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Becoming a medical assistant is a great first step into the medical field, since it requires little education and only some on-the-job training to be operational. Medical assistants with associate degrees are considered well if not overly educated for the position, which gives them the power to negotiate a higher salary with their employers.
What Is a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants help clinics, hospitals and physicians' offices with a variety of both administrative and clinical tasks according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Filling out insurance forms, answering telephones, dealing with correspondence and setting up patients appointments may all fall to a medical assistant. Simple clinical tasks may also fall to a medical assistant depending on state law including taking medical histories, checking a patient's vital signs, sterilizing medical equipment and resetting an examination room for the next patient states the BLS.
According to the Occupational Employment Statistics, a branch of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average or mean salary for medical assistants was $29,450 in May 2009. The Occupational Employment Statistics does not break down the pay scale according to acquired education. However, since medical assistants with associate degrees are the most highly educated of applicants in this profession, it is more likely they will have higher average salaries than their counterparts with only a high school diploma.
In May 2009, the middle 50 percent of medical assistants earned between $24,060 per year or $11.57 an hour and $33,760 per year or $16.23 hourly. The 90th percentile wage earners took home $39,970 annually or $19.21 hourly. A medical assistant with an associate's degree can reasonably expect a wage between the 25th percentile of $24,060 per year and the 90th percentile at $39,970 a year.
Location makes a difference in how much a medical assistant with an associate degree is paid. In May 2009, California medical assistants averaged $30,980 per year, those in Michigan made a mean of $28,460 annually and medical assistants in the District of Columbia made an average $37,790 a year, the highest in the country. Employer industry affects average wages as well. Physicians' offices paid a mean $29,810 annually, scientific research and development services paid an average $33,810 per year and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals paid their medical assistants a mean salary of $46,430 annually.
Based in Southern California, Daniel Holzer has been a freelance writer specializing in labor issues, personal finance and green living since 2004. His recent work has appeared online at Green Your Apartment and other websites. Holzer studied English literature at California State University, Fullerton.