California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Medical Secretaries in San Diego County

May also be called: Dental Secretaries; Medical Administrative Specialists; Medical Office Receptionists; Medical Office Secretaries; Medical Receptionists

What Would I Do?

Medical Secretaries provide administrative or clerical support to physicians or other health professionals. They schedule appointments and make sure the office runs smoothly. A good understanding of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is important because Medical Secretaries may assist physicians or medical scientists with reports, speeches, articles, and conference proceedings. Medical Secretaries' work involves knowledge and use of medical terminology and hospital or laboratory procedures. The job duties of a Medical Secretary vary depending on the size of the office. In smaller offices, Medical Secretaries may greet patients, schedule appointments, keep records, answer phone calls, and order supplies. In larger establishments, Medical Secretaries could work in the medical records department or as a personal secretary to the department head. Additionally, Medical Secretaries may handle correspondence, bill patients, complete insurance forms, and transcribe dictation. They may keep financial records and handle credits, collections, and other bookkeeping duties. They also record simple medical histories and arrange for patients to be hospitalized.

Tools and Technology
Medical Secretaries may use a variety of computer software, such as medical, accounting, and scheduling programs. They may also operate multi-line telephone systems, credit card machines, scanners, and fax machines.


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
Greet visitors, ascertain purpose of visit, and direct them to appropriate staff.Customer and Personal Service
Interview patients to complete documents, case histories, and forms such as intake and insurance forms.Medicine and Dentistry
Operate office equipment such as voice mail messaging systems, and use word processing, spreadsheet, and other software applications to prepare reports, invoices, financial statements, letters, case histories and medical records.Computers and Electronics
Compile and record medical charts, reports, and correspondence, using typewriter or personal computer.Reading Comprehension
Prepare correspondence and assist physicians or medical scientists with preparation of reports, speeches, articles and conference proceedings.Writing
Schedule and confirm patient diagnostic appointments, surgeries and medical consultations.Time Management
Transcribe recorded messages and practitioners' diagnoses and recommendations into patients' medical records.Oral Comprehension
Maintain medical records, technical library and correspondence files.Information Ordering
Perform various clerical and administrative functions, such as ordering and maintaining an inventory of supplies.Clerical
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Medical Secretaries work in hospitals, insurance companies, doctors' offices, local or State health departments, clinics, medical research offices, and other medical facilities. They communicate with patients, doctors, or medical insurance companies by phone or in person. Medical Secretaries usually work 40 hours a week. If they work in a physician's office, they may work evenings and weekends. Medical Secretaries may sit for long periods using the computer to schedule appointments, process medical insurance claims, and write correspondence for physicians. To avoid eyestrain, stress, and repetitive motion ailments, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, Medical Secretaries must make sure their monitor is at eye level and their chair and desk are at the appropriate height.

Medical Secretaries working in University of California hospitals may join the America Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299. Medical Secretaries who work in other hospitals sometimes join the Health Care Workers division of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Medical Secretary will appeal to those who enjoy activities that are organized, clearly defined, and require accuracy and attention to detail. This type of work frequently involves discretion and good judgment while following set procedures and working independently. The ability to use medical terminology and write correspondence is desired. Individuals considering this occupation should enjoy dealing with people in person and on the phone.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Salaries vary a great deal, often reflecting differences in skill, experience, and level of responsibility. Certification in this field may be rewarded by a higher salary.

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Medical Secretaries in California is $38,150 annually, or $18.34 hourly. The median wage for Medical Secretaries in San Diego County is $37,629 annually, or $18.09 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$30,312$38,150$48,363
San Diego County$31,304$37,629$46,020
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Employers may provide health and life insurance, sick leave, vacation, and retirement plans.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 28 employers in San Diego County, almost all provide medical insurance, and most provide vacation and sick leave benefits to Medical Secretaries who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance86%0%
Vacation79%7%
Sick Leave64%4%
Dental Insurance57%0%
Retirement Plan46%4%
Life Insurance46%0%
Paid Time Off Bank43%0%
Vision Insurance29%0%
Disability Insurance21%0%
No benefits4%21%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 24 employers surveyed who responded in San Diego County, who provides medical benefits, almost all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and none reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Medical Secretaries.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
All46%0%
Half or more46%0%
Less than Half8%0%
None0%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

As a result of the growth in the health care industry, Medical Secretaries can expect a positive job market. A sizeable number of openings will occur as workers leave the occupation to retire, change careers, or for other reasons. Opportunities should be very good for those with knowledge of medical terminology and computer skills.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Medical Secretaries is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Medical Secretaries are expected to increase by 29.1 percent, or 19,900 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Medical Secretaries is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Medical Secretaries are expected to increase by 25.6 percent, or 1,560 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Medical Secretaries
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
68,50088,40019,90029.18,300
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
6,1007,6601,56025.6730
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 1,990 new job openings per year is expected for Medical Secretaries, plus an additional 830 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 2,810 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 156 new job openings per year is expected for Medical Secretaries, plus an additional 73 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 229 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Medical Secretaries
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
1,9908302,810
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
15673229
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most employers require Medical Secretaries to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some employers will train workers with good office skills to become a Medical Secretary. However, most employers prefer candidates with knowledge of medical office procedure and medical terminology. Community colleges, vocational programs, and business schools offer associate degrees or certificates for Medical Secretaries.

Experience

The experience required for Medical Secretaries differs for each employer. However, prior health care employment, knowledge of medical terminology, medical office procedures, or knowledge of health care operations will give job seekers an advantage.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this field may obtain valuable office skills and medical terminology experience by working part time or volunteering in a medical facility. California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for Medical Secretaries. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

While continuing education is currently not a requirement, some Medical Secretaries increase their chance of promotion by keeping up to date with the latest developments in medical terminology and software applications. Those who are certified by the International Association of Administrative Professionals must obtain 60 points every five years which includes continuing education among other activities.

Certification

There are no certification requirements for a Medical Secretary. However, for purposes of career advancement, and higher salaries, Medical Secretaries may obtain the Certified Professional Secretary and Certified Administrative Professional rating from the International Association of Administrative Professionals. Applicants must meet the required education and experience level, pass an exam, and pay the fee for a five-year certificate. 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:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Executive Assistant, Medical Administrative, and Medical Secretary.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

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?

The largest industries employing Medical Secretaries are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Offices of Physicians 33.8%
Offices of Dentists 22.3%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 18.6%
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 11.1%
Outpatient Care Centers 4.8%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 28 employers in San Diego County which employ 238 Medical Secretaries. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: All of these firms employ full-time and some employ part-time Medical Secretaries.

About Work Experience:  Of the 28 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all require new hires to have prior work experience as Medical Secretaries. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 0%
25 to 60 months 8%
13 to 24 months 48%
1 to 12 months 44%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 28 employers surveyed in San Diego County, many indicate it is easy to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while many indicate it is easy to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Medical Secretaries.

About Hiring:  Of the 28 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all expect the number of Medical Secretaries they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 0%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 96%
Expect Employment to Decline 4%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 28 employers surveyed in San Diego County, 57 percent hired Medical Secretaries during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 88 percent filled existing vacancies, 13 percent filled newly created positions, and 38 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Medical Secretaries can also register with their school placement center for job opportunities. Classified ads, journals, and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Those interested in working on a temporary basis may also contact temporary agencies.  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 Secretaries.

  • Dental Offices
  • Hospitals
  • Medical Facilities
  • Physician Offices

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?

Medical Secretaries who work in clinics or hospitals can advance to administrative positions, such as senior Secretary, clerical supervisor, office manager, medical records clerk, administrative assistant, or unit manager.

Related Occupations

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

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Billing and Posting ClerksProfile
Correspondence ClerksProfile
Credit Authorizers, Checkers, and ClerksProfile
File ClerksProfile
Insurance Claims and Policy Processing ClerksProfile
Legal SecretariesGuide
Procurement ClerksProfile

Other Sources

  • Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals
         www.theaeap.com
  • International Association of Administrative Professionals
         www.iaap-hq.org

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 Classification43-6013
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Medical Secretaries43-6013.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)CSE
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Medical Administrative/Executive Assistant & Medical Secreta510716
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Medical Office Technology051420