Discover Some of the Best Alternative Careers for Medical Assistants
Medical assisting has quickly become one of the hottest careers in the medical field. In as little as 10 months, you can earn a medical assistant (MA) diploma and begin working in the healthcare industry. Medical assistants fill a critical role on the healthcare team, and there aren’t enough of them to meet the growing demand. With the overall employment of medical assistants being projected to grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029 (BLS), MAs can likely find a job in most cities across the US.
Note: In case you were curious, we assembled a list of the 50 best paying cities for medical assistants in 2021.
What Can a Medical Assistant Do?
With a medical assistant diploma, you gain the knowledge and skills to assist physicians, conduct lab work, suture wounds, take vital signs, and interpret results. As a medical assistant, you are responsible for completing administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. This includes taking and recording patients’ personal information, and keeping that information confidential. Your duties as an MA will vary depending on location, specialty, and the size of the practice.
What Other Jobs Can Medical Assistants Do?
Beyond traditional medical assisting jobs, however, there are a variety of career options available to you once you’ve earned your diploma and passed the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam. Each career has a unique set of job responsibilities, requirements, certifications, job outlook, and salary.
It’s important to understand each of these medical assistant job opportunities when planning for your future. To make the selection process easier, we developed a career guide that lays out seven of the most popular alternative career options for medical assistants.
Whether you’re considering medical assisting training or if you’re already a certified MA, this article will give you the information you need to guide your MA career on the right path.
1. Medical Office Assistant
What Does a Medical Office Assistant Do?
Medical office assistants (MOAs) are medical support professionals that work to ensure that the office within a medical practice, clinic, or other healthcare setting is well-run and efficient. MOAs work behind the desk at these offices and are responsible for regular office duties such as medical billing, accounting, scheduling, and filing insurance claims. The duties performed by a medical office assistant vary depending on the size and specialization of the medical office where they work.
Where Do Medical Office Assistants Work?
Medical Office Assistants perform their valuable services in various healthcare settings, including private practices, hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes, outpatient care facilities, and hospice facilities.
Medical Office Assistant Education & Certification Requirements:
You can receive medical office assistant training by earning your medical assisting (MA) diploma. Upon earning your MA diploma, you’ll be eligible to work as a Medical Office Assistant.
Why is a Medical Office Assistant a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
Becoming a Medical Office Assistant is a seamless transition for any Medical Assistants looking to further their healthcare career and build lasting relationships. Medical Office Assistants meet new people on a daily basis while providing compassionate care and service to patients and families. Not only are they in high demand, but they are called on to fulfill vital tasks in a wide variety of healthcare settings, leading to a high level of job satisfaction.
Medical Office Assistant Salaries
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for a Medical Office Assistant is about $18, with an annual average salary of about $38,000. However, Medical Office Assistants in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $26 an hour with an annual salary of $53,000.
Medical Office Assistant Job Outlook
Although the BLS does not report any specific data regarding the job outlook of MOAs, they do report that overall employment of Medical Assistants is expected to grow around 19% by 2029, putting them several points above other healthcare professionals (14%) and well above the overall national job outlook (4%).
2. EKG Technician
What Does an EKG Technician Do?
Electrocardiograph (EKG) technicians (sometimes referred to as Cardiovascular Technicians) help doctors identify and treat cardiovascular conditions in patients by performing diagnostic tests using specialized equipment such as electrocardiograms, stress testing, and telemetry monitoring tests. By performing these tests, EKG Technicians help prevent heart attacks or other cardiovascular diseases for their patients.
Where Do EKG Technicians Work?
EKG Technicians work in various healthcare facilities, including hospitals, cardiologists’ offices, GP offices, and in-patient and outpatient facilities.
EKG Technician Education & Certification Requirements:
EKG Technicians receive most of their training from their employers. However, some employers prefer that you have experience and training in healthcare. This gives certified medical assistants a unique competitive advantage in this field. EKG training usually takes about four to six weeks to complete, and technicians are encouraged to earn professional certification through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).
Why is EKG Technician a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
For Medical Assistants looking to further their healthcare careers, becoming an EKG Technician is a great option, offering full or part-time employment. While EKG Technician certification is not always a requirement, the process of getting certified is quick and free of student debt. With a growing job market and opportunity for advancement, being an EKG Technician is a great career path for Medical Assistants.
EKG Technician Salaries
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for a EKG Technician is about $29, with an annual average salary of about $60,000. However, EKG Technicians in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $46 an hour with an annual salary of $95,000.
EKG Technician Job Outlook
The essential nature of their work and an unending need for what they do help to create a bright job outlook for EKG Technicians. The BLS reports that the overall employment of EKG Technicians is expected to grow around 5% by 2029, putting them above the overall national job outlook (4%).
3. Phlebotomy Technician
What Does a Phlebotomy Technician Do?
Phlebotomy technicians are responsible for properly drawing blood samples from patients or blood donors. They are also responsible for preparing blood samples for medical testing. These blood specimens are examined in laboratories to help diagnose health conditions and illnesses. Phlebotomy technicians are also responsible for explaining procedures to patients, updating patient records, and prepping laboratory equipment.
Where Do Phlebotomy Technicians Work?
Phlebotomy Technicians work primarily in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and medical and diagnostic labs. Some Phlebotomy Technicians will also occasionally travel to patients’ homes, long-term care centers, and any other healthcare setting where blood is drawn.
Phlebotomy Technician Education & Certification Requirements:
You’ll learn basic phlebotomy as a part of your medical assistant training; however, some employers require additional certification for these jobs. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offers a Phlebotomy Technician Certification (CPT) exam. This credential can help set you apart from other phlebotomy technician applicants.
Why is Phlebotomy Technician a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
With short training programs and exposure to various other healthcare roles, becoming a Phlebotomy Technician is an excellent option for Medical Assistants. Plus, certified Medical Assistants have already received basic phlebotomy through their MA diploma program.
Phlebotomy Technician Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for a Phlebotomy Technician is about $18, with an annual average salary of about $36,000. However, Phlebotomy Technicians in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $24 an hour with an annual salary of $49,000.
Phlebotomy Technician Job Outlook
The importance of their work and an unending need for what they do help to create a bright job outlook for Phlebotomy Technicians. The BLS reports that the overall employment of phlebotomists is expected to grow around 17% by 2029, putting them several points above other healthcare professionals (14%) and well above the overall national job outlook (4%).
4. Health Unit Clerk
What Does a Health Unit Clerk Do?
Hospital unit clerks, also known as ward clerks, are responsible for providing administrative and clerical support to a clinical unit. Unit clerks can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, surgical wards, and intensive care units. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that all medical records, laboratory reports, and patient records are filed and correctly stored. Unit clerks work directly with the medical and nursing staff to provide the safest, most optimal patient care possible. Some other job responsibilities held by a unit/ward clerk include answering phone calls, distributing mail, and preparing supplies for their unit.
Where Do Health Unit Clerks Work?
Most health unit clerks work in an office setting. Some health unit clerks may work out of their own homes as virtual assistants.
Why is a Becoming Health Unit Clerk a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
A medical assistant program will provide you the necessary skills and medical knowledge to work as a health unit clerk. Beyond that, certifying credentials through the National Association of Health Unit Coordinators (NAHUC) can further validate your background knowledge and eligibility for a unit clerk position when applying for jobs.
Health Unit Clerk Education & Certification Requirements:
Although there are no specific education and certification requirements to become a unit clerk, employers do require that you have a working knowledge of the medical field.
Health Unit Clerk Salary
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for an office clerk is about $18, with an annual average salary of about $37,000. However, office clerks in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $27 an hour with an annual salary of $57,000.
Health Unit Clerk Job Outlook
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide specific job outlook information for hospital unit clerks, it does provide employment projections for medical secretaries, who share many of the same responsibilities as health unit clerks. The BLS reports that employment of medical secretaries is projected to increase 10 percent from 2019 to 2029.
5. Medical Claims Examiner
What Does a Medical Claims Examiner Do?
Medical claims examiners work with medical insurance customers to determine coverage and act as the insurer of the insurance companies. Medical claims examiners review insurance claims while ensuring that all customer information is accurate and that all requirements are fulfilled before approving a claim. Depending on the result of the examination, they may also be responsible for payment or further investigation into an insurance claim.
Where Do Medical Claims Examiners Work?
Medical Claims Examiners usually work for healthcare insurance companies within insurance company office environments, while others may work within hospital office environments.
Medical Claims Examiner Education & Certification Requirements:
There are no standard educational or certification requirements for medical claims examiners; however, most employers require a high school diploma. Many employers also prefer candidates with diplomas or degrees related to the medical field. The deep understanding of the medical field you would gain through earning your medical assisting diploma would be highly regarded when applying for this type of job.
Why is a Medical Claims Examiner a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
For detail-oriented people with strong administrative skills and knowledge of medical terminology, Medical Assistants looking to change careers can find a great deal of satisfaction as a Medical Claims Examiner. Many employers also prefer candidates with diplomas or degrees related to the medical field. Insurance examiners play a large role in helping people get back on their feet, leading to a great deal of job satisfaction.
Medical Claims Examiner Salaries
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for a Medical Claims Examiner is about $33, with an annual average salary of about $69,000. However, Medical Claims Examiner in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $48 an hour with an annual salary of $100,000.
Medical Claims Examiner Job Outlook
Although their work is vital to the healthcare industry, the job outlook for Medical Claims Examiners is not as promising as other professions, especially within healthcare. Technology has enabled hospitals and insurance agencies to reduce the need for human involvement. The BLS reports that the overall employment of claim adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators is expected to decline by around 6% by 2029.
6. Surgical Technician
What Does a Surgical Technologist Do?
Surgical Technologists (also known as surgical technicians) help prepare operating rooms and patients for surgical procedures. They also sterilize instruments, arrange equipment and even assist in surgical operations, including holding retractors for the surgeons. Surgical Technologists are often called on to dress wounds after operations and accompany patients to the recovery room.
Where Do Surgical Technologists Work?
Surgical Technologists work in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including physicians’ offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, and even dentists’ offices.
Surgical Technologist Education and Training
To work as a Surgical Technologist, you’ll need to earn certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). In order to sit for their certification exam, you’ll need to complete a surgical technology program from an accredited school.
Why is a Surgical Technologist a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
Becoming a Surgical Technologist can be an excellent choice for Medical Assistants interested in continuing their healthcare careers in a higher-pressure environment and with the added responsibilities and intensity of surgical settings. The job market for Surgical Technologists is good, they get to work with the latest technologies, and there is rarely a routine day. They play an important role on an important team, and they help to save lives every day.
Surgical Technologist Salaries
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for Surgical Technologists is about $24, with an annual average salary of about $50,000. However, Surgical Technologists in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $34 an hour with an annual salary of $71,000.
Surgical Technologist Job Outlook
The essential nature and skill of their work help to create a bright job outlook for Surgical Technologists. The BLS reports that the overall employment of Surgical Technologists is expected to grow by around 7% by 2029, putting them several points below other healthcare professionals (14%) but above the overall national job outlook (4%).
7. Public Health Inspector
What Does a Public Health Inspector Do?
Public health inspectors are members of government health departments that monitor business and public facilities to enforce local and state health regulations. These regulations and laws pertain to the sanitation of hotels, food service establishments, swimming facilities, housing, and healthcare facilities. Public health inspectors play a crucial role in protecting the public from illnesses and other potential health hazards.
Where Do Public Health Inspectors Work?
Public health inspectors work in a variety of settings, such as offices or factories. Their jobs often involve considerable fieldwork and travel. They may be exposed to strenuous, dangerous, or stressful conditions. They use gloves, helmets, respirators, and other personal protective and safety equipment to minimize the risk of illness and injury.
Public Health Inspector Education & Certification Requirements:
Public health inspectors are required to earn an associates degree in natural sciences or health. Although certification is not required, it may be preferred by some employers.
Why is a Public Health inspector a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
With medical assistant training, much of the information and coursework you complete is transferrable to an associates degree in health, putting you a step ahead of other prospective health inspectors.
Public Health Inspector Salaries
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for public health inspectors is about $37, with an annual average salary of about $78,000. However, public health inspectors in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $54 an hour with an annual salary of $112,000.
Public Health Inspector Job Outlook:
Although the BLS does not report any specific data regarding the job outlook of public health inspectors, they report on the job outlook of occupational health and safety specialists, a closely related field. The BLS reports that the overall employment of occupational health and safety specialists is projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029. Public health inspectors will be needed in a variety of industries and government agencies to ensure that institutions are adhering to both existing and new regulations.
8. Nursing Assistant
What Does a Nursing Assistant Do?
Nursing Assistants help patients of all ages perform basic daily tasks. Due to their extensive daily contact with patients, they play a vital role in their lives.
Some of a Nursing Assistant’s daily tasks include helping patients with feeding, bathing, dressing, making beds, assisting in bathroom needs, taking vital signs, aiding in exercises, and numerous other daily patient necessities.
Where Do Nursing Assistant Work?
Nursing Assistants work in nursing homes, home care, assisted living facilities, hospice facilities, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and even correctional institutions.
Nursing Assistant Education and Training
Becoming a Nursing Assistant does not require a college degree. However, a high school diploma or equivalent is required, and special training results in a post-secondary, non-degree certificate or diploma. Because credentials are issued by each state, prospects must enroll in state-sanctioned training programs and pass a state certification exam. Most of the training you’ll receive in an MA program can be applied to a Nursing Assistant career.
Why is a Nursing Assistant a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
Becoming a Nursing Assistant provides a wide variety of benefits, including the most popular among healthcare professionals—the opportunity to make a difference. For those interested in taking their careers even further, there are great networking connections, and the experience makes it easier to gain acceptance into advanced nursing programs.
Nursing Assistant Salaries
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for Nursing Assistants is about $15, with an annual average salary of about $31,000. However, Nursing Assistants in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $20 an hour with an annual salary of $41,000.
Nursing Assistant Job Outlook
The vital nature and skill of their work help to create a bright job outlook for nursing assistants. The BLS reports that overall employment for Nursing Assistants is expected to grow by around 8% by 2029, putting them several points below other healthcare professionals (14%) but well above the overall national job outlook (4%).
9. Home Health Aide
What Does a Home Health Aide Do?
Home Health Aides provide loving care for patients, helping to promote healing and overall well-being. They care for patients suffering from chronic illnesses and disabilities and the elderly, and those who need continuous care while living at home. Their job is a matter of building trust with the patient and their families as they serve as the eyes and ears of doctors and nurses. The close relationship they share with patients, in their most personal environments, often makes them the first to notice changes in patients’ conditions.
Where Do Home Health Aide Work?
Home Health Aides work in patients’ homes, though they are employed by staffing agencies, hospice facilities, and home health agencies.
Home Health Aide Education and Training
Although there are no formal educational requirements to become a Home Health Aide, a high school diploma or equivalent is standard. Most Nursing Assistants receive on-the-job training after obtaining employment, although certification is required by many employers, entailing 75 hours of training and demonstration of various basic skills.
Why is a Becoming Home Health Aide a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?
Becoming a Home Health Aide is meaningful work with the real, everyday opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives. They work on flexible schedules providing comfort and companionship to those who need it most. They allow patients the comfort of staying in their own homes instead of care facilities while maintaining the potential for on-going personal growth and professional development. Certified Medical Assistants can apply their training directly to the Home Health Aide role, making it a great alternative career path for MAs. The demand for Home Health Aides is high, and the vast majority find it to be a gratifying career.
Home Health Aide Salaries
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for a Home Health Aide is about $13, with an annual average salary of about $26,000. However, Home Health Aide in the top 90th percentile can earn as much as $16 an hour with an annual salary of $34,000.
Home Health Aide Job Outlook
Due to the growing and aging population, along with the expanding desire of patients to remain in the comfort of their own homes, the job outlook for Home Health Aides is outstanding. The BLS reports that overall employment for Nursing Assistants is expected to grow by around 34% by 2029, putting them well above other healthcare professionals (14%) and even further above the overall national job outlook (4%).
Alternative Jobs for Medical Assistants
By earning your medical assistant diploma, you open up a wide array of job opportunities. For some jobs, such as medical office assistants or ward clerks, your education and training will set you up to easily transition to those roles without any additional requirements. For other careers, such as public health inspectors and surgical technologists, your medical assisting diploma can serve as the foundation for the specialized training and examinations those jobs require. Overall, earning your MA diploma will serve you very well if any of these career paths pique your interest.
If you’re ready to take the next step, you can start by earning your MA diploma in as little as 10 months at Eagle Gate College.
Click here to learn more about our Medical Assisting program.