16 Pros and Cons of Being a Medical Assistant

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Have you always dreamed about a career in allied healthcare? I know there are so many different paths you can choose to break into this fast-paced and exciting world. Have you ever considered a career as a medical assistant? I know what you are probably saying under your breath, what are the pros and cons of being a medical assistant? Don’t worry if you do not know much about this career path because here is the deal, I basically have outlined it all for you. Below you will find for your reading pleasure the top 16 pros and cons of being a medical assistant. These pros and cons will help you determine if this is the right career path for you.

What is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant is a medical professional who is trained to work alongside other healthcare providers in many different healthcare environments. If you choose this career path, you will perform clinical duties such as taking patient histories, obtaining vital signs, and performing basic lab tests as well as undertake clerical duties such as billing, scheduling, and bookkeeping that must be completed during your day. Of course, there are many more tasks that you are capable and able to perform, this is just to give you an idea. In a nutshell, a medical assistant is the support staff for a healthcare setting that essentially keeps many of the day-to-day functions going.

Top Cons of Being a Medical Assistant

(The following are the top 16 disadvantages of being a medical assistant.)

1. You could end up working all hours of the day.

Let’s face it, health care is a 24 hour 7 day a week kind of job. As a medical assistant, you may find yourself working five days a week 8 hours shifts, or you may find yourself working 10-12 hour days. These 10-12 hour days may have you working during the daytime hours, the evening hours, or overnight. I would also like to remind you that you may be working weekends or holidays if you choose to work in a hospital setting. The hours that you will be working can really impact your decision whether a career is right or wrong for you. The hours that you work will affect your personal and social life and hold a ton of weight when analyzing the pros and cons of being a medical assistant. Your hours of employment will impact many aspects of your life.

2. The salary is not that attractive.

Although a career as a medical assistant is a promising career, the salary is not that attractive making your earning potential one of the disadvantages of being a medical assistant. As a medical assistant, you can expect to be earning anywhere from $33,742 and $39,523 a year. There are other careers that you can choose in the medical field that would earn you a higher pay scale for similar tasks.

3. Not any program will do.

Suppose you decide that you still want to pursue this career path despite what your earning salary will be. In that case, you may want to consider becoming certified as a medical assistant in order to receive your highest potential compensation. In order to accomplish this, you must sit for your certification exam. Well, here is the caveat to this whole thing, in order to sit for this exam, you must complete an educational and training program that is accredited by either CAAHEP or ABHES. If you did not complete an accredited program, I guess it is back to the drawing board. Now, if you are just starting out looking for a program, this will take time and energy, which you may not be able to spare, to find the perfect program.

4. Are online classes the best option?

There are several online medical assistant programs currently being offered. Although online medical assistant programs can be relatively convenient for some people, you will not have that face-to-face interaction that may be necessary for some people to learn. Your questions will not be answered in real-time because you will most likely have to wait for an email back to get the answer. This can hinder the required learning that is required for a job as a medical assistant.

5. Education is not free.

Education these days is not cheap. Since there are different paths that you can pursue as a medical assistant, there are various cost options regarding these paths. If you choose to follow the certificate or diploma program, you will find the cost will be around $5,000 to complete. Suppose you decide to complete the associate's program to become a medical assistant, in that case, you are looking at paying anywhere from $8,000 to $30,000 for education. I hope you have some spare cash lying around.

6. Debt!

So, if you do not have any spare cash lying around for your medical assisting education, well, I guess you will be taking out some loans. Loans will end up costing you more in the long run because you will have to end up paying these loans back with interest. Yikes, this could end up being a plan for financial disaster.

7. If you want to advance your degree, your credits will not all transfer well.

If you are somebody who has decided that you may want to pursue a career as a nurse after you have become a medical assistant, please do not think all of your credits will transfer. Yes, there is some overlapping with the two careers, but yet they are two completely different scopes of practice. This will lead to repeating courses that you have already taken—more time and money out the window and making this one of the disadvantages of being a medical assistant.

8. Exposure to pathogens

As a medical assistant, you will be coming in contact with many different people from many different walks of life. Some of these people may have a contagious illness that you will be in contact with. You are also at risk of other pathogens that can be found in the bodily fluids of a patient. Remember, one of your clinical tasks will be drawing blood on patients; this will put you at risk.

9. Needlesticks can happen

As one of your duties as a medical assistant, you will be drawing blood from patients from time to time. We all know accidents can and do happen. Every time you draw blood, you are setting yourself up for a needlestick injury to occur. If this unfortunate event does happen, let's just hope that it is a clean needle and not one that was just used on a patient. If it happens to be a dirty needle, this can open up a whole other can of worms. A needlestick injury is one of the top disadvantages of being a medical assistant because this can really cause some upset in your world.

10. Your job can be stressful.

Working in the healthcare environment can be one that is mentally and physically taxing. As a medical assistant, you may have to deal with the stress of meeting the high demands of your job. You may find that a lot is expected of you in terms of your everyday job duties such as registering patients, obtaining vital signs, and drawing lab work as an example. Sometimes all these things need to get done simultaneously. Wow, where should you even start!

11. Burnout

As a medical assistant, you will find that you will lack independence in decision-making regarding your everyday job. You will basically be told what to do day in and day out. This severely limited autonomy can really take a toll on some people. You may feel like you do not have any control over your workday and can lead to decreased personal accomplishment, depersonalization, and emotional exhaustion.

12. Death and dying will become a reality.

As somebody who works in the healthcare environment, you will be faced with death and dying regularly. Sometimes you will have patients that will clearly not recover from whatever ailments are plaguing them. This may take an emotional toll on you eventually leading to sadness.

13. Legal risk

Anytime you are working with people’s lives in any capacity, you will open yourself up to legal implications. If something would occur to a patient under your care, it is possible that you could be named in a lawsuit should the patient choose this avenue. Even an accidental error can wreak destruction on your career and open you to legal risks. This type of responsibility and risk may not be worth it for some people and may sway you when weighing the pros and cons of being a medical assistant.

14. How are you at time management?

Time management is a must when it comes to a career as a medical assistant. There will be a lot asked of you every day and probably all at the same time. Having good time management skills will allow you to be able to prioritize your tasks and get everything done. If the thought of juggling all your daily tasks is already giving you a headache, then I think maybe it is time to search elsewhere for your career. All this juggling on a day-to-day basis is definitely one of the disadvantages of being a medical assistant.

15. Communication is key

On a daily basis, you will be interacting with many people within the health care environment. You will also be interacting with patients on a daily basis. You will need to be a good communicator in order not to rock the boat. If you are somebody who is lacking good communication skills or has a difficult time getting along with people, then this may not be the career for you.

16. No place to grow.

Within the career of a medical assistant, there is not a tremendous amount of growth, making this one of the biggest disadvantages of being a medical assistant. What I mean by this is that if you plan to advance your career, you will need to pursue a different career to grow monetarily, educationally, and in your skills. This is why many medical assistants choose to pursue a degree in nursing at some point.

Top Pros of Being a Medical Assistant

(The following are the top 16 advantages of being a medical assistant.)

1. Positive job outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a career as a medical assistant is expected to grow 19% between 2019-2029. This growth is much faster than other careers making a positive job outlook one of the top advantages of being a medical assistant. The prospect of having such growth should make you feel pretty secure in your career choice.

2. You are capable of performing so many duties.

As a medical assistant, you can expect to wear many hats throughout your day. You will be able to perform clinical tasks such as recording a patient's past medical history, recording their vital signs, and drawing blood, to name a few. You will also be charged with tasks such as setting up appointments, billing, and health insurance. You will never get bored because every day will be different.

3. You could specialize.

Even as a medical assistant, you can specialize in a particular field. Areas of specialization include pediatric, psychiatric, and general medicine, to name a few. Specializing in a specific area makes you a more attractive candidate for an employer who is looking to fill a position in a particular area. When weighing the pros and cons of being a medical assistant, you need to be sure that you are going to be happy with your work environment and specializing is one way of achieving this.

4. It is not a lengthy training program.

To train as a medical assistant, you will have two options. You can choose to become a medical assistant through a certificate or diploma program. This route will take you around 6 -9 months to complete. The second route to becoming a medical assistant is through an associate degree program. If you choose to complete your education through this route, you will be completing your degree in about two years. Having different options to enter the career is one of the pros of being a medical assistant.

5. You have the option of an online program.

If in-person learning is too strict in terms of time constraints for you, you will have the option to pursue a career as a medical assistant online. The theoretical component of your education can be completed online, which will provide you with the flexibility you may be seeking. In some cases, you may be actually saving time and money.

6. Financial Aid may be an option.

If you qualify, government financial aid may be an option for you to pay for your schooling. This financial aid may come in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships. The best first place to start would be through filing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

7. You can become certified.

Certification in your field is a great way to show that you are an expert at what you do. Certification as a medical assistant is not required in order to obtain a job. Still, it will definitely make you stand out and be more appealing to employers.

8. Flexible schedule

Although your schedule as a medical assistant may be a bit hectic, you may also find it more accessible in order to plan out your life. Working longer hours will reduce the number of days you will be working. This will enable you to have more time off and have full days off instead of just the evenings. Now, if the long hours do not work for you and your family, you can find a job where you have the evenings off to spend time with family and friends.

9. Many different settings

As a medical assistant, you can work in many different settings. If one setting, in particular, does not feel like a good fit for you, well rest assured there are others out there that may fit like a glove. Having multiple settings in order to earn a living is one of the top pros of being a medical assistant. Some of the settings that you can work in are the hospital settings, in outpatient settings such as a doctor’s office, in colleges, in research labs, or in nursing homes, to name a few.

10. Advance your education

Depending on where you work, you may be eligible for tuition reimbursement. Some institutions will provide medical assistants the opportunity to advance their education for free. All you have to do is give the institution a promise that you will work for an agreed amount of time. If you leave your job prior to this agreement being fulfilled, you will then have to pay the institution back for your education. This commonly works because an institution will reimburse you for credits that you have successfully completed towards a degree. This is a pretty good way to advance your career and your salary for free.

11. You may be provided with a retirement plan.

Many institutions will set their full-time employees up with a retirement plan for when they decide to retire. Having a retirement plan is one of the advantages of being a medical assistant. This will ensure that you will have some way of supporting yourself during your golden years when you just want to relax. Hey, you may even get lucky and find an institution that will match you with whatever you put into your retirement plan.

12. It is a rewarding career.

A career as a medical assistant is one that you may find extremely rewarding. You will be entering a profession that is all about helping people. You will be helping some people at the worst time of their lives and some at the best time of their lives. This can really make you feel great about the work you are doing. Feeling good about the work you are doing is definitely one of the pros of being a medical assistant.

13. You will receive benefits.

When you have a career such as a medical assistant, you will also receive health benefits from your employer if you meet the minimum working hours for the week. This means you, your significant other, and your dependents can also be covered under this insurance plan. This can save you boatloads of money on medical bills should you or anyone in your family need medical care.

14. Do you like to travel?

One little unknown tidbit about a career as a medical assistant is that you too can take on travel positions. Taking on a travel position will allow you to be able to work and play at the same time essentially. You can travel and see the country all while working to support yourself. Being able to travel may really tip the scales while weighing the pros and cons of being a medical assistant.

15. Job security

The healthcare environment is one that will always be present. There will always be sick people, and there will always be people who are seeking care. Based upon these two facts alone, you will always have a job. Always having a job and a way to support yourself and your loved ones are the biggest advantages of being a medical assistant. The job you perform as a medical assistant is essential in keeping the healthcare environment running. So, rest assured you have chosen a quality career.

16. Steady income

Although you will not be making the big bucks in this career, you can rest easy knowing that you will have a steady income. Having a steady income is definitely one of the advantages of being a medical assistant. You will not have to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from. This can give you a bit of peace and mind when it comes to your life and family. You may not be running out to buy a yacht, but you will be able to provide for your family.

The Bottom Line

There are so many pros and cons to consider when choosing a career that is right for you. Deciding if a career as a medical assistant is right for you is no different. So, what are the pros and cons of being a medical assistant? After reading this article you should have a pretty good idea if this career path is right for you and if this is something you should pursue. The top 16 pros and cons of being a medical assistant will allow you to weigh your options very heavily and it will help you make the best decision for yourself and your family.

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.