Medical Assistant Definition

Medical assisting is a vocation that falls into the so called middle-skills job category. The medical assistant works under the employ and direct supervision of a doctor and side-by-side with various other medical and health care practitioners, nurses and highly specialized technologists in an ambulatory medical office or clinical setting. The minimum requirement to become a medical assistant is a high school diploma, it does not require a post-secondary degree from a college, or higher education institution.

Definition of the Medical Assisting Discipline

Medical assisting as a career is best described as an occupation within the healthcare industry, but medical assistants are not considered skilled professionals such as licensed clinicians, technologists, or registered nursing staff, as a matter of fact, the medical assistant is not regarded as a true professional by means of definition at all, mostly due to the lack of overseeing regulations and higher educational and licensing requirements that would govern the medical assisting discipline, wherefore, the term medical assistant profession, or professional is a misnomer, although widely used.

Medical Assistant Is Not a Professional, Per Se!

Professionals, by definition, usually hold a 2-year or more academic degree and are autonomous, which means they have a high degree of control of their own affairs insofar as making independent judgments about their work. This means they have the freedom to exercise their own professional judgement and practice their skill independently. Examples of professionals are doctors, psychologists, therapists, engineers and lawyers.

Therefore using the term “medical assistant professional” is a misnomer.


Unlike the above mentioned professionals, medical assistants CANNOT work independently, make independent decisions, independently triage, give medical advice, change prescriptions, administer medications, or make adjustments to patient care plans.

Medical assistants must work under the direct supervision of the doctor who hired them and are considered strictly assisting and supporting staff. Nevertheless, medical assistants are highly respected and held in high esteem among doctors and patients; their function and presence in the medical office is regarded as important and their employers and supervisors agree they would be lost without them. Patients, their family members, and the community as a whole appreciates their services and assistance to them as a first point of contact in the medical office.

The term “medical assistant salary”, which is so often used to reference medical assistant pay, is yet another misnomer. Medical assistant pay typically consists of hourly wages received in exchange for their labor. Although many people refer to the medical assistant’s pay as a salary, their pay is a wage. A salary is a form of periodic payment which it typically specified in an employment contract and, by definition, is not calculated based on exact hours, or other units worked.

Becoming a Medical Assistant

Becoming a medical assistant involves work related instruction usually in form of vocational education from a formal post-secondary educational and training program, or direct on the job training provided and overseen by a physician. Many medical assistants voluntarily join a professional membership association, such as the AAMA, RMA, NRMA or NHA. These professional bodies typically define, promote, oversee, support and regulate the affairs of its members and require a certain amount of annual continuing education units (CEU) to maintain their membership and credentials active.

3 Responses to Medical Assistant Definition

  1. salwani abu bakar says:

    How much is the salary of a medical assistant?
    What are good benefits of working as a medical assistant?

  2. Jen says:

    In various places, you do not need to be licensed or registered to be a medical assistant. I began as an orthopedic medical assistant at $9.50/hr; two years later I work for a walk in clinic and make about $10.50/hr. While I have gained a lot of outpatient experience (casting/splinting, wound care, staple/suture removal, patient triage, assisting with procedures such as pelvic exams, toenail removal, laceration repair, etc), I realized that I would not be able to make a decent living on this salary. I am currently halfway through nursing school in order to still work directly with patients and physicians, but make atleast double what I do now. It has been a great way to get experience and learn the ins and outs of healthcare, but medical assistants don’t have much room to grow financially and aren’t as respected as higher educated staff. So bottom line, I would definitely recommend this profession if you want more hands on training as you pursue further education within the healthcare field. Hope this helps!

    • Danni R. says:

      Yes, Jen, I agree with you. While the medical assistant is essential to the ambulatory medical office and practicing physicians, the discipline itself is not considered a true profession due to the lack of regulation and specific training requirements. Medical assisting is an occupation that is definitely underpaid, and takes years to increase your salary through promotions, unless you luck out. Specialists in certain regions pay more, but if I recall it right, $23 – $25 per hour is the highest I have ever heard of, and that is the exception… and most often without any special benefits. Sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>