How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?

Medical assistants are also known as “clinical assistants” or “healthcare assistants” in the United States. These allied health professionals provide support and help to physicians, nurses, and other health professionals, mostly in medical facilities or in clinics. They complete clinical and administrative tasks in the offices of hospitals, physicians, and other health facilities. Their duties can vary, depending on the specialty, size, and location of the practice.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS 2019), the median annual wage for medical assistants was $34,800 in May 2019. The earning potential of medical assistants is linked to various factors, including work setting, experience, and location. It is important to note that medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants (PAs), who are professionals examining, diagnosing, and treating patients under the supervision of a physician.

Typical duties of a medical assistant include recording patients’ personal information and history, measuring blood pressure, giving injections or other medications to the patients as directed by the physician, scheduling appointments, preparing blood samples, and entering patient information into medical records.

As with any profession, there are certain important qualities to succeed in a career as a medical assistant. Take a look at some of the must-haves for professionals in the field:

  • Medical assistants must be able to follow and understand diagnoses and medical charts, as they are often tasked with coding medical records for billing.
  • They need to be able to precisely take vital signs and record patient information as physicians rely on accurate records
  • They must act in a professional and calm manner at all times, as they often have to interact with patients in distress or pain. Also, they should be able to discuss this information with their physicians
  • They should be adept at using basic clinical instruments used for assessing a patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate.

Most states do not require medical assistants to be certified. However, there may be employers who would prefer hiring certified medical assistants.

There are several organizations offering certification for medical assistants. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies provides the following five certifications for medical assistants:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association

In most practices, health facilities or hospitals, medical assistants are usually seen specializing in either clinical or administrative work. The job profile for each of these can be seen below:

  • Medical assistants (administrative) – Typical jobs include filling out insurance forms or coding patients’ medical information. They are also required to answer telephones and schedule patient appointments.
  • Medical assistants (clinical) – Typical responsibilities include doing basic laboratory tests, disposing contaminated supplies, and sterilizing medical instruments. Additional responsibilities may include instructing patients about special diets or medication, preparing the patients for removing stitches, X-rays, changing dressings, or drawing blood.

Self-reported data from shows medical assistants to be highly satisfied with their jobs with a score of 3.8 out of 5 based on 5,559 individual ratings (, 2020).

The U.S. News & World Report (2019) ranks medical assistants at number two in best jobs without a college degree, number six in best healthcare support jobs, and at number 52 in 100 best jobs.

Employability is another major benefit for those seeking careers as medical assistants. Being one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) shows that the need for physician assistants is growing at a rate of 23 percent (2018-2028), which is much faster than the average for all occupations. An estimated 154,900 new medical assistant positions are expected to be needed by the year 2028 (BLS 2019).

The growth of the aging Baby Boomer population will in turn, increase demand for preventive medical services, provided by physicians. As a result, physicians will hire more medical assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties.

Aspiring professionals wanting to serve in clinical roles can become a medical assistant with only one to two years of postsecondary education. Although, in most states, formal education is not a necessary requirement for becoming a medical assistant. However, employers may prefer to hire medical assistants who have completed a formal program from a community college, university, vocational school, or technical school. Generally, these programs lead to a certificate or a diploma.

Read on to learn how much medical assistants make, where they are employed, and the top-paying clinical specializations.

Medical Assistant Salaries in the United States

In general, here is a breakdown of the 712,430 medical assistants’ salaries in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019):

  • Average annual salary: $34,800
  • 10th percentile: $25,820
  • 25th percentile: $29,460
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,800
  • 75th percentile: $40,270
  • 90th percentile: $48,720

Medical Assistant Salaries by Experience

According to PayScale (2020), an aggregator of self-reported salary data, medical assistants can expect to make the following hourly salaries based on their level of experience:

  • Entry-level medical assistants who have less than a year of experience are expected to earn an average hourly pay of $13.14 based on 2,120 salaries.
  • Medical assistants with one to four years of experience can earn an average hourly pay of $14.16 based on 13,572 salaries.
  • Mid-career medical assistants with five to nine years of experience can earn an average hourly pay of $15.65 based on 8,509 salaries.
  • Experienced medical assistants with 10 to 19 years of experience can earn an average hourly pay of $16.50 based on 7,867 salaries.
  • Similarly, those in the later stages of their career, that is 20 years or more experience, can earn an average hourly pay of $17.00.

Top-Paying States for Medical Assistants

The list below shows the states with the highest salaries for medical assistants, an estimated number of employed medical assistants, and the annual mean wage as reported from the BLS (May 2019).

StateNumber of medical assistants employedAnnual mean wage (May 2019)
District of Columbia1,870$44,530

Top-Paying Cities for Medical Assistants

Below is a list of the top-paying cities and their corresponding metropolitan areas with the highest salaries for medical assistants. Also shown are the estimated number of employed medical assistants (not including self-employed workers), and the annual mean wage as reported from the BLS (May 2019).

Metropolitan areaNumber of medical assistants employedAnnual mean wage (May 2019)
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA1,150$49,880
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA12,320$48,920
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA8,570$47,140
Santa Rosa, CA1,420$46,550
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA5,100$46,450
Barnstable Town, MA340$45,900
Anchorage, AK2,000$45,110
Fairbanks, AK230$44,770
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA890$44,380
Olympia-Tumwater, WA600$43,630

Most Popular Work Environments for Medical Assistants

The list below shows the top three sectors and their percentages of employed medical assistants with data sourced from the BLS (2019).

Work environmentPercentage of employed medical assistants (2018)Average annual salary (May 2019)
Offices of physicians57 percent$35,490
Hospitals: state, local, and private (i.e., general medical and surgical hospitals)15 percent$37,190
Outpatient care centers8 percent$39,190

Top-Paying Clinical Specializations for Medical Assistants

In order to earn higher salaries, medical assistants can specialize in a clinical medicine related area. The list below shows five medical assistant specializations and their average annual salaries based on self-reported data from PayScale (2020):

SpecializationAverage annual salary
Electronic medical records$33,724
Customer service$33,714
Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani


Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).

Related Articles

  • 28 April 2021

    Nurses Month: An Expert’s Advocacy Guide for Those at the Heart of Healthcare

    This May is National Nurses Month, a time to reflect upon the crucial role that nurses play in the American healthcare system. The nation’s more than four million registered nurses (RNs) carry out a wide variety of services: performing physical exams, supplying health education, administering medications and personalized interventions, and coordinating care in collaboration with other health professionals.

  • 16 April 2021

    Speech-Language Pathologists: The Fight for Universal Licensure & Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM)

    The salaries among New York-based SPLs are attractive, ranking the fifth highest in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For students in speech pathology looking to begin their careers in New York, this is welcome news, but for the medical community and citizens of the state, the sharp projected increase in demand for SLPs presents a forthcoming challenge to fill new positions that needs to be addressed.

  • 29 March 2021

    Occupational Therapy Month (2021) & OTs in Action: What to Know About This Growing Profession

    Often, underserved populations are not covered by traditional medical or educational services, yet they still have occupational needs. As a result, some homeless services, housing organizations, and health providers are now bringing in occupational therapists (OTs) as part of their care coordination teams for the homeless population.

  • 25 February 2021

    How Vision Zero is Making American Streets Safer, Healthier, and More Equitable

    This new vision for safety shifts from the traditional approach, in which traffic deaths are viewed as inevitable and a matter of individual responsibility, to a “Vision Zero” approach that is based on the belief that traffic fatalities are preventable through systemic change.

  • 19 February 2021

    Health Equity 101: When Access to Healthy Food is Physically (and Financially) Out of Reach

    There are some proposals to combat food deserts and poor nutrition. First, healthcare providers should talk with their patients about what to eat and where to find it. Second, community initiatives can provide relief through farmers’ markets, food banks, and mobile food vans. Finally, changes at the policy level need to occur to improve infrastructure and incentivize supermarkets to invest in serving low-income, low-access areas.

  • 17 February 2021

    National Save Your Vision Month – An Advocacy Guide for Optometry Professionals

    While these increased risks should mean that Americans should be heading to their optometrists in greater numbers, stay-at-home orders have discouraged individuals from scheduling appointments with their optometrists. Additionally, new safety regulations have caused a bottleneck at many optometry clinics.

  • 5 February 2021

    American Heart Month 2021: Expert Interview, Careers & Advocacy

    For years, cardiovascular disease has been the number one cause of death in the US as well as the leading driver of healthcare costs. Such a monumental challenge requires cardiovascular professionals coordinating to look after the heart of America.