In any doctor’s office, the most valuable and limited commodities are the physician’s time and attention. Those are always in short supply, so physicians rely heavily on support staff to perform duties that don’t require a doctor’s advanced skill set. In a clinic focused on allergies, allergy technicians are responsible for many of those tasks.
Allergy Technician Job Description
An allergy technician, or clinical allergy specialist, typically has both clinical and administrative responsibilities. On the clinical side, as an allergy tech, you might be expected to investigate and record a patient’s symptoms, administer allergy tests, give “breath tests” to measure pulmonary function, and administer allergy medications under the supervision and at the direction of a physician.
Administrative tasks are similar to those of medical assistants in other practices. These might include creating or updating a patient’s medical records, scheduling appointments or follow-up testing, calling or emailing patients with reminders of upcoming appointments, and, possibly, coding or billing as well.
The percentage of your time spent on clinical or administrative duties will vary depending on your employer’s needs.
There’s no formal certification required to be an allergy technician, as such. Allergy technicians are simply medical assistants who acquire specialized knowledge in the allergy field by working and training in an allergy-focused medical practice. In theory, it’s perfectly possible to learn entirely on the job with nothing more than a high school diploma.
In practice, your odds of getting a job in the field are much better if you have some form of formal training or certification. Many vocational and technical schools offer medical assistant training programs, usually accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). These are typically one or two years in length.
Graduates of an accredited program, those who have received similar training in the military, or those who have at least two years’ work experience in the field, can take a medical assistant certification exam. There are multiple certification bodies and credentials, each with its own slightly different eligibility requirements:
- The NCMA credential, administered by the National Center for Competency Testing;
- The CCMA credential, administered by the National Healthcareer Association;
- The RMA credential, administered by American Medical Technologists; and
- The CMA (AAMA) credential, administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants.
Before paying to take the exam for any of those certifications, it’s worth checking with allergy specialists in your area to see if they prefer one exam over another.
Finding Work In the Field
Physicians who specialize purely in the treatment of allergies are referred to as allergists, but other physicians, including pulmonologists and family practitioners, may also treat allergy patients as a significant part of their practice. Any of these is a potential employer, and so are hospitals or clinics large enough to operate an allergy unit.
You may also seek out chain clinic operators who specialize in allergies, such as United Allergy Services. For newly certified or freshly graduated medical assistants, these workplaces offer the opportunity to gain allergy-related experience more quickly than in mixed practices where allergies may play an important, but secondary, role.
An allergy technician or clinical allergy specialist doesn’t command top wages, but you also won’t be burdened by a huge investment in training and education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places the median income for medical assistants at $15.61 per hour or $32,480 a year as of May 2017. This is consistent with the wages offered for allergy technicians on job sites such as Indeed, which typically ranged between $14 and $18 per hour as of July 2019.
The Job Outlook
Healthcare as a whole is a booming industry and a major driver of employment, which means your employment potential as a medical assistant is very good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand for medical assistants to grow by 29 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is much higher than overall job growth.
Allergy technicians and similarly specialized assistants aren’t tracked specifically by the BLS, but the agency does predict that those with certifications and experience in electronic health record keeping will be in especially high demand.