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Medical Assistant Salary

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Aug 21, 2012

Demand for medical assistants is rising, which makes a career as a medical assistant one of the most employable professions in the country. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistant employment will rise by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020. This rate of increase is higher than the average employment increase projection for all occupations, which is just 14 percent.

Medical Assistant's Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for medical assistants in May 2011 was $30,170 per year or $14.51 per hour. Salaries and wages can vary from less than $20,880 or $10.04 per hour for the bottom 10 percent of medical assistants to over $40,810 or $19.62 per hour for the top 10 percentile.

In comparison, the median annual salary for all occupations in the United States was $33,840 in 2010. The average salary for individuals in all healthcare support occupations, which includes all types of medical support workers, aides and assistants, was $29,790. Within healthcare support occupations, there is a vast array of salary and wage ranges. For example, physical therapist assistants earn a median annual wage of $51,100 or $24.57 per hour and occupational therapy assistants earn $52,040 annually or $25.02 per hour, while dental assistants earn $34,140 annually or $15.42 per hour.

Highest Paid States

Salaries and wages often depend on a medical assistant’s duties, as well as where they work. Average salaries and wages are highest in:

  • Alaska ($39,200 annually or $18.84 per hour),
  • District of Columbia ($37,010 or $17.79),
  • Massachusetts ($36,100 or $17.36),
  • Hawaii ($34,530 or $16.60), and
  • Washington ($34,470 or $16.57)

Salaries are also higher than average in Oregon, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Colorado, California, and Maryland. Some of the lowest wages can be found in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Highest Paid Workplaces

Certified Medical Assistant Salary

The highest annual median wage for medical assistants was highest in:

  • Scientific research and development services ($37,040), and
  • Insurance agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related firms ($37,010)
  • Dentist offices ($35,730),
  • Insurance carriers ($35,660), and
  • Specialty hospitals not involved in psychiatric and substance abuse care ($35,050).

In comparison, some of the top employers of medical assistants offer lower salaries. Colleges, universities, and professional schools, the fifth highest industry with medical assistant employment, provided a median annual income of $33,330 in 2010. The top employer, physician offices, offered an annual income of just $30,410. Among the remaining top five employers, medical assistants average $31,010 at general medical and surgical hospitals, $26,970 at the offices of other health practitioners, and $31,710 at outpatient care centers.

How To Increase Medical Assistant Wages

Typically, medical assistant certification and formal education in medical assisting will help improve your salary and wages prospects. Dedicated programs for medical assisting are provided by community colleges, as well as technical and vocational schools. Distance and online education programs can also offer you a convenient way to get medical assisting training. While not mandatory, many physicians and medical healthcare professionals look for medical assistants with some level of education beyond high school.

A certificate, diploma, or degree in medical assisting can be a useful qualification for management-level roles with higher salaries, including medical office manager or clinical supervisor. It can also be a strong foundation for pursing higher salaries offered by other medical professions, such as registered nurses and occupational therapists. Prospective employers may also prefer hiring medical assistants who are certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants (Certified Medical Assistant certification), the American Medical Technologists (Registered Medical Assistant certification), the National Center for Competency Testing (National Certified Medical Assistant certification), or the National Healthcareer Association (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant certification).

Although medical assistants typically work full-time, income potential can be increased if you opt to take additional over-time or shift work during evenings and weekends. Income potential can also be increased by specializing in specific clinical or administrative roles, particularly in the insurance, dental, or scientific research and development fields. Specializing in a healthcare field, such occupational therapy or physical therapy can also result in higher wages than working as a general medical assistant.

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