Medical Assistant Skills and Abilities Checklist

by Susie on November 22, 2016 · 9:00 am

Medical assistants play an essential role in the day-to-day operation of physician’s offices, hospitals and other health care centers. Depending upon the facility in which they work, medical assistants help with both administrative and clinical tasks ranging from medical billing and coding to drawing blood and administering injections.

Are you a good fit for a position in this growing field? The list of medical assistant skills below will give you an idea of what it takes to become a medical assistant. Keep in mind that even if you don’t have these skills and abilities now, you can go to school to become a medical assistant and learn everything you need to know to begin your new healthcare career.

Day-to-Day Medical Assistant Skills

Because medical assistants are expected to perform a wide range of tasks on a regular basis, they must employ a wide range of skillsets. To get a sense of why medical assistants need such wide-ranging skills, consider some of the duties and responsibilities listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Association of Medical Assistants¹,²:

  • Record patient history and personal information
  • Measure vital signs
  • Administer injections or medications
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Perform basic laboratory tests
  • Assist physicians during an exam

As you can see from the diverse set of tasks and job duties listed above, medical assistants need to have various technical, communication and office management skills to succeed. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific skills medical assistants need to have.

Medical Terminology

To provide support for both administrative and clinical operations, medical assistants need a firm grasp of common medical names and terms, including those related to human anatomy, medical instruments, medications and diseases. Medical assistants also need good communication skills to convey this information in a way patients can understand.

Customer Interaction

Excellent customer service skills are a must for medical assistants. Although there are many aspects to a career as a medical assistant, one of the biggest components is patient interaction. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine, 84 percent of medical assistants say the job requires constant contact with others³. Medical assistants can expect to spend most of their days interacting with patients, whether to confirm insurance information, measure vital signs or schedule an upcoming appointment. With this much patient interaction, patience and compassion are essential.

Team Work

Those who prefer to work alone need not apply. Medical assistants interact with patients, physicians and insurance companies daily. Whether it’s working together with patients and their families to schedule appointments or arrange medication, organizing insurance information with front office staff or arranging blood draws and lab testing with physicians, working well with others is essential for anyone in the role of a medical assistant.

Technical Know-How

Medical assistants regularly draw blood, take fluid samples, conduct respiratory and pulmonary tests, replace stitches and bandages, sterilize rooms and equipment, administer medications and safely dispose of medical materials. Although these may not seem like glamorous tasks, they are critical to the smooth operation of any health care facility. A skilled medical assistant must have a firm grasp on the technical aspects of his or her job.  Here’s a quick look at some of the tools and technologies used in this occupation³:

  • Appointment scheduling software
  • Diagnostic and procedural coding software
  • Billing and bookkeeping software
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Blood pressure measurement equipment

Office Administration

Just as important in the medical assistant role as performing clinical tasks is competently supporting the office and administration of a physician’s office. For patients to have a successful and stress-free experience when they visit the doctor, their insurance information must be recorded accurately and processed properly, they must be scheduled at an appropriate time, and the billing and bookkeeping must be accurately completed. These tasks often fall to medical assistants, who must be just as knowledgeable about administrative tasks as they are about clinical ones.

Learn the Skills Needed to be a Medical Assistant

A career as a medical assistant offers both administrative work and the opportunity to work directly with patients and physicians to improve patient quality of life. To make sure you have the skills employers are looking for and patients need, enroll in a medical assistant program. Not only will you learn the skills required to work as a medical assistant in medical offices and specialty clinics, completing a medical assistant program can also give you a leg up on job seekers who only have a high school diploma.

Medical assisting programs are especially helpful for newcomers in the medical field, as learning all the necessary skills through on-the-job training alone can be a slow process. In turn, having a certificate might be able to jumpstart your career and increase your earning potential.

San Joaquin Valley College offers its medical assistant program at many of its California campuses and online. For those looking to change career paths and enter the medical field, taking classes online is a convenient option that allows you to gain new skills and enter a new field while still providing the flexibility you need to accommodate your busy life. Request more information about the medical assistant program, or call 866-544-7898 to learn more about training to become a medical assistant at San Joaquin Valley College.




Medical assisting is an exciting and rewarding entry-level healthcare career. To help you decide if this is the right path for you, SJVC created a free guide outlining the roles and responsibilities of a medical assistant. Download your guide to learn what medical assistants do, why they are in demand, and how you can become one.

Get Your Guide: What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
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