In the healthcare industry terms and job titles are often confused. One such mistake arises when considering a medical assistant vs. medication aide/assistant roles within the healthcare profession. Although the terms do sound very similar they are not the same line of work and there are a large number of differences between these two careers. Both are fairly entry level positions in the healthcare industry but the actual jobs performed and the actual salaries earned are not comparable in the long run. They are, in short, not the same thing.
The differences in job duties are one of the main points of interest when considering medical assistant vs. medication aide/assistant job roles. There are a number of administrative (such as scheduling appointments for patients and keeping medical records) and clinical tasks (such as giving injections and preparing blood samples for laboratory tests) that a medical assistant can perform. There are also medical assistants who specialize in one particular area of the healthcare industry and are trained at assisting physicians in that particular discipline in their doctor’s offices. The most common specialties for medical assistants in office contexts tend to include the following:
- Ophthalmic medical assistants
- Optometric medical assistants
- Podiatric medical assistants
The primary job role of a medication aide/assistant is to distribute medication across a number of different facilities including the following:
- Nursing homes
- Correctional facilities
- Other non-hospital, assisted living facilities for the physically or mentally disabled
These aides are meant to ensure that patients take the correct amount of medication at the correct time and that they adhere to their medication regimes. In addition it is often necessary for a medication aide to ensure that the patient does not experience any severe or adverse effects as a result of taking the medication that has been prescribed to them. Although everything that medications aides do is under supervision, it is necessary that they have an advanced understanding of medications as well as the possible effects that those medications may have on a patient.
Most medical assistants work in physician’s offices but there are some that are also employed in other healthcare facilities as well. Generally speaking medical assistants are employed full time. Administrative medical assistants tend to have normal office hour jobs, while those working in other areas of the healthcare field tend to be employed in positions that require shift work. Often, in order to meet a need at your pace of employment, you may be required to work both weekends and evenings. All-in-all, however, the working environment for a medical assistant is very good.
As medication aides and assistants are required to work in any area where medication needs to be distributed and administered, such as nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities, or other non-hospital, assisted living facilities for the physically or mentally disabled, they are in fact employable in a wide variety of different work environments across the country. Each of these work environments may come with a number of pros and cons. For example working in a correctional facility where you will be required to administer drugs to patients who are in fact convicted criminals may be dangerous. On the other hand you can work at a school where children need to have medication administered regularly and where the medical situations you encounter may not be as bad.
How To Become A Medical Assistant Or Medication Aide/Assistant
Useful high school courses for becoming a medical assistant are:
There are no formal educational requirements in rode rot become a medical assistant. However many employers prefer to hire medical assistants who have taken the non-compulsory training on offer from community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, or universities. These programs tend to take about 1 year to complete and usually lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community and junior colleges offer 2-year programs that lead to an associate’s degree. On-the-job training is also an option. In addition to training you must become certified through an appropriate body.
Like medical assistants, medication aides do not need formal training. There are, however, a number of prerequisites that are often required in most states, as well as non-compulsory education options that you could choose to enroll in:
- You must 18 years old
- You must have a high school diploma
- You may have to take introductory courses in anatomy, microbiology, pharmacology, and physiology at a trade school
- You may have to complete a certification exam from your state or region
- You may need to have additional training as a nursing assistant
To a large degree you will be trained on the job and supervised at all times by a medical professional.
The job outlook for medical assistants is very good as there is an expected increase of 31 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is noticeably higher than the expected increases for most other industries. The reason for this is that the baby boom generation has reached maturity, and this has spiked an increase in interest in preventative medical measures. These measures are often provided by physicians in their own offices. An increased case load for physicians means an increased number of number openings for medical assistants who aide these physicians. Medical assistants may, in some cases, also begin replacing nurses due to the fact that you can pay a medical assistant far less than you can pay a nurse.
Like medical assistants, medication aides are often required to take over some of the basic nursing tasks that are encountered in most health care facilities. As they work alongside healthcare professionals in hospitals and other settings they are constantly gaining a wide variety of different skills. This means that many people treat this qualification as a stepping stone to achieving higher status in the healthcare industry. For example it can be easier to enter an accelerated nursing program if you have first worked as a medication aide than if you are fresh out of high school and looking for a career in healthcare.
The hourly rate for a medical assistant is about $9.80 – $16.84 an hour. In most cases you will be eligible to earn about $7.80 – $24.97 an hour for any overtime that you work. In addition you may be eligible for an annual bonus of between $0.00 and $987 a year. Overall your salary will be something in the region of $20,467 – $36,412 a year.
There are a number of employers that pay more than others. The most popular employers are as follows:
- Kaiser Permanente = $11.96 – $25.24
- Family Practice Clinic = $8.11 – $16.11
- Planned Parenthood = $9.79 – $15.61
- Concentra Medical Center Inc = $11.74 – $15.64
- The Medical Group = $10.82 – $16.64
Different industries also pay different rates. Here are the hourly rates of the most popular industries:
- Medical Office = $9.89 – $17.13
- Healthcare = $10.05 – $16.93
- Family Medicine = $9.62 – $16.03
- Health Care Services = $9.90 – $16.50
- Health Clinic = $9.34 – $15.92
The cities which pay the most in this position are Everett in Washington, San Francisco in California, Bellevue in Washington, Seattle in Washington, Boston in Massachusetts, San Jose in California, Olympia in Washington, Torrance in California, Plano in Texas, New York in New York, Tacoma in Washington, Honolulu in Hawaii, Portland in Oregon, Washington in District of Columbia, Hartford in Connecticut, Vancouver in Washington, Worcester in Massachusetts, San Diego in California, Minneapolis in Minnesota, and Sacramento in California.
Medication aides/assistants tend to earn less than medical assistants. The average hourly rate across the country is about $8.61 – $13.15 an hour, while there is the chance of earning overtime rates of about $7.10 – $20.39 an hour. There is the potential for an annual bonus of around $0.00 – $302.01 a year, bringing the overall potential earnings to about $17,943 – $28,462 a year.
Different industries tend to may medication aides/assistants different rates:
- Residential Care / Assisted Living Facility = $8.72 – $13.90
- Nursing Home = $8.69 – $13.95
- Healthcare = $8.65 – $14.02
- Services to the Elderly = $8.28 – $13.52
- Hospital = $8.91 – $14.55
As can be seen here a number of differences emerge when considering medical assistant vs. medication aide/assistant roles within the healthcare industry. If you are looking to break into the healthcare industry by attaining an entry level position, both of these are good options for you. However they both open the door to different career advancement opportunities, so a great deal of consideration needs to go into your choice.