What Is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants are very important part of large and small medical care units, physician offices and health clinics where they perform routine administrative and clinical tasks under supervision of qualified professionals. As they don’t possess state license to work they are not involve in providing direct patient care services in nursing homes and in-patient care units. They can further specialize to work in any therapeutic department. More and more men and women are taking interest to become medical assistant these days because of the current high demand of trained professionals. According to a Bureau of labor report approximately 819,000 physicians in the USA, 2.4 million registered nurses, 182,000 physical therapists, 77,000 occupational therapists, 94,000 respiratory therapists and a large number of other allied health professionals require such eligible professionals to run their offices smoothly and to provide good services to patients.

Types of Medical Assistants

On the basis of primary duty responsibilities these professionals are classified in to two major categories i.e. Clinical Medical Assistants and Administrative Medical Assistants.

Clinical Medical Assistants

A clinical Medical Assistant is the one who works close with patients and physicians and helps to provide medical services. But they are allowed to do examination and diagnosis like other physician assistants. They are allowed to help allied health professionals during medical procedures.

Administrative Medical Assistants

Becoming an administrative medical assistant is a good decision because according to Bureau of Labor Statistics the demand for this particular job title will remain high till 2016. A qualified professional is eligible to work along with qualified healthcare services providing team. Relevant training and education enable them to work in different work settings. 

Major Difference between Clinical and Administrative Medical Assistant

Although, both clinical medical assistant and administrative medical assistants play support role to carryout basic operations and functions of any healthcare facilities, there is a remarkable difference between these two. Primarily level of training, education and state laws determine whether and individual will work on clinical side or administration side as an assistant. Healthcare industry shows flexibility and allows candidates to start their career as an administrative medical assistant and later enable them to progress their careers to become a clinical medical assistant. Generally, administrative career is the best way to join the booming industry of healthcare without directly dealing with patients. On the other side clinical career is good choice for those who are willing to work along with physicians to treat patients.

Difference between Primary Responsibilities of Clinical Medical Assistants and Administrative Medical Assistants

Besides similar almost similar job titles, there are remarkable differences among the level of education and job grade of clinical and administrative medical assistants. Both of these professionals carry out different set of responsibilities at their employment place. Following is the brief description of job duties of these professionals in any healthcare facility. After comparing duties of both administrative assistants you can easily differentiate the two types of medical assistants.

Job Description of Administrative Medical Assistant

Administrative Medical Assistants are responsible to carry out all kind of clerical duties at any healthcare facility from physician office to hospitals and institutes like vocational college or other healthcare institutes. Duties may be different in different work settings. In small outpatient care units, they are responsible to fulfill all type of administrative duties, where as those who are employed in larger work setting like hospitals may be involved to perform one or two specific duties. The major responsibility of well trained professionals in any organization is to maintain daily routine clerical tasks to run medical office smoothly. Specific duties include scheduling patient’s appointments, answering phone calls, updating medical records, basic filing, admitting patients and general book keeping. They also greet patients and handle other duties like making patient’s files, filling out insurance forms, billing and other correspondence issues. A high school diploma is enough to start career as administrative medical assistant. Whereas possessing some experience with higher education is always makes you preferred employee. Attending short courses like bookkeeping, transcription and medical terminology and filing are very beneficial to work as administrative medical assistant. Candidates who are willing to progress their career in health science industry can pursue a certification to become certified professional in this field. Earning such special credentials will make you very appealing for employers.

Job Description of Clinical Medical Assistant

Clinical medical assistants are capable to work closely with patients and work along with physicians and doctors. They help professionals to provide treatment to patients. In small work settings and private physician clinics they also perform clerical duties. Clinical medical assistants are authorized by State to carryout direct patient care duties like preparing patients for clinical examinations, giving doctors prescribed medicines, observing vital signs, updating medical history and removing sutures. Well trained professionals can also perform primary lab work like sterilizations and specimen collection. Even they can also draw blood from under direct supervision of physician as well as they are able to prepare x-rays and refilling prescribed medicines. Moreover, they can also guide patients about using medicines and specific diet. Due to increased level of responsibilities, these professionals are required to earn at least 1 or 2 years of special education to learn all essential skills to work as clinical medical assistant. As they are working closely with patients they must have good understanding of subjects like anatomy, physiology, lab safety rules, surgical instruments and basic phlebotomy. In order to become an authorized professional all candidates are required to pursue special certification from association like American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).  As such certifications indicate capabilities and level of training a candidate possess.


Administrative Medical Assistant and Clinical Medical Assistant are the two best entry level career streams in the field of health sciences that allows interested candidates to work in health service facilities and physician offices. Individuals are free to select anyone of the career option according to their personal preferences.