California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Medical Assistants in California

May also be called: Certified Medical Assistants (CMA); Medical Office Assistants; Optometric Assistants; Clinical Assistants; Registered Medical Assistants; Certified Ophthalmic Technicians; Chiropractor Assistants; and Ophthalmic Assistants.

What Would I Do?

Medical Assistants greet patients in medical offices or other medical settings where they help doctors with examinations and treatments. They run routine lab tests such as urinalysis and blood counts. They may take blood pressure readings and take temperatures. They may give injections or perform ‘finger sticks’ to draw small amounts of blood if they are properly trained. Assistants may instruct patients about medication and self-treatment. They prepare treatment rooms for patient examinations and sterilize and arrange instruments and equipment used in treatment and diagnosis. They check office and lab supplies and keep the waiting, consulting, and examination rooms neat and orderly.

Medical Assistants deal with patients from many cultures. To obtain information for the doctor, Medical Assistants need the ability to put patients at ease and get them to talk freely. This is especially important with patients who are reluctant to discuss their reason for seeing the doctor and those with limited English-speaking skills.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Interview patients to obtain medical information and measure their vital signs, weight, and height.Active Listening
Show patients to examination rooms and prepare them for the physician.Customer and Personal Service
Record patients' medical history, vital statistics and information such as test results in medical records.Writing
Prepare and administer medications as directed by a physician.Medicine and Dentistry
Collect blood, tissue or other laboratory specimens, log the specimens, and prepare them for testing.Problem Sensitivity
Explain treatment procedures, medications, diets and physicians' instructions to patients.Oral Expression
Help physicians examine and treat patients, handing them instruments and materials or performing such tasks as giving injections or removing sutures.Service Orientation
Authorize drug refills and provide prescription information to pharmacies.Clerical
Prepare treatment rooms for patient examinations, keeping the rooms neat and clean.Information Ordering
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Medical Assistants usually work in pleasant, well-lit, air-conditioned offices. They lift, stand, stoop, and walk to do their work. They constantly interact with other people and may have to handle several responsibilities at once. Uniforms are usually required and may be supplied by employers. Most full-time Medical Assistants work a regular 40-hour week. Some work part-time, evenings, or weekends. Many employers hire part-time Assistants.

Medical Assistants working for hospitals and nursing homes sometimes join the Health Care Workers division of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Will This Job Fit Me?

Medical Assistants frequently show social, conventional, and realistic traits. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communication with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Medical Assistants in California is $34,518 annually, or $16.60 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$28,043$34,518$42,543
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits normally include paid vacation, holiday, and sick leave. Many Assistants also enjoy employer-paid health and dental insurance, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Medical Assistants are one of the fastest growing occupations in California. Employment growth is expected because of the increase in the number of group practices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities that need greater numbers of support personnel, particularly the flexible Medical Assistant who can handle both administrative and clinical duties. Because many health care employers prefer a trained staff, job prospects should be best for Medical Assistants with formal training or experience.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Medical Assistants is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Medical Assistants are expected to increase by 23.2 percent, or 18,900 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Medical Assistants
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
81,600100,50018,90023.215,600
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 1,890 new job openings per year is expected for Medical Assistants, plus an additional 1,560 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 3,450 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Medical Assistants
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
1,8901,5603,450
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

A formal training program lasting one or two years is now the most common entry into the occupation. Many employers will hire an applicant directly from such a program. Experienced Medical Assistants have an advantage when seeking employment, but most employers do not require it.

Some employers will hire applicants with no experience or training, and train them on the job. This is less common than in previous years.

Experience

Experience is helpful, but not required, in order to find a job in this field. Many employers will hire an applicant directly from such a training program. Experienced Medical Assistants have an advantage when seeking employment, but inexperienced workers should still be able to find a job.

Early Career Planning

Science and math are two classes that might help prepare the high school student for a training program.

Certification

Medical Assistants are not licensed, certified, or registered by the State of California. However, the Medical Assistant's employer and/or supervising physician's or podiatrist's malpractice insurance carrier may require that the Medical Assistant be certified by a national or private association. A Medical Assistant must be certified by an approved certifying organization in order to train other Medical Assistants. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Most Medical Assistants work in doctors offices. Others work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, schools, and other health care practitioners offices, including chiropractors, optometrists, and podiatrists. The largest industries employing Medical Assistants are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Offices of Physicians 63.1%
Outpatient Care Centers 11.3%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 11.3%
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 7.3%
Employment Services 1.4%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct contact with employers is a traditional means to finding a job as a Medical Assistant. College placement offices, company recruiting events, job fairs, and online job search sites are also good places to look. Career associations sometimes offer job openings on their Web sites.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Medical Assistants.

  • Physicians & Surgeons
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing Homes
  • Health Clinics
  • Optometrists
  • Chiropractic Doctors
  • Podiatrists

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

With additional training a Medical Assistant can become a licensed vocational nurse or registered nurse.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Medical Assistants with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Dental AssistantsGuide
Medical Records and Health Information TechniciansGuide
Medical SecretariesGuide
Occupational Therapy AidesProfile
Occupational Therapy AssistantsProfile
Pharmacy AidesGuide
Physical Therapist AidesGuide
Physical Therapist AssistantsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification31-9092
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Medical Assistants31-9092.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SCR
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Medical Insurance Coding Specialist/Coder 510713
   Medical Administrative/Executive Assistant & Medical Secreta510716
   Medical/Clinical Assistant 510801
   Optomeric Technician/Assistant 511802
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Medical Office Technology051420
   Medical Assisting120800
   Clinical Medical Assisting120810
   Administrative Medical Assisting120820
   Optical Technology121900
   Health Information Coding122310