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What’s the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Medical Office Specialist?

Medical Assistant

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Is the medical field something that has always interested you, but you don’t think you have the time or money to go to school? Or, are you looking for a career you can begin within a year to sustain yourself while continuing your education or as a new career?

If this is the case, you may want to consider a job as a medical office specialist or as a medical assistant.

While these two jobs might sound the same, there are several differences between them. Let’s review the similarities and differences to help you choose the best career path for you and your goals.

Read on to learn more.

Medical Office Specialist and a Medical Assistant: Both Public Facing Roles

As a medical office specialist and a medical assistant, you could work in a doctor’s office and be front-facing. That means in both careers, you’ll have to deal with people coming into the office or medical clinic, though there will be a few differences in how you deal with them.

To work in either role, you need to be friendly and able to put people at ease. As some individuals may be scared to go to the doctor or uneasy about an aspect of the visit, you’ll need to provide a friendly face.

Additionally, a good rapport with children is also essential if you work in a pediatric office.

Medical Office Specialist vs. Medical Assistant: Both Roles Usually Require Office Work

Both a medical office specialist and a medical assistant will perform clerical roles. This means they will answer phones, and emails, schedule appointments, manage patient records and perform general administrative tasks.

They may translate notes for the doctors and physician’s assistants so they can put them in a patient’s digital or physical file.

Both deal with the public daily.

Where Do Medical Office Specialists and Medical Assistants Work?

Both medical office specialists and medical assistants can work in a wide range of healthcare facilities. They may work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, medical specialty clinics, or other medical facilities.

Their skillset is needed in almost every medical setting, meaning they’re in demand. Working in one of these positions will mean you won’t likely be out of a job for long.

What Are the Major Differences Between the Two Career Paths?

The main difference between a medical office specialist and a medical assistant is that a medical assistant may assist the doctor with various clinical procedures such as EKGs and injections.

A medical assistant may help the doctor with examinations, may accompany a doctor during a medical procedure in case something is needed, or they may help with note-taking.

Medical assistants may also be the people who work with patients in medical clinics. In some cases, they will be the person a patient will see. They may take your vitals and direct patients into their exam rooms, where the doctor will see them.

A medical office assistant does not do any medical duties. Instead, he or she will usually perform administrative tasks related specifically to the healthcare industry, such as insurance billing and coding.

What is the Job Outlook for a Medical Assistant and Medical Office Specialist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 2019, the role of a medical assistant is expected to grow by 29% by 2026. They expect nearly 200,000 new roles to be created as medical centers cater to the needs of an ever-growing and aging population.

While there is no specific data from the BLS for a medical office specialist, one can likely assume their specialist knowledge will also be sorely needed in the coming years. As more practices open, so will the need for medical office specialists.

What is the Salary Range?

It’s a good idea to look for any sites specific to your field for salary data. These sites may have information on industry average wages, particularly if your field’s rarer. The salary will depend entirely on where you live, your skills level, your work experience, and the doctor or clinic in which you work.

What Education is Required for a Medical Assistant and Medical Office Specialist?

A medical assistant will need to have completed high school. They will also need to have completed either on-the-job training or attend a certificate program at a college. The programs may take a few months to one year to complete. Then, they are eligible to begin working in the role.

They will also, likely, receive quite a bit of on-the-job training after the college certificate program.  Students may also participate in an externship as part of their coursework to obtain this on-the-job training.

Medical assistants may receive any specialty training during the externship experience.  For example, students who work in a pediatric medical office can obtain specific training for this type of medical practice from the appropriate staff at the doctor’s office.  Some externs can show their work ethic and skills while on externship and, if there are position openings, can apply for those jobs and may have a better chance of obtaining them due to the familiarity of the candidate and the specific hands-on experience with the medical office.

Regarding the requirements for medical office specialists, they may be hired with little or no experience, depending on the medical practice or company.  Some doctor’s offices or clinics prefer to provide on-the-job training. However, having at least some administrative experience is crucial for either role. Before you think about whether either role is right for you, you should already be comfortable using computers, the telephone, and technology to help keep track of information.

Someone who is a complete technophobe is probably not a good fit for either position. In the world of medicine, technology is constantly evolving. Therefore, you’ll want to keep up with it to ensure the best care for your patients.

While not all roles will require one, a certificate of completion in the medical office field may give you an edge over candidates without training and should give your resume a second glance from the employer.

I’m Interested in One or Both Careers: Where Do I Begin?

If you’re interested in either working as a healthcare office specialist or a medical assistant, the first step is to research programs near you or available online. Reaching out and getting further information is the best way to help you decide if either career would be something you’re interested in pursuing.

InterCoast offers a medical assistant program at two of its Northern California locations. You can start by requesting information here and starting your career today.

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