Medical Assisting Programs in PA
National Medical Assistants Week was, as the Pennsylvania State Society website reminds us, a weeklong event, held this past year on October 18-22. Why the celebration? People in Pennsylvania are living longer, the health care industry is thriving, and medical assistants, who support doctors and patients alike, are a part of this picture. Medical assisting is a unique health care profession which encompasses both clinical and administrative tasks. MAs perform a variety of direct patient care duties. Taking vital signs is one of the most common responsibilities; appointment management is another frequent one. Medical assistants, though, may do everything from ‘finger pricks’ to billing and coding. While medical assistants generally have less medical training than vocational nurses, they have a broad-based education that can help them move into healthcare administration if they are ambitious and desire a job change.
In these difficult economic times, medical assistants have even more cause to celebrate. The Bureau of Labor has listed medical assisting among the most rapidly growing industries.
How to Become a Medical Assistant in Pennsylvania
How does a person become a medical assistant? Formal education can prove very helpful. The United States Department of Labor reports that 66% of medical assistants have at least some college.
People select medical assistant schools for a variety of reasons. Among the most important things to take into consideration are the reputation of the program and the accreditation. If you are going to invest a significant amount of money in education, you want to make sure that you will be allowed to take certifying exams through AAMA or AMT. CMA exam eligibility requires completion of a program that has been accredited by the CAAHEP or the ABHES. Beyond this, there are various factors to consider when choosing a medical assistant training program. Some programs offer online classes. Others offer different perks. The Career Training medical assistant program in New Kensington, for instance, provides subsidized on-site day care for qualifying families.
Medical Assistant Salary and Job Outlook in Pennsylvania
Doing your research can definitely make for a smoother transition from school to the workforce; different programs, even within the same school, may be suitable for different long-term goals. Sanford-Brown, for instance, reports both degree and nondegree options. Sanford-Brown is one of a number of schools where there is someone frequently on hand to chat with you; they will refer you to an admissions officer with any questions they can’t answer. It can be good to request materials from several schools.
And who will advise you after graduation, should you need it then? For career resources and continuing education, you can turn to the state and regional branches of the certifying agencies. Pennsylvania has an active state AAMA affiliate, the Pennsylvania Society of Medical Assistants. There are local chapters in Philadelphia, the tri-county area, and nine other counties. Pennsylvania also has a state chapter of AMT. As in other professions, networking brings opportunities.
Opportunities are not scarce in the Keystone State. Pennsylvania employs 24,610 medical assistants, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is expected to rise! In 2008, the figure was only 23,400. That year, the state information trends predicted 23% growth in Pennsylvania’s medical assisting industry over the ext decade, with fully 830 job openings a year. States with older populations generally employ more healthcare workers, and Pennsylvania is among the most silver states.
Average earnings for Pennsylvania medical assistants are, according to the BLS, $13.78 an hour or $28,670 a year. The Philadelphia area is well above the state average at $15.18 while Pittsburgh’s workers earn close to the state average: $13.21. The Harrisburg-Carlisle metropolitan area is at $14.04 and Reading $13.29. Pennsylvania’s lowest wages are in the nonmetropolitan areas in the western part of the state; these regions report about $11.00.
Medical Assistant Programs Offered in Your State
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