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Becoming a Medical Office Assistant

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: June 24, 2019

When someone says they are considering going into the health and medical field, it’s assumed they want to be a doctor or a nurse, but there is a wide range of meaningful, helpful positions in the medical field that are in demand. For instance, medical office assistants.

What Kind of Training does a Medical Office Assistant Need?

Mandatory medical office assistant training can be hard to define because not every medical office requires it. Some offices will focus on the soft (but essential) skills like customer service, organization, cheerful manner and familiarity with office equipment. Other offices will require these same soft skills but will want formal medical office assistant training as well. Whether the job you are applying for requires you to have taken a medical office assistant program or not, successfully graduating from one will ensure you have the edge over other candidates when applying for the same positions.

Medical office assistant programs vary from school to school, so it’s essential to take a look at the program outlines and talk to a school counsellor to know if the program you are considering will fit your needs. Look for a school that either provides or has a prerequisite of CPR and first aid training as well as the following things:

Anatomy and Physiology – while you aren’t training to be a doctor or a nurse, it is important to understand the basics of body systems, organs and functions as well as learning pathology. This will allow you to understand requests and information within your office environment better.

Medical Terminology – similar to the anatomy and physiology, knowing medical terminology helps you understand the spelling, meaning and pronunciation of the various terms used in the medical community.

Business and Medical Communications – having this training allows you to confidently handle the day-to-day operations of a medical office. You will gain the necessary knowledge with specific medical office software, transcription products, creation of documents (letters, memos, reports), medical keyboarding skills, scheduling software and other tools.

Record-keeping and Filing Systems Including Billing – to help you understand the importance of accurate record keeping, precise filing, and the ethics involved in these areas. You will also learn about the procedures related to various types of medical billing.

Not every medical office assistant training program includes these elements, but you’ll want to find a program that comes close or covers all the basics as they are the foundation for a successful career.

Where do Medical Office Assistants Work?

Medical office assistants are prepared to work in many different environments, so you can choose the right fit for yourself when applying for jobs. Medical office assistants work in traditional family doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, surgical centres, hospitals, specialists’ offices, alternative health care facilities (i.e., naturopaths, acupuncturists), rehabilitation centres, nursing homes, outpatient care facilities, hospice facilities and more.

How Much Does a Medical Office Assistant Make?

It’s always hard to gauge what certain jobs pay when there are several factors that contribute to salaries. Medical office assistants fall into a wide pay scale range that depends upon the office they work in, the level of education they have, their experience, location and other factors. The key point is that those with medical office assistant training will earn more than those who don’t – regardless of the job requirements posted by an employer.

When looking at Canadian job posting sites like for medical office assistants in the country, the average salary is a little more than $17 an hour, going up to $22 an hour approximately.

What do Medical Office Assistants do?

As mentioned above, medical office assistants ensure the office they work for runs smoothly and efficiently. They manage the inflow and outflow of patients, schedules of doctors and others in the office, serve as a gatekeeper for information and provide a link between the office and other necessary organizations like insurance facilities, specialists and patient care facilities.

Job postings for medical office assistant positions can reveal a lot about the occupations available in the market. Search some of the standard job sites to see the types of vacancies that are listed, which ones would you qualify and would like to apply for once you complete your medical office assistant program.

Some duties may include patient and colleague relations, clinic scheduling, report compilation, general office management, answering phones, greeting patients, setting up exam rooms, ordering supplies, typing medical and legal reports, booking patients, and so on.

Additionally, some of the soft skills include being confident, pleasant, professional, having the ability to multi-task, punctuality, ability to prioritize tasks, to follow detailed instructions, etc.

Note that more often than not, job postings request graduated from an accredited medical office assistant program. Some also require related experience in a similar capacity, which a practicum would assist with, possibly even providing full-time/part-time employment after graduation in some cases.

Take your time to review the information available online to determine if a career as a medical office assistant is right for you.


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