The Medical Secretary Career Ladder

Medical secretary is an entry level position in the medical front office. A medical secretary can progress to administrative assistant and eventually to executive administrative assistant or medical office manager.

Some workers choose to specialize instead. In a small practice, a medical administrative assistant may do a bit of everything: make purchases and requisitions, handle billing, and even code. Ultimately, this experience can bring additional opportunities. Here’s a breakdown of some of the options.

Administrative Assistant or Executive Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants often have broader duties than secretaries. This is especially true of executive assistants. They not only transcribe dictation and handle in-house correspondences; they may also craft original writing. Some draft newsletters and even work on the corporate website. An administrative assistant may act as a representative or spokesperson for high level executives.

In a medical setting, administrative assistants communicate with insurance companies and payers and attach ICD-10 and CPT codes. They transcribe and edit. They also handle sensitive medical records. This requires knowledge of HIPAA and other regulations.
Medical administrative assistants may pursue professional certification as a demonstration of their skills. They may choose to pursue the Certified Medical Assistant credential, available through the National Healthcareer Association. They may also pursue the Medical Administrative Specialist certification from the American Medical Technologists. Learn more about medical administrative assistants.

Patient Representative/ Billing Specialist

A patient representative represents the patient when it comes to check-in procedures and basic financial matters. She may call for insurance pre-authorization and submit claims. An entry level patient representative position is not necessarily a higher rung on the career ladder than medical secretary is. However, there are multiple levels. Like medical administrative assistants, patient representatives may be classified by number, for example, Patient Representative III. Higher level patient representatives may be called on to investigate various problems, from payment delays to claims denials.

If you’re more interested in financial duties than traditional secretarial ones – and if you like interacting with patients – this can be your ticket in. Related positions include billing specialist, reimbursement coordinator, and billing manager.

Medical Coder or Health Information Professional

The coding that a medical administrative assistant does in a private or small practice is invaluable; it makes it easier to get a position as a coding specialist in a larger practice later. If your skills are high enough that you can pass AHIMA or AAPC coding examinations, you’re at an advantage. If you have a couple years of experience to list on your resume, you’re at an even greater advantage. Not all credentials are equal. The AHIMA Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) credential is valued more highly than the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) one. Learn more about medical billers and coders.

You have the option of enrolling in a certificate program to hone your skills. If you want to complete a degree, you might look into health information management. If you have some database experience, cancer registrar is another relatively short degree program that you might want to consider. Learn more about cancer registrars or health information specialists.

Intake Coordinator

Intake coordinators initiate care and “get the ball rolling” when a person may have complex needs and require multiple services. Positions advertised as “intake coordinator” vary greatly in actual duties. Some require a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree; others are open to candidates at the associate’s level or lower. An intake worker might, for example, document work-related injuries, assign the injured person a case worker, and perform a few basic duties before turning case management over to a social worker or other professional. Such a position would require knowledge of medical terminology, strong communication ability, a professional demeanor, and clerical skills — all things that a savvy medical administrator is apt to have.