform at least 10 intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intradermal injections each. He/she will have to conduct minimum 10 skin tests, 10 venipuncture and 10 skin punctures.
- 10 hours of training is required for those who will be administering medicines by inhalation.
Throughout the training period, a few things should be instructed and demonstrated to the trainee. This includes suggestion regarding choice of equipment, proper techniques and emergency procedures. Instructions should be given about pertinent anatomy and the physiology appropriate to each process. The supervisor is also expected to warn about hazards and complications. Finally, the trainee should be taught the right method of patient care after treatment and tests.
What You Will Learn During Training
As already mentioned the responsibilities of a health assistant is diverse. This is why you must enroll in reliable training programs which will prepare you to work in an entry level position. The best technique that these institutes apply to prepare students is by allowing them to assist during surgical and medical procedures. They are taught first-hand how to update patient charts, record vital signs and collect blood and other specimens for tests. Training should also include introduction to administrative tasks.
If you have made up your mind about this career, you can start preparing yourself via various means. One of the most common and cost-effective methods is to enroll for online classes. You can also get a degree or take part in diploma programs. All of these options vary in terms of teaching methods and outcomes. There are specific attributes and benefits of each method and you must select one that best fits your lifestyle and preference.
The curriculum for degree and diploma involves classroom training and also learning from clinical experiences. You will gather practical experience at a medical facility. A drawback of attending online courses is that it focuses mostly on the theories. If you still wish to learn from internet sources, you will perhaps gather clinical experience while working at a specific facility.
The nature of this job is unlike traditional ones and therefore, the training is different as well. The curriculum for a medical assistant training program includes different sections. Some of the most common subjects that all programs include have been listed below:
1. Patient Care and Effective Communication
If you wish to take good care of the patients and communicate effectively with the healthcare provider, it is recommended to take courses such as physiology and anatomy. The curriculum might also include a short course on etiology. This will basically teach you how to prepare patients for diagnostic tests. You will also learn to take their vital signs and transport them safely and smoothly from one section of the medical facility to another.
Almost all health care assistant training programs include pharmacology courses. The curriculum teaches important information about different medicines, drug classifications, contraindications and possible side effects. Med assistants are not entitled to administer or prescribe medicines to patients but they often act as a middle person between doctors and pharmacists. This is why it is critical to have some preliminary pharmacology knowledge.
3. Laboratory Procedures
Even though job description varies based of the type of facility you will work in and the state you reside in, all assistants have to assist laboratory processes at some point during the career. This could be urinalysis, saliva tests, blood work or any other diagnostic tests. Therefore, all health assistant education programs have minimum one course about laboratory procedures.
4. Cardiopulmonary and Electrocardiography
Your career may present you in a situation where you will be asked to assist tests involving the heart such as EKGs. These courses will teach students how they can assist during various cardiopulmonary processes. They will be supervised at all times. The courses also teach how to log test results in patient’s chart.
5. First Aid and Nutrition
Most medical assistant training programs incorporate classes that teach about first aid and nutrition. Apart from learning how to properly conduct first aid, as a prospective health care assistant, you will learn how to do a cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Students will also be taught about importance of proper nutrition and dietary procedures.
Just like the career, these training programs may differ as well. Other courses that are usually included are healthcare law and medical ethics. You might have electives such as religion, endocrinology and psychology.
Legally, administration of medicines by a health assistant should be monitored every time by a certified physician or podiatrist, or any other licensed individual who can verify what the correct medication and dosage is.
The physician or podiatrist supervising the process should authorize any technical supportive services conducted by the health care assistant. In fact, the supervising physician or podiatrist must also be physically present in the institute when the procedures are performed.
The average salary of a medical assistant depends of 2 factors: educational attainments and years of experience. Another factor that might impact your salary is the medical facility you work at. Particularly in California, this career can be fulfilling and rewarding. You will be taking care of sick people and will also get a good payment in return. In fact, California is among the 10 highest paying States for this career. Here, you can earn approximately $22.11/hour.
In addition to this monetary compensation, you will enjoy various perks from this job. Health care assistants get employment benefits such as healthcare benefits, paid leave, sick leave, travel allowance, assistance to continue education, insurance, pension payment and other company bonuses.
The wage varies from person to person. To understand why 2 medical assistants, receive different wage, you must realize that many factors are considered. One of the most common reasons behind this differentiation is the cost of living. If cost of living in an area is higher, then individuals working there is more likely to enjoy a higher wage. This is why a friend living in a different city in the same State might get better wage than you. For example, between Burbank and San Francisco, health assistants in San Francisco will be better compensated compared to those living in Burbank.
Who you will work for is also a major determinant. Most often, private clinics offer lower wage compared to the payment hospitals offer to medical assistants. As stated previously, level of education is assessed when salary is decided. If your educational qualification is a simple training, your salary will be low compared to someone who has an associate degree.
Like most other jobs, employers are impressed if applicants for medical assistant position has many years of experience. Your level of expertise is also something that will be assessed before an impressive salary is budgeted for you. It is obvious that all employers like to hire someone who knows what to do and does not need further training. In order to get higher compensation, you should have minimum 2 years of work experience and have extra skills.
The mean annual income on a medical assistant is $30,000. However, this number varies from $27,000 to $35,000 yearly. While several things can change this figure, the range applies to most entry level employees. There is scope for improvement and opportunity for promotion in this career. After promotion, you can earn annual wage of up to $45,000.
Opportunity for Career Improvement
To summarize, you must add value to the company if you want to your health care salary to increase. Augment your skills and knowledge by continuing your education. Remember that the aim is to become an indispensable employee for the firm.
You may start your career improvement by enrolling in relevant certification programs. These will effectively boost your career and add value to the resume. Health care training and certification programs in United States include Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, Certified Medical Assistant, National Certified Medical Assistant and Registered Medical Assistant. The career path for these may include office manager, clinical supervisor, social work for public clinics and medical assisting instructor.