Medical assistants are hired at various levels of pay and are compensated according to their level of training, experience, and special education. Different pay rates apply to those with less than 1 year, 1 – 4 years, 5 – 9 years, 10 – 19 years, or 20+ years, which can make a big difference. Important is to understand that medical assistants are NOT salaried professionals, but hired employees working for hourly wages. Those who are certified and work in a specialty medical practice, alternative medicine clinic, or plastic surgery office usually take home a little more. The average national earnings for medical assistants is on the rise, where the reported average annual pay, according to the US Department of Labor, has increased from $26,620 to $28,710, which is the equivalent of an hourly wage of $14.36. The longer medical assistant works the more their wages increase. Some may also earn benefits, such as paid leave time, employment-sponsored savings plans, tuition reimbursement, and retirement plans where the doctor matches a percentage of your contributions to your retirement account.
Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on earnings, we compared the primary care physician’s earnings with a surgeon’s and a few other specialists in the medical arts earnings to get an idea who can afford to pay their staff more. Of course, every employer sets their own standards and wages depend on numerous factors, however, here are some figures we were able to determine:
Medical assistants working in a family practice typically earn the least income. Their hourly pay ranges somewhere between $11.50 – $13.75. Primary care/family/pediatrics typically pays considerably less than specialty care. Although family physicians maintain a huge patient base and treat a wide range of conditions, from respiratory infections to broken bones, they cannot afford to pay their staff the same wages a specialty physician can. Also, specialty doctors typically pay more than primary care physicians (PCP/HMO).
Surgeons and specialty physicians are able to pay higher wages than doctors who work in community medical centers. A medical assistant employed by a physician in a specialty field and several years of experience can reach about $37,000.00 per year. A starting wage in an allergy and asthma specialty office in Massachusetts, or Connecticut can be as much as $23.00 an hour, while in general family practice in Alabama the pay my be considerably less, more like $15 to $18 per hour. You can explore local pay rates and employment trends in your daily newspaper (job, wanted, vacancies, classified ads) and by talking to other medical assistants. You can also check with some of the vocational training schools in your area and ask questions about the medical assistant’s pay.
We believe that medical assistants today can easily add at least $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 in earnings to the annual national average wage figures in the above table, which are May 2008 figures from the Department of Labor (BLS) website. As medical assistants handle more and more clinical, administrative and technical routines within the medical office their pay rates have increased accordingly. Those with special limited licenses that have become essential to medical care, such as phlebotomy, x-ray, ECG/EKG, ultrasound and such are compensated accordingly. Check out the ongoing discussion on “starting medical assistant pay” in our active forum where medical assistants address their current take home pay.
Private Practices vs. Medical Centers
Medical assistants who are certified generally receive more pay and benefits than those without certifications. An experienced medical assistant may seek opportunities for advancement and better pay by becoming a Medical Laboratory Technician who performs laboratory work to identify, diagnose and treat diseases, a Medical Library Technician who collects and organizes medical information and helps practitioners find the information they need for patient care, or a Medical Records Specialist, who obtains, posts, and analyzes medical, workload, finance and insurance data.
Tip: Find out about possible educational and professional certification requirements in your state and research employer’s expectations and typical pay rates in your area before you dive right in. You can explore local trends right from your daily newspaper classified ads and by talking to medical assistants in the doctor’s offices that you visit and then make an educated decision whether a career in medical assisting is right for you! You can also visit some of the local vocational training schools and ask whether they will allow you to sit in one of their classes, or two, to see what it is all about and do your research concerning the medical assistant’s future job outlook and statistics you have read online.