If you thrive in a dynamic environment that allows you to use a mix of interpersonal and technical skills every day, you might find medical office administration to be the perfect fit. In as little as nine months, you can receive the training you need to enter the healthcare field in a role that is crucial to medical offices and hospitals.
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants act as the glue that holds together all the other pieces of the health care experience and allow doctors and other professionals to deliver the best possible care to patients.
Learn more about medical secretaries and administrative assistants by finding out if a Medical Office Administration program is right for you.
What is a Medical Administrative Assistant and What Do They Do?
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants perform a wide range of tasks that are essential to keeping a medical office running smoothly. You might already have a good idea of what secretaries and medical administrative assistant does based on your own experience as a patient, but here are some of the most common duties and responsibilities:1
- Answer telephones and take messages or transfer calls
- Schedule appointments and update event calendars
- Arrange staff meetings
- Handle incoming and outgoing mail and faxes
- Prepare memos, invoices, or other reports
- Edit documents
- Maintain databases and filing systems, whether electronic or paper
- Perform basic bookkeeping
Another key part of the job is to ensure the medical office runs smoothly overall and may involve buying supplies, negotiating with vendors and managing stock rooms.
It’s also becoming more common for patient records to be kept electronically, so medical administrators must be comfortable learning and using electronic health records.
Day-in-the-Life Of A Medical Secretary and Administrative Assistant
Each day for medical secretaries and administrative assistants promises to be fast-paced, exciting and rewarding. And by the same token, no two days on the job are the same.
Your day might start by greeting and checking in patients who’ve arrived for their appointments. That process could also involve updating medical records and preparing patients for the next step in their appointment.
You’d also likely be answering incoming phone calls, scheduling appointments and assisting doctors and staff with paperwork in between. You might also arrange and set up staff meetings within the office.
And, finally, your day would probably include checking in on office inventory and scheduling, and making sure everything is in good shape before the start of the next day.
Why Train To Become A Medical Secretary Or Administrative Assistant?
Medical office administration is not only a great way to flex a range of skills in an exciting work environment — it’s also a career field that’s growing much faster than other occupations.
Employment of medical secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.2
That’s compared to projected growth of just 4% for all other occupations, and a projected loss of 5% for other office and administrative support occupations.
Part of that growth comes from the aging baby-boom generation, which is increasing demand for medical services. That will translate to overall growth in the healthcare industry, and medical administrators will be crucial to handling tasks such as billing and insurance processing for Medicare.
These job prospects mean that medical office administration can be a great entry into the healthcare field, especially if you have training that may lead to more advanced roles down the line.
Medical Secretaries And Administrative Assistants Salary
You may be wondering about medical office assistant pay. As of May 2019, medical secretaries and administrative assistants earned an average salary of $36,580, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.3 Be advised, salary for entry level positions may be lower than the national average.
Best Places To Work As Medical Secretaries And Administrative Assistants
Work for medical secretaries and administrative assistants is certainly more plentiful in some states than others, and the pay can also vary based on where you’re working. California has more medical secretary and administrative assistant jobs than any other state, and also has one of the highest mean wages.4 Here’s a look at the top three states for medical secretary and administrative assistant employment as of May 2019:
|Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
California’s cities also rank among the top-paying metropolitan areas for medical administrative assistant salaries in the country:
|Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$26.11||$54,310|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$23.62||$49,140|
How To Become A Medical Secretary And Administrative Assistant
It’s common for secretaries in some industries to seek entry-level jobs right out of high school, especially if they have computer software skills. But for medical office administration, which requires more specialized knowledge, earning a certificate or degree can boost your job prospects and potential salary.
The steps to becoming a medical secretary and administrative assistant are:5
- Attend a postsecondary education program. There are no formal medical administration education requirements for becoming an administrative assistant, but employers often prefer to hire administrators who have completed these programs. The programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities and take about one year to complete.
- Receive on-the-job training. Whether you’ve earned a certificate or diploma for medical administration, or are entering the workforce without one, you’ll certainly be learning additional skills on the job. This might include medical terminology and practices, and the training will likely last a few months.
Do I Need A Degree To Become A Medical Secretary And Administrative Assistant?
Again, it is not required to earn a degree to be a medical secretary and administrative assistant, but it’s common and may help your job prospects. Earning a degree can also set you up to take the National Certified Medical Office Assistant (NCMOA) exam or the National Certified Insurance & Coding Specialist (NCIS) exam.
SJVC prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program.
Being an effective and efficient medical secretary requires a unique blend of administrative, interpersonal and technological skills. Some of these may come naturally to you, and others can be learned in a degree program or on the job.
Some of the key skills a medical secretary and administrative assistant must possess are:6
- Decision Making skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants often prioritize tasks and make decisions on their employers’ behalf, so good judgment is essential.
- Interpersonal skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants interact with clients, customers, or staff. They should communicate effectively and be courteous when interacting with others to create a positive work environment and client experience.
- Organizational skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants keep files, folders, and schedules in proper order so an office can run efficiently.
- Writing skills. Secretaries and administrative assistants write memos and emails when communicating with managers, employees, and customers. Therefore, they must have good grammar, ensure accuracy, and maintain a professional tone.
The job may also require computer skills, such as:7
- Accounting software — Billing software, bookkeeping software.
- Email software — Email software, such as Microsoft Outlook.
- Medical software — Epic Systems, Medical condition coding software, or MEDITECH software.
- Office suite software — Business software applications, such as Microsoft Office.
Medical Secretary And Administrative Assistant Jobs
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants can perform many different jobs – under several different titles. Some similar medical receptionist job titles can include:
- Billing Coordinator: This position focuses on handling patient invoices and payments. Some responsibilities can include creating invoices based on patient charts and services, issuing and tracking invoices, collecting third-party billing data and more.
- Health Unit Coordinator: This role focuses on providing patients with a good experience at the hospital or clinic through communication and providing necessary information. This position can also document health information and keep patient records.
- Medical Office Specialist: In this job, a person provides administrative support by answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, and updating medical records.
- Patient Coordinator: This role is a patient’s primary point of contact at a clinic. This person performs administrative tasks and helps patients fill out forms, escorts them to their rooms, and shares necessary information with them about medications and care plans as dictated by a physician.
- Unit Secretary: A unit secretary is an administrative assistant specific to a particular segment of a hospital—a unit. In hospitals with wards instead of units, they may be called a ward clerk.
Find Your Path as a Medical Administrative Assistant
SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as a Medical Administrative Assistant. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.
What to Look for in a Medical Office Administration Program
Before you jump into any Medical Office Administration program, you want to make sure it’s the right fit for you. These programs can be your entry into a fulfilling career, so be sure to consider these things when you’re choosing the right program for your goals, lifestyle and budget:
- Class size. In any learning environment, a small class size means more time and attention from the instructor, which might be important depending on your learning style.
- Hands-on experience. Especially when it comes to patient interaction, you want to make sure the program allows for time to practice these skills hands-on.
- Cost. Pursuing advanced education is an important investment, but it shouldn’t be one that becomes a burden for you. San Joaquin Valley College, like many other institutions, participates in financial assistance programs, both federal and state, as well as private financing. This can help defray the medical office assistant course costs. You might also qualify for student loans, grants, or scholarships. Learn more about current tuition costs and financing options here.
How Long is a Medical Office Administration Program?
A medical administrative assistant certification program can vary in length depending on what type of program you are pursuing. Most programs that lead to a certificate or diploma take about one year to complete.8 Some programs, especially those that lead to an associate degree, may take up to two years. At San Joaquin Valley College, you can earn an Associate of Science Degree in as few as 15 months.
Can I Earn a Medical Office Administration Degree Online?
Every program and college is different, and some certificate and degree programs are based online, including medical administrative assistant classes online. At SJVC, however, the Medical Office Administration is not available online. Similar certificate programs in clinical medical assisting, and medical billing and coding, are offered online.
What Will I Learn in SJVC’s Medical Office Administration Courses?
The courses at SJVC will prepare you to become a valuable member of a healthcare team. You will learn hands-on skills needed to provide administrative support in healthcare settings such as medical offices, clinics, and hospitals. These skills include:
- Maintain medical facility records
- Enter patient data into computers
- Process medical billing information and insurance claims
- Schedule patient procedures or appointments
- Transcribe dictation
- Prepare reports or articles for physicians or medical scientists.
- Arrange for patients to be hospitalized
You will also receive training on office skills, billing, letter writing, and handling coding procedures for insurance purposes using a variety of applicable software.
Medical Office Administration Classes
Your education in the medical office administration program will expose you to the wide variety of topics you’ll need to succeed in this field. The core Medical Office Administration Certificate of Completion requirements for the program at SJVC include:
- Computer Literacy & Applications for the Professional
- Structural Anatomy and Terminology
- Body System Anatomy and Terminology
- Foundational Office Skills
- Medical Office Management
- Medical Insurance Principles
- CPT and HCPCS Coding
- Billing Principles
- ICD Coding
- Medical Office Principles
- Externship Seminar
- Graduate Readiness Seminar
Kickstart Your Career as a Medical Office Administration
Small class sizes, individual attention, and hands-on training in the skills you need. Learn more about how to become a Medical Office Administration with SJVC.
Prepare for a Career in Medical Office Administration With San Joaquin Valley College
SJVC’s Medical Office Administration program can be the crucial first step for your career in healthcare. With an option to earn a certificate in as few as nine months, SJVC’s hands-on training will prepare you for both the administrative office tasks as well as the patient-facing aspects of this job.
SJVC’s programs are accredited by the state of California, and taught by world-class faculty whose expertise comes from real experience in the field. Our students come from diverse backgrounds; some may be just starting out, while others are continuing their education to shift their career in a new direction. Either way, our students will find success in the field after their time at SJVC.
Medical Administrative Assistant FAQ
How Long to Get a Medical Office Administration Certificate?
It varies based on the specific program, but earning a Medical Office Administration Certificate at SJVC can be done in as few as nine months. Certificates in this field typically take no more than one year.
Do I Need a Degree to Become a Medical Secretary?
Certificates or degrees are not required to become a medical secretary. Earning a certificate or degree, however, can certainly increase your employment prospects and make it easier for you to get up to speed at your new employer.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.