A medical office assistant helps a doctor or other licensed health practitioner with a wide variety of duties. Some assistants interact directly with patients, while others focus on billing and clerical duties.

The Role of a Medical Office Assistant

Required Skills

The tasks that assistants are required to perform vary depending upon the state in which they are employed. However, the following are essential skills that virtually all med office assistants must possess in order to obtain employment.

The most essential skills that one must possess fall into to the category of general office skills. A person seeking employment in the medical assisting field must be highly efficient and competent with regards to operating a computer, as well as able to file and organize patient charts and other documents. Typing skills are also important, and although not mandatory, bookkeeping skills are a definite advantage.

Good communication skills are also vital, even though not all office assistants are required to perform reception work. However, assistants often interact with patients, even if only to ask them a few simple questions before the beginning of their consultation. As many patients are nervous during their consultation, good communication skills are needed to ease a patient’s nerves.

Medical Software Programs

The role of a medical assistant includes working with software programs. Almost all healthcare offices use medical software programs for a variety of purposes. Software of this type may be used for billing, to track inventory, or to update patient records. Therefore, aspiring medical assistants must be comfortable working with such software.

Education Requirements

Medical office assistant training can be pursued at a traditional college or trade school, or one can choose to complete his or her studies online. Prospective students have the option of enrolling in associate degree programs or programs that award a certificate or diploma upon completion of the course. Some doctors will allow students to work in their offices while enrolled in a program, and others will even offer financial compensation for the individual’s education.


Although not a requirement with regards to employment, many individuals choose to pursue certification. The American Association of Medical Assistants- AAMA -is the organization that awards certification. One must simply contact the Association to schedule a time to take the certification exam, on which a passing grade must be obtained. Depending on the area of the country in which one resides, holding certification may result in better job opportunities. However, in order to qualify to take the certification exam, one must receive his or her education at a school that is accredited.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for medical office assistants is excellent. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings are expected to grow by 28% by 2016, which is faster than the job growth for many other professions. For this reason, those who pursue employment as a medical office assistant can look forward to job stability in a highly rewarding field.