What is a Medical Assistant?

what is a medical assistant

Medical Assistant Definition

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Oftentimes, medical assistants are the first and last people patients see. They help prepare the patient for the doctor by recording personal medical information and taking vital signs. At the end of the visit, medical assistants may schedule the patient’s next appointment and update their medical records. Learn more about what a medical assistant does.

Career Overview

Compared to all other occupations, the job outlook for medical assistants is healthy: while most of the nation is predicted to see an average employment growth rate of 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, medical assistants are projected to enjoy a 19 percent increase in job opportunities. This is even faster than for other healthcare support occupations.

Job Growth Factors

  • An aging population in need of preventative medical care
  • An increase in facilities offering healthcare services
  • Advancements in medications, treatments, and procedures 

Top Employers

  • Physicians’ offices
  • Retirement and continuing care communities
  • Outpatient care centers 


Medical Assistant Skills

Since medical assistants often work in the front and back of healthcare offices, they usually learn a combination of clerical and clinical skills.

Clerical Skills

  • Billing 
  • Coding electronic and paper health records (EHRs)
  • Filing & record keeping
  • Computing & keyboarding
  • Software programs: accounting, email, and medical

Clinical Skills

  • Medical terminology
  • Medical instruments
  • Human anatomy 
  • Drawing blood
  • Injections
  • Sterilization 

Medical Assistant Qualities & Traits

Aside from a desire to help people, medical assistants can benefit from having certain qualities and traits.

  • Strong verbal communication
  • Active listening
  • Social sensitivity 
  • Outgoing 
  • Adaptability
  • Problem solving 
  • Analytical
  • Interpersonal skills 

Career Opportunities

Experience working in the field and additional training can help medical assistants advance their careers into leadership positions.

Leadership Roles

  • Clinical team leader
  • Medical office manager
  • Healthcare administration
  • Medical records manager 

With continued education they may also advance into other healthcare occupations:

Healthcare Occupations

  • Registered Nurse
  • Physician Assistant
  • Nurse Practitioner 

Education Requirements

As you can see, being a medical assistant usually requires a combination of education, inherent abilities and learned skills.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

While some medical assistants learn the profession on the job, the majority graduate from medical assistant training programs. One reason for this is that employers tend to prefer candidates who’ve successfully completed such programs. Learn more about how to become a medical assistant.

Licenses & Certification

Similar Professions

  • Dental Assistants
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Nursing Assistants and Aides
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
  • Pharmacy Technicians
  • Phlebotomists
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
  • Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
  • Psychiatric Technicians and Aides 

MTI’s Medical Assisting Program

Are you interested in taking the next step toward becoming a medical assistant? Midwest Technical Institute’s medical assistant training is 35 weeks (9 months) and offers both daytime and evening classes* (availability of night time classes varies by campus). Learn more about our Medical Assisting Program.