Certified medical assistants carry out many of the routine tasks in a health care setting. Their exact duties fluctuate depending on the capacity they work in. For example, administrative medical assistants file patient records, schedule laboratory tests and set up hospital admissions. Clinical medical assistants, on the other hand, work with the patients by taking vital signs, preparing patients for examinations and aiding the physician during an exam. Certification isn't necessary, but it holds the assistant to a high level of education and may raise starting pay.
According to PayScale's 2011 statistics, certified medical assistants with less than a year of experience in their career field can expect to begin earning $9.69 to $12.55 an hour. The annual salary range for a certified medical assistant who's just starting out is between $22,649 and $31,930.
In 2009, the national average pay for all medical assistants, including those who became voluntarily certified, was $14.16 an hour or $29,450 a year. The 10th percentile salary for medical assistants that year -- meaning the lowest pay reported for that profession, which is often where the starting wage is -- was $9.98 an hour, or $20,750.
State to State
Starting salaries fluctuate from state to state. In 2009, the 10th percentile salary for medical assistants, including certified medical assistants, in Alabama was $8.29 an hour or $17,240 a year. In Arkansas it was $9.30 an hour or $21,710 a year. In Vermont the 10th percentile was higher, at $12.09 an hour or $25,140 a year, and in Connecticut the 10th percentile was $12.17 an hour or $25,320 a year.
Certified medical assistants are required to complete a formal training program in order to be hired, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many are taught their duties while on the job. However, the demand for medical assistants who are formally trained is growing, leading many to complete one- or two-year programs and completing the requirements to become certified.
2016 Salary Information for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $31,540 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $26,860, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $37,760, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 634,400 people were employed in the U.S. as medical assistants.