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Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant

Learn the Differences in Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Salary, and Job Outlook

Young female receptionist

Medical Assisting can provide you with a great entry point into the healthcare industry. Medical Assistants (MAs) are healthcare professionals who support physicians, physicians’ assistants, and other healthcare professionals in a variety of clinical settings.

On the other hand, Medical Office Assistants (MOAs) play a crucial role in medical office management by ensuring physician offices and other healthcare facilities run smoothly. Therefore, Medical Assistants and Medical Office Assistants are both vital members of the healthcare team.

If you’re interested in becoming an MA or MOA but need more information regarding these careers, continue reading to learn about these up-and-coming professions’ duties, educational requirements, salaries, and job outlooks.

Click here to read our comprehensive guide on how to become a Medical Assistant or how to become a Medical Office Assistant.

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Definition

What Is a Medical Assistant?

MAs are multi-competent healthcare professionals involved in the administrative and clinical tasks that keep the offices, clinics, and laboratories of physicians running smoothly. Depending on where they work, some Medical Assistants may telephone prescriptions to a pharmacy, collect and prepare laboratory specimens, sterilize medical instruments, and prep patients for X-rays. They may even take electrocardiograms and remove sutures or change dressings.

What Is a Medical Office Assistant?

Medical Office Assistants are the backbone of a healthcare facility. Not only are they good with numbers, but they also have excellent communication skills. In addition, these healthcare professionals are typically detailed, organized, and motivated.

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Job Description

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical Assistants assist physicians in both the office and the exam room. Their wide range of duties vary depending on the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

What Does a Medical Office Assistant Do?

Medical Office Assistants (MOAs) are responsible for performing secretarial duties with specific knowledge of medical terminology and hospital, clinic, or laboratory procedures.

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Duties

Medical Assistant Responsibilities

So, what does a Medical Assistant do? Depending on their location, they may complete tasks like the following:

  • Answering telephones
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Greeting patients
  • Updating and file patient charts
  • Ordering supplies
  • Arranging for hospital admission and laboratory services
  • Handling billing, collections, and bookkeeping
  • Taking medical histories
  • Recording vital signs

Medical Office Assistant Responsibilities

Some of a Medical Office Assistant’s typical duties include the below.

  • Performing opening and closing office procedures
  • Managing medical records
  • Creating electronic health records
  • Assigning insurance codes for medical diagnoses and procedures
  • Processing insurance claims
  • Performing entry-level bookkeeping and accounting procedures

Medical receptionist helping a patient

Where Do Medical Assistants Work?

Medical Assistants work in a variety of healthcare environments. These include but are not limited to physician offices, private healthcare facilities, hospitals, hospital clinics, laboratories, health industry providers, independent clinics, and industrial firms requiring healthcare personnel.

Where Do Medical Office Assistant Work?

Medical Office Assistants can find employment in various healthcare facilities, including hospitals, outpatient care centers, and offices of physicians, dentists, and other health practitioners.

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant

Educational Requirements for Medical Assistants

Most Medical Assistants obtain a postsecondary education with a certificate of completion. However, others may enter the field with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training. The required education for becoming a Medical Assistant can also vary state by state.

Educational Requirements for Medical Office Assistants

Although it’s not required, some Medical Office Assistants complete a Medical Assisting program through a vocational school or community college. Once you have earned your M.A. diploma, you can start looking for work as a Medical Office Assistant.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

Depending on the path you choose, it could take a year or less to enter the field of Medical Assisting, with most programs allowing you to graduate in under a year. For instance, you can complete the Medical Assisting program at Unitek College in as little as 9 months.

The curriculum of the MA program at Unitek College emphasizes both administrative and clinical skills. It includes extensive instruction in medical terminology, medical office procedures, medical and clinical procedures, basic anatomy and physiology, and special duties typical in the field.

As you research each school, be sure to look at the admissions requirements, coursework curriculum, cost, and length of their Medical Assistant programs.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Office Assistant?

Like Medical Assisting, a Medical Office Assistant diploma program can usually be completed in less than a year. At Unitek College, you can complete our MOA program in as little as 9 months.

This dynamic program will equip you with the skills you’ll need to excel as a Medical Office Administrator (or Medical Office Assistant). Throughout the program, you will utilize a virtual platform to learn the fundamentals of medical terminology, medical office procedures, office computer applications, patient interaction, the laws and regulations regarding patient medical records, insurance plans and forms, and coding procedures.

Medical graduates smiling in front of a blackboard

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Salary

How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for a Medical Assistant is about $17.00, with an annual average salary of about $36,000. However, M.A.s in the top 10 percent of earners can make more than $51,000 per year.

Highest Paying Industries for Medical Assistants

According to the BLS, these industries are where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Medical Assistants:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Outpatient Care Centers $20.35 $42,330
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $18.37 $38,200
Offices of Physicians $17.59 $36,580
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $15.97 $33,210
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly $14.84 $30,870

Highest Paying States for Medical Assistants

According to the BLS, Medical Assistants earn the highest average wages in these states:

Location Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Alaska $22.41 $46,610
Washington $21.97 $45,700
District of Columbia $21.80 $45,340
Massachusetts $20.72 $43,090
Minnesota $20.72 $43,090

Highest Paying Cities for Medical Assistants

The BLS has reported that Medical Assistants earn the highest average annual wage in these cities:

Location Mean Hourly Pay Mean Salary
San Francisco, CA $25.94 $53,960
Vallejo, CA $25.80 $53,660
Santa Rosa, CA $25.25 $52,520
Seattle, WA $23.59 $49,070
San Jose, CA $23.57 $49,020
Sacramento, CA $23.37 $48,600
Olympia, WA $22.85 $47,530
Anchorage, AK $22.02 $45,790
Santa Cruz, CA $21.63 $44,980
Longview, WA $21.53 $44,780

How Much Do Medical Office Assistants Make?

According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for an MOA is about $19, with an annual average salary of around $39,000. However, Medical Office Assistants  earning in the top 10 percent can make as much as $54,000 per year.

Highest Paying Industries for Medical Office Assistants

According to the BLS, these industries are where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Medical Office Assistants:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Outpatient Care Centers $ 21.11 $ 43,920
Offices of Dentists $ 20.19 $ 41,990
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $ 18.93 $ 39,370
Offices of Physicians $ 18.17 $ 37,790
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $ 16.93 $ 35,220

Highest Paying States for Medical Office Assistants

As reported by the BLS, Medical Office Assistants earn the highest average wages in these states:

Location Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
District of Columbia $ 22.65 $ 47,110
California $ 22.18 $ 46,140
Washington $ 22.11 $ 45,990
Massachusetts $ 21.59 $ 44,900
Rhode Island $ 21.03 $ 43,740

Highest Paying Cities for Medical Office Assistants

The BLS has reported that Medical Office Assistants earn the highest average annual wage in these cities:

Location Mean Hourly Pay Mean Salary
San Jose, CA $26.55 $55,220
Salinas, CA $25.92 $53,900
San Francisco, CA $25.01 $52,020
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $24.74 $51,470
Sacramento, CA $23.64 $49,170
Seattle, WA $23.47 $48,820
Portsmouth, NH $23.14 $48,130
Napa, CA $22.98 $47,800
Santa Rosa, CA $22.95 $47,740
Longview, WA $22.80 $47,430

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Assistant: Job Outlook

Medical Assistant Job Outlook

Not only is there expected growth in the field of Medical Assisting, but the BLS has predicted a 19% increase by 2029—this rate is much faster than the average for all occupations (4%). Thus, while Medical Assistants are projected to have good job prospects, those who earn certification and are familiar with electronic health records (EHRs) may entertain even better job prospects.

Medical Office Assistant Job Outlook

While the BLS does not mention any data regarding the outlook of MOAs, they have reported that employment of Medical Assistants is expected to grow 9% by 2029. This is much faster than the average of other occupations.

Why Is Medical Office Assisting a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?

Since Medical Assistants complete administrative tasks, pivoting into the role of a Medical Office Assistant could be a natural and easy change. Medical Assistants already have medical knowledge and would be well suited to the role of an MOA.

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Start by Earning Your Medical Assistant Diploma

With a Medical Assistant diploma, you can start a path toward various job opportunities. In some cases, your education and training will prepare you for a smooth transition into these roles. For other jobs, your Medical Assisting skills can serve as a great foundation for the specialized training and certification they require.

If you’re ready to take the next step, start by earning your Medical Assistant diploma in as little as 9 months at Unitek College.

Click here to learn more about our Medical Assistant program.