Career Guide

Resources on this page

Explore Careers for Medical Assistants and Related Professionals

Check out career opportunities in fields that are closely related to medical assisting.

Dental Assistants

Consider working as a dental assistant, the dentist's equivalent to a medical assistant.

Licensed Practical Nurses

See if working as an LPN is the right career for you, which involves more patient interaction than medical assisting.

Surgical Technician

Step behind the desk and into the action by learning how to assist surgeons in the operating room.


Medical assistants, sometimes known as medical technicians, hold a variety of positions spanning many specialties. Most work in physician’s offices, but they can also be found in hospitals, clinics, dentist’s offices, and even chiropractor’s offices. Educational requirements, duties, certification, licensing, and training all vary, depending on the position and the state where you live.

Assistants perform routine work that doctors do not have time to do. By undertaking clerical and administrative tasks, they allow physician’s to spend more time providing direct patient care. Certification is generally not required for all, but some states require medical techs in related positions to get licensed, especially if the position entails advanced clinical duties like taking x rays. A few states require all, no matter what their duties, to become licensed.

The following is a generic list of some of the different positions across multiple medical specialties:

Cardiovascular Technologists

Job Prospects: The employment of cardiovascular technologists is expected to rise by about 29%, which is 10% higher than the average for all of other jobs. As of 2010, there were about 49,400 cardiovascular technologist jobs, and that figure is expected to rise by about 14,500 between 2010 and 2020.

Average Salary: $49,410/year

Entry-Level Education: Associate’s degree

Job Description: Cardiovascular technologists help cardiologists diagnose and treat heart and vascular issues. Cardiovascular technologists perform clinical duties, such as preparing and maintaining imaging equipment, performing simple tasks such as ultrasounds, conducting electrocardiograms (EKGs), examining images for quality, and helping physicians during procedures such as inserting catheters. They also undertake administrative duties, such as taking patient information and history, filing insurance claims, and maintaining patient records.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Choose to become a cardiovascular technologist if you enjoy biology and human anatomy and physiology, especially of the cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular technologists also work directly with patients, so this is a good job for you if you have strong people skills. You should also be able to easily learn medical terminology, programs that document and organize patient records, and simple procedures such as ultrasounds.

Dental Assistants

Job Prospects: The employment of dental assistants is expected to rise by about 31%, which is significantly higher than the average of all other jobs. In 2010, there were about 297,200 dental assistant jobs. By 2020, there are expected to be about 91,600 more dental assistant jobs.

Average Salary: $33,470/year

Entry-Level Education: Post-secondary non-degree award (certification)

Job Description: Dental assistants give administrative and clinical assistance in dentists’ offices. Their duties vary by state and by office, but they generally keep patient records, record patient information and dental history, prepare patients for procedures, prepare equipment for procedures, help dentists during procedures, clean patients’ teeth and gums, process x rays, and perform lab tasks.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Pursue a career as a dental assistant if you are good at multitasking, as dental assistants have to juggle clinical and administrative responsibilities. Dental assistants also have to interact with patients all day, so you need to have good people skills and be able to calm nervous patients.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Job Prospects: From 2010 through 2020, diagnostic medical sonographer positions are expected to increase by 44%, which is about 30% more than the average for all other jobs. In 2010, there were approximately 53,700 diagnostic medical sonographer positions, and this number is expected to increase by 23,400 by 2020.

Average Salary: $64,380/year

Entry-Level Education: Associate’s degree

Job Description: Diagnostic medical sonographers use special ultrasound equipment that uses sound waves to create images of a person’s body. They usually analyze the images for quality and create preliminary findings to share with the physician. They can specialize in using this equipment to assess the abdomen, heart, lungs, and muscles. They also take patient information and history and maintain the equipment.
Why Would I Want to Do This? Choose to become a diagnostic medical sonographer if you would enjoy using this ultrasound equipment to diagnose medical problems and evaluate the progress of pregnancies. Many sonographers are passionate about women’s health and helping women stay healthy during pregnancy. You should enjoy learning to use technology and working alongside physicians to produce high-quality images.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Pursue a career as a dental assistant if you are good at multitasking, as dental assistants have to juggle clinical and administrative responsibilities. Dental assistants also have to interact with patients all day, so you need to have good people skills and be able to calm nervous patients.

Endoscopy Technicians

Job Prospects: Employment for endoscopy technicians is projected to grow about 34% between 2010 and 2020. In 2010, there were approximately 527,600 jobs, and this figure is expected to increase by 162,900 by 2020.

Average Salary: $33,000/year

Entry-Level Education: Post-secondary nondegree award (certification)

Job Description: Endoscopy technicians assist physicians and nurses in the gastroenterology medical specialty by using an endoscope to help diagnose and treat gastrointestinal problems. They interact with patients, prepare the instruments and rooms for patients, prepare the patients for the process, and clean up the rooms after patients leave.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Choose a career as an endoscopy technician if you can follow physician’s instructions accurately and quickly and learn the different instruments, terms, and equipment necessary to assist physicians during delicate procedures. You should also be patient and have a good bedside manner, as you will have to calm patients before and during uncomfortable procedures.

Licensed Practical Nurses

Job Prospects: From 2010 through 2020, licensed practical nurse positions are expected to increase by 22%, which is almost 10% more than the average of all other jobs. In 2010, there were approximately 752,300 licensed practical nurse positions. This number is expected to increase by 168,500 by 2020.

Average Salary: $40,380/year

Entry-Level Education: Post-secondary nondegree award (certification)

Job Description: Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), depending on the state in which they practice. They provide basic nursing care, with direction from Registered Nurses (RNs). Their duties are generally clinical, including taking vital signs, changing bandages, inserting catheters, and bathing patients. They also perform some administrative duties, such as keeping patient records.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Choose a career as an LPN if you want to provide direct patient care and if you are naturally a people person. Licensed practical nurses work with patients all day long and often have to undertake painful procedures such as catheter placement, so patience and compassion are essential for this position. You will also have to learn to multitask, as LPNs work in a busy environment, caring for several patients at a time and following the orders of multiple physicians.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Job Prospects: Nuclear medicine technologist positions are expected to increase by about 19% from 2010 to 2020, which is about the same as the average of all other jobs. In 2010, there were approximately 21,900 nuclear medicine technologist positions. This number is expected to increase by 4,100 by 2020.

Average Salary: $68,560/year

Entry-Level Education: Associate’s degree

Job Description: Nuclear medicine technologists use a special type of scanner to take images of the human body. They also have to administer radioactive drugs to the patients they are scanning, as radioactive materials look different in abnormal parts of the body. Nuclear medicine technologists also have to explain procedures and results to patients and keep detailed records of procedures.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Choose nuclear medicine technologist as a career if you excel in physics and want to learn to work with radioactive contrast materials. You should also enjoy learning technology and human anatomy and physiology. You will be expected to learn a multitude of medical terms and possess strong people skills for working in a fast-paced clinical environment.

Phlebotomists

Job Prospects: The national number of new phlebotomy positions is expected to increase by 15% by 2020. In 2010, there were approximately 527,600 phlebotomist jobs in the United States. This number is expected to increase by 162,900 by 2020.

Average Salary: $29,740/year

Entry-Level Education: Post-secondary non-degree award (certification)

Job Description: The primary responsibility of a phlebotomist is to collect and prepare blood samples for testing. They can also draw blood for donation, transfusions, and research.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Pursue a career in phlebotomy only if who comfortable working around blood and needles. In addition to learning how to draw blood, you will need to have a delicate hand and good people skills.

Radiologic Technicians

Job Prospects: Radiologic technician positions are expected to increase by 28% between 2010 and 2020, which is about 10% more than the average of all other jobs. In 2010, there were about 219,900 radiologic technician positions. This number is expected to increase by 61,000 by 2020.

Average Salary: $54,340 per year

Entry-Level Education: Associate’s degree

Job Description: Radiologic technicians use imaging equipment, such as x ray equipment, to help physicians make diagnostic decisions. They have to adjust the imaging equipment, follow the directions from the physician on where and how to take the image, protect the patients from harmful exposure, and prepare the patients for the imaging process.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Choose to become a radiologic technician if you enjoy working with people and learning to use technology, such as x ray machines. You will also have to follow the instructions of physicians completely, and you will have to work well in a fast-paced environment, fielding radiology orders from inpatient and outpatient service areas.

Respiratory Technician

Job Prospects: From 2010 to 2020, respiratory technician jobs are expected to increase by 28%, which is more than 10% more than the average of all other jobs. In 2010, there were about 112,700 respiratory technician jobs, and this number is expected to increase by 31,200 by 2020.

Average Salary: $54,280/year

Entry-Level Education: Associate’s degree

Job Description: Respiratory technicians help physicians diagnose and treat breathing illnesses, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema. Their daily tasks usually include taking patient information and history, maintaining patient records, preparing patients for treatment and diagnostic tests, assisting with treatments and diagnostic tests, and teaching patients how to administer their own therapies.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Pursue respiratory therapy if you want to have direct patient contact and help those in respiratory distress. You will have to work with both infants and the elderly, two populations who are particularly vulnerable to respiratory complications. You should be comfortable working in emergency situations, as hospitals often call respiratory technicians when a patient stops breathing.

Surgical Technician

Job Prospects: From 2010 to 2020, surgical technician positions are expected to rise by 19%, which is about the same as the average of all other jobs. In 2010, there were 93,600 surgical technician positions, and this figure is expected to increase by 17,700 by 2010.

Average Salary: $39,920/year

Entry-Level Education: Post-secondary non-degree award (certification)

Job Description: Surgical technicians assist surgeons in the operating room. They typically prepare the operating room for surgery, arrange equipment, help surgeons and nurses during the operation, sterilize and arrange the equipment, and prepare the patients for surgery.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Choose to become a surgical technician if you want to work in the operating room of a hospital. You will have to work in a fast-paced environment alongside surgeons and anesthesiologists, following orders exactly and assisting during the preparatory scrub process, as well as during and after surgery. You will also need to be comfortable working around blood and the human anatomy to succeed as a surgical technician.