Medical Assistant Job Description: What Can I Expect?

Are you interested in becoming a Medical Assistant but not sure what the job description entails? Virtually all workers in the healthcare industry assist with medical issues, so what makes a medical assistant different? The term “medical assistant” was coined in the late 1950s to describe a general assistant who could help doctors with both clinical and administrative tasks. Today, the job description remains the same, but it’s better defined.

What Can I Expect as a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants are support specialists tasked with keeping healthcare offices running smoothly. Formally recognized as a profession in 1955, they have a distinct scope of practice.

As allied health professionals, they’re trained to handle most clinical and administrative duties in doctor’s offices, urgent care, lab & hospital environments. Job descriptions vary somewhat based on where they’re employed, but their core responsibilities are similar.

As a medical assistant, here’s what you can expect to do.


Medical assistants may team up with office assistants to manage scheduling. In private practices, the front office handles routine appointments while medical assistants triage urgent calls, prioritizing care for those most in need. In a hospital, medical assistants may use their logistics skills to oversee the schedule in a day surgery unit.


Busy doctors rely on medical assistants to manage patient-provider communication. Serving as liaisons, medical assistants engage with patients on behalf of providers. While giving medical advice is beyond their scope of practice, they can answer general questions and reinforce physician recommendations. With experience, medical assistants become knowledgeable clinical resources.

Rooming Patients

Medical assistants guide patients to exam rooms, update their medical records and take their vital signs before the provider arrives. By setting the stage for an efficient visit, they save clinicians’ time.

Collecting Biological Samples

A quick diagnosis often hinges on the testing of biological samples. If tests are ordered, medical assistants work with patients to obtain the necessary urine, stool, or sputum samples. They may also perform strep tests and obtain wound cultures.

Diagnostic Testing

Medical assistants perform electrocardiograms and other diagnostic tests from urinalysis to pacemaker checks, saving patients a separate visit to the hospital while getting results faster.


Medical assistants draw and process blood samples for testing or shipment. A sought-after skill, it requires confidence and a steady hand.

Infection Control

Medical assistants take a leading role in infection control, sanitizing exam rooms, disinfecting equipment, and sterilizing instruments. They also serve as a resource for patients and coworkers, modeling the techniques that limit the spread of infection.

Stocking Shelves

Medical assistants replenish exam room supplies at the beginning of every shift. No one knows better what doctors need. They will also help track inventory and reorder medical supplies when needed.

Billing and Coding

Billing specialists manage most of the financial responsibilities in healthcare settings, but medical assistants have similar training. By coding superbills, itemized forms used by healthcare providers to describe patient care, they enable the billing department to capture charges. Medical assistants also support billing specialists. In some practices, their duties may be more administrative than clinical.

How Do I Become a Medical Assistant?

One way to become a medical assistant is by earning a vocational school diploma. Diploma programs take less than half the time to complete, and graduates qualify for the same jobs and industry certifications.

Students learn the skills they need from seasoned instructors in a supportive, hands-on environment. Benefits include small class sizes, flexible schedules, and career services.

How Long Is a Medical Assistant Program?

By eliminating general electives, vocational schools can offer a quality education in months, not years. Attend full-time and you’ll graduate in as little as 7 ½ months. Part-time programs take just 15 months, still half a year less than an associate degree program. Lifestyle-friendly, vocational medical assistant training is among the best values in education.

What Will I Learn in a Medical Assistant Program?

Medical assistant training prepares students for entry-level jobs as medical assistants. Programs cover both theory and practical skills. The curriculum includes:


Data entry is challenging for one-finger typists, so medical assisting programs start with a keyboarding class that familiarizes you with typing techniques and higher keyboard functions to improve your speed and accuracy. You’ll practice on a QWERTY keyboard in a simulated office setting.

Medical Terminology

Medical assistants need a grasp of medical terminology to work in the healthcare field. However, you’ll do more in this class than memorize words. You’ll be empowered to decipher difficult terms by breaking them into easy-to-understand parts. Other topics include approved abbreviations and units of measurement. By graduation day, you’ll be comfortable reading doctor’s notes, prescriptions, and surgical reports.

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy and physiology is the study of the human body and how it works. This course covers the fundamentals in ways that uniquely apply to medical assistants. You’ll learn about the major body systems, related medical conditions, and how they’re treated. The instruction isn’t as in-depth as what nurses receive, but it’s enough to acquaint you with what patients need.


Medical assistants transmit prescriptions and counsel patients on safe use, so it’s helpful to have a pharmacology primer. This class covers drug classifications, indications, side effects and precautions for the most common types of medications. You’ll also learn about prescribing laws, safety considerations and patient rights and responsibilities related to prescription drugs.

Electrocardiography and Cardiac Testing

Medical assistants are trained to perform electrocardiograms, tracings of the heart’s electrical activity, and other cardiac testing, such as pacemaker checks. A valuable skill, it saves patients a trip to the hospital while giving doctors the information they need faster. You’ll learn the ropes on the same state-of-the-art equipment you’ll use in healthcare settings, so nothing will be unfamiliar on your first day at work.

Asepsis and Assisting with Minor Surgery

Asepsis is the absence of disease-causing pathogens. A must when performing surgery; it prevents infections. As a medical assistant, you’ll help with minor surgical procedures by sterilizing equipment, setting up implement trays, and passing instruments. This course covers surgical tools, assisting techniques and the sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization principles you’ll use to keep patients safe.

Phlebotomy and Lab Procedures

Learning to draw blood sounds intimidating, but medical assisting programs make it easy by combining classroom instruction with simulations. You’ll learn how to assess patients, select equipment, and perform phlebotomy on patients of all ages.

Other topics include laboratory procedures, guidelines that protect you from health hazards while improving safety and sample quality. Graduates are prepared to draw blood, process samples, and even perform testing in office laboratories.

Urinalysis and Microbiology

Microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms, many of which can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). This course covers the most common and how to identify them in a lab. You will also learn about sampling techniques and how to examine urine microscopically for abnormalities.

Communication and Human Relations

Medical assistants interact with patients, peers, and providers. Good communication is critical, but it’s easier said than done. In this course, you’ll learn how to express yourself effectively and listen actively in ways that encourage interpersonal trust. Among peers, you’ll discuss the common barriers to good communication and how to avoid communication traps.

And you’ll learn about therapeutic communication, techniques that help healthcare providers connect with patients on an emotional level. Other topics include professional boundaries and culturally competent care.

Computerized Billing and EMR

From filing insurance claims to invoicing patients, most billing in healthcare facilities is done electronically. This course teaches you how to find financial and health data in electronic medical records (EMR).

Electronic medical records are a computerized form of paper charts. The digital format makes it easier to access, share, and store information, but how that’s done is heavily regulated for patient privacy. You will learn how to retrieve data and keep it secure.

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in a healthcare career, medical assisting is both personally and professionally rewarding. A flexible and growing field with certification, specialization and advancement opportunities, medical assistant job descriptions are as unique as you are.

Want to Learn More?

The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice. Our Medical Assistant classes provide hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship in an actual medical environment where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.

The Medical Assistant training program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, 9355 – 113th St. N, #7709 Seminole, FL 33775 upon the recommendation of the Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB).

Contact us today to find out more on how to become a medical assistant on Long Island.