Discover the Differences in Duties, Responsibilities, Certifications, Salary, and Job Outlook
Medical Assistants (MAs) and Medical Office Assistants (MOAs) have a lot in common. Both MAs and MOAs work in the same type of medical facilities, such as physician offices, hospitals, outpatient centers, and offices of other health practitioners. Both jobs can involve performing the administrative tasks needed to keep a healthcare facility working smoothly. But whereas MA duties typically include direct patient care and assisting the doctors and nurses with patient care, MOAs focus exclusively on the administrative duties, such as coding and filling out insurance forms, billing, and bookkeeping.
If you’re thinking about finding a career in healthcare, now is a great time to start. The need for qualified healthcare workers has never been greater, and the number of available employment opportunities is very high. However, with so many career options available, you may be uncertain which role is best for you—given your goals, preferences, lifestyle, and strengths and weaknesses.
This article provides a head-to-head comparison of a Medical Assistant and a Medical Office Assistant. You will discover how each of these healthcare professionals has their own job responsibilities, educational requirements, job outlook, and earning potential.
If you’re interested in becoming an MA or MOA, we hope the information provided here will help you understand your options and find the most rewarding and satisfying healthcare career for your future.
Click here to read our comprehensive guide on how to become a Medical Assistant.
Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Definition
What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical Assistants play an important and expanding role in our healthcare system. MAs take on administrative duties such as maintaining patient records, bookkeeping, and billing and insurance processing. They also take on clinical responsibilities such as preparing patients for procedures, performing lab tests, administering medications, drawing blood samples, and other tasks under the supervision of a doctor or nurse. Without MAs, many essential examinations and procedures would not be possible, and doctors and nurses would have less time to treat patients.
What is a Medical Office Assistant?
Medical Office Assistants are detail-oriented individuals responsible for performing a wide variety of office duties that help assure the smooth operation of medical practices, clinics, and hospitals. Because MOAs interact with patients, doctors, and nurses, a combination of strong administrative and interpersonal skills is highly valued.
Doctors and patients alike put a great deal of trust in the accuracy of the medical and administrative records managed by Medical Office Assistants. In fact, patient experiences and improved clinical outcomes are reliant upon them.
Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Job Description
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical Assistants (MAs) can perform a variety of tasks critical to patient care and office administration. Thanks to MAs, doctors and nurses can dedicate more of their time to examining and treating their patients. Most medical assistants work in physician offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, and offices of chiropractors.
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a Medical Assistant include:
- Recording patient history and personal information
- Measuring patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
- Helping physicians with patient examinations
- Giving patients injections or medications as directed by physician or nurse
- Explaining treatment procedures to patients
- Answering telephones and scheduling patient appointments
- Filling out insurance forms and coding patient medical information
- Updating and filing patient medical records
- Handling correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping
What Does a Medical Office Assistant Do?
Medical Office Assistants are responsible for performing administrative duties in support of an efficiently operating medical practice. MOAs work behind the desk and, on occasion, in the treatment room with patients. They perform a wide array of administrative tasks, such as scheduling patient appointments, greeting patients as they arrive, and filing insurance claims. The information they handle contains private and sensitive patient information, so confidentiality and integrity are imperative for this position.
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a Medical Office Assistant include:
- Greeting patients and scheduling appointments
- Collecting patient information
- Handling and transcribing medical records
- Managing communications with doctors, patients, and third-party payers
- Managing financials
- Sharing test results with patients as directed by the physician or professional nurse
- Maintaining compliance with state and federal regulations
- Processing insurance claims
Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Education
Educational Requirements for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants (MAs) typically hold a diploma or associate degree in medical assisting. MA programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities. Diploma programs take about 9 to 12 months to complete, while associate’s degree programs usually take about two years to complete. After graduation, you may want to add another month or two to study for, schedule, and take a certification exam.
If you want the flexibility to qualify for more job options, then a medical assistant program would probably provide more value—because it teaches both clinical and administrative skills. Whereas a graduate of an MA program would qualify for entry-level employment as an MOA, a graduate of an MAO program would be less qualified for the clinical duties of an MA.
Although most medical assistants are not required to hold a state license or certification to practice in the field, most of today’s employers require or strongly prefer MAs with at least one certification. MAs who perform specific duties (such as phlebotomy or x-rays) or who work in specialized fields (such as podiatry or ophthalmology) may be required to have specific training and certification in their area of specialty. In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also ruled that only credentialed MAs are allowed to enter the laboratory, radiology, and medical orders into their computerized system.
Click here to read our guide on the best Medical Assistant certifications for your healthcare career.
Educational Requirements for Medical Office Assistants
Similar to MAs, Medical Office Assistants are often required to complete a state-approved education program. However, because MOAs are focused on administrative duties, they require less training than MAs, who also perform clinical tasks. MA programs typically lasts 9 to 12 months, whereas MOA programs usually last 4 to 12 months. These programs are available in community colleges and vocational schools. In addition, MOAs usually complete a brief period of on-the-job training to learn about their specific employer’s policies and procedures.
For a closer look at an MOA program, check out the Medical Administration (MOA) Program at Brookline College. This comprehensive 34-week program can be completed entirely online, full-time or part-time. Graduates of this program are prepared to certify in Medical Office Administration through the National Healthcareer Association as a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) and through the American Association of Professional Coders as a Certified Professional Coder (CPC).
Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Salary
How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary* earned by Medical Assistants in 2020 was around $37,000 or about $18 per hour. MAs who earned salaries in the top 10 percent made more than $50,500 per year.
Highest-Paying States for Medical Assistants
According to the BLS, these are the states where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for medical assistants:
|State||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|District of Columbia||$21.80||$45,340|
Highest-Paying Cities for Medical Assistants
According to the BLS, these are the cities where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for medical assistants:
|City||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|San Francisco, CA||$25.94||$53,960|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$25.25||$52,520|
|San Jose, CA||$23.57||$49,020|
|Santa Cruz, CA||$21.63||$44,980|
How Much Do Medical Office Assistants Make?
According to the BLS, the average salary* earned by Medical Office Assistants in 2020 was around $39,000 or about $19 per hour. MOAs who earned salaries in the top 10 percent made more than $54,600 per year.
Highest-Paying States for Medical Office Assistants
According to the BLS, these are the states where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for medical office assistants:
|State||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|District of Columbia||$22.65||$47,110|
Highest-Paying Cities for Medical Office Assistants
According to the BLS, these are the cities where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for medical office assistants:
|City||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|San Jose, CA||$26.55||$55,220|
|San Francisco, CA||$25.01||$52,020|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$22.95||$47,740|
Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Job Outlook
Medical Assistant Job Outlook
According to the BLS, the overall employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 18 percent through 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations (8%).
As the older portion of our population continues to grow, so will the demand for preventive medical services, which physicians often provide. In addition, healthcare facilities will hire more medical assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians and nurses to see more patients.
Medical Office Assistant Job Outlook
The BLS does not provide occupational growth projections for Medical Office Assistants specifically. However, the growth rate for medical records and health information specialists is projected to be strong at 9 percent through 2030, which is about the average for all occupations.
As the older portion of our population expands, so will the demand for preventive medical services, such as those provided by physicians. Healthcare facilities will hire more medical office assistants to perform routine administrative duties, allowing the physicians and nurses to see more patients.
Head-to-Head Comparison: Medical Office Assistant vs. Medical Assistant
|Comparison||Medical Office Assistant||Medical Assistant|
|Job Description||Performing day-to-day administrative duties for medical practice||Provides administrative services, basic patient care, and clinical support to doctors and nurses|
|Median Annual Wage||$39,000 in 2020||$37,000 in 2020|
|Employment Growth||9% thru 2030||18% thru 2030|
|Education (Recommended)||4–9 months training||9–12 months training|
Why Medical Assisting is a Great Career Alternative for Medical Office Assistants?
As an entry-level job, both Medical Assistant and Medical Office Assistant offer a relatively short training period (4 to 12 months). Both can help you decide if healthcare is the right career for you. If you want to keep your options open for higher-level jobs in healthcare—such as a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, or physical therapist—you might benefit from the more robust training that comes from an MA program. If you see yourself pursuing healthcare administration rather than clinical duties, you could probably complete an MOA program in less time than an MA program, though the clinical background that comes with an MA program is valued highly by MOA employers.
Why Choose Eagle Gate College for Your Medical Assistant Training?
Founded in 1979, Eagle Gate College has provided thousands of graduates with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a rewarding career in nursing and healthcare. With a curriculum continually updated to meet the needs of healthcare, well equipped labs, and hands-on training from experienced healthcare professionals, we prepare graduates to make a positive impact starting with their first day on the job. Our robust Medical Assisting program combines virtual instruction, hands-on lab exercises, and supervised externship and can be completed in as little as 9 months. In conjunction with Provo College, Eagle Gate College offers a premier healthcare education at five campus locations in Utah and Idaho.