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Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator

Know the Differences in Duties, Requirements, Salary, and Job Outlook

Confident nurse holding paperwork

Once you acquire the education and skills to become a Medical Assistant (MA), you’ll discover many career options and types of facilities where you can work—like hospitals, outpatient centers, and physician’s offices. But you may not realize that becoming an MA can also serve as a springboard into many related careers or help you move on to additional training programs that can build on your healthcare career.

This article is part of a series that compares the differences between a Medical Assistant and other related careers. Here we’ll focus on Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator and highlights differences in schooling requirements, job outlook, and average salaries for these jobs.

If you’re interested in preparing for a MA career, you can read more in our related article about how to become a Medical Assistant.

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator: Definition

First, when we compare Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator, we’re not implying that one position is a better option than the other. The right career for you will depend on your personal goals and long-term work preferences. However, we want to point out the essential characteristics of each job, so you can better understand which career path makes the most sense for you. So let’s start by defining each role.

What is a Medical Assistant?

The Medical Assistant definition provided by The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that MAs complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities. Medical Assistants can choose from several certification programs based on their career goals and the state where they plan to work.

What is a Medical Office Administrator (MOA)?

As for the Medical Office Administrator definition, as the job title implies, this person works in a medical office such as a doctor’s office, dentist’s office, or clinic, usually managing the front desk and handling necessary clerical duties to help patients see doctors and nurses. They handle everyday duties like scheduling, billing, and insurance. Another job title sometimes used for this position is Medical Secretary.

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator: Job Description

One of the best ways to understand and compare these two careers is to look at the job duties. This will give you a good idea of what the daily work might entail. Let’s start by looking at Medical Assistant duties.

What Does a Medical Assistant do?

Doctors and nurses have come to rely on MAs to handle administrative and clinical tasks as part of their day-to-day responsibilities. In this role, your tasks will vary by the type of office or facility you work in, but the following is an excellent general overview of job duties.

Medical Assistant Responsibilities

  • Updates the patient’s medical records
  • Administers medicines under the supervision of a physician
  • Assists during medical examinations
  • Prepares medical samples for laboratory testing
  • Manages the schedule of appointments
  • Assists patients with their bills and in filling out forms

What Does a Medical Office Administrator do?

Now for the Medical Office Administrator duties. MOAs perform all the tasks that keep the office running smoothly, including managing patient visits and clerical duties like organizing files and maintaining information structures. Following are some of the tasks you might regularly perform when working in this position.

Medical Office Administrator Responsibilities

  • Greeting patients and helping them complete required forms
  • Answering phones, emails, and routing incoming calls
  • Scheduling appointments and checking in patients
  • Informing doctors and nurses when patients are ready to be seen
  • Processing insurance claims, creating patient invoices and bills
  • Compiling reports, charts, and other resources as necessary
  • Managing inventory and providing additional administrative support

Young medical students in a hallway

Where Do Medical Assistants Work?

Next, let’s review where MAs typically work. The majority, 57%, work in physicians’ offices. Another 15% work in state, local, and private hospitals. Others work in outpatient care centers (8%) and offices of chiropractors (4%). Work schedules at these offices and facilities are usually full-time, and some require evenings, weekends, and holidays—especially medical facilities that are always open.

Where Do Medical Office Assistants Work?

As a Medical Office Assistant, you may work in various medical facilities, though most work in physician or dentist offices and hospitals. But many also work in outpatient clinics, care centers, and medical/diagnostic laboratories.

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator: Schooling

Our next comparison is the amount of education you need for each of these careers and how long it will take to finish the required training or degree. Here’s what you need to know:

Educational Requirements for Medical Assistants

Most Medical Assistants must not only complete an educational program accredited by an approved regional or national accreditation agency but also become certified. You’ll study multiple areas in your program, such as patient interaction, basic coding and billing, medical office procedures, and electronic medical records. You’ll also learn how to assess and intervene in specific patient situations. You can choose to complete a diploma program or an associate degree program.

For example, Brookline College offers an accelerated Medical Assisting Program that provides the necessary training for entry-level positions in a healthcare facility such as a clinic, physician’s office, or urgent care facility. This program offers a healthcare diploma.

Once you graduate, you can study for and pass a certification exam. You can choose from five different Medical Assistant certifications once you finish your program. In addition, some employers, or states, require a specific certification to start working in that state. For more information, read our article, The Best Medical Assistant Certification for Your Career.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Medical Assistant?

You can earn a healthcare diploma or complete an associate degree program.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

Your program can take anywhere from 9 months (for a healthcare diploma) to 2 years (if you choose the option to obtain an associate degree). The diploma program at Brookline College can be completed in about nine months.

Educational Requirements for Medical Office Administrators

To become a Medical Office Administrator, you can complete a certificate or diploma program. The training helps you gain a firm understanding of various medical office procedures and administrative tasks. For example, you will learn how to process medical billing and coding requests for patient claims in a healthcare facility. Plus, you’ll master a broad range of topics relating to medical office operations, patient care, and customer service.

Brookline College offers a Medical Office Administration Program that provides the training you need to start working in any medical office or facility mentioned earlier.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Medical Office Administrator?

You do not need to earn a degree to work as a MOA. You’ll need a minimum of high school graduation or GED, but the best candidates for this career complete a certificate or diploma program.

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

Earning your MOA certificate or diploma can take anywhere from 5 weeks to 2 years, depending on the type of program. Brookline’s program can be completed in about 34 weeks.

Close up of a clipboard and a laptop

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator: Salary

Another important comparison is how much you can make performing these two medical jobs. Take a look below to see the average salaries for MAs and MOAs.

How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?

The BLS reports that the median annual wage for Medical Assistants was $38,000 in May 2021. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned around $29,000, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,000.

This chart shows the top paying industries for Medical Assistants:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related activities $25.46 $52,970
Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers $23.53 $48,940
Outpatient care centers $21.48 $44,680
Electronic shopping and mail-order houses $21.36 $44,420
Insurance carriers $21.34 $44,390

Below are the highest-paying states for Medical Assistants:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Washington $22.75 $47,320
District of Columbia $22.45 $46,690
Alaska $22.30 $46,390
California $21.53 $44,780
Massachusetts $21.25 $44,200

Here are the cities with the highest pay for Medical Assistants:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Vallejo, CA $28.21 $58,670
San Francisco, CA $26.41 $54,930
San Jose, CA $25.90 $53,870
Santa Rosa, CA $25.74 $53,530
Sacramento, CA $24.78 $51,530
Seattle, WA $24.43 $50,820
Napa, CA $24.27 $50,480
Fairbanks, AK $22.62 $47,060
Portland, OR $22.41 $46,620
Olympia, WA $21.95 $45,650

How Much Do Medical Office Administrators Make?

The BLS reports that the median annual wage for Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants was $39,700 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent of all Secretaries and Administrative Assistants earned less than $29,000, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $53,600.

This chart shows the highest paying industries for Medical Office Administrators:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Merchant wholesalers and nondurable goods $34.81 $72,410
Legal services $22.51 $46,820
Business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations $22.44 $46,680
Personal care services $21.90 $45,550
Electronic shopping and mail-order houses $21.83 $45,410

Below are the highest-paying states for Medical Office Administrators:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
District of Colombia $23.02 $47,880
Washington $22.68 $47,170
California $22.31 $46,400
Massachusetts $22.18 $46,130
Rhode Island $21.90 $45,560

Here are the cities with the highest pay for Medical Office Administrators.

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Jose, CA $26.93 $56,010
Napa, CA $25.30 $52,630
San Francisco, CA $25.14 $52,300
Vallejo, CA $24.68 $51,340
Seattle, WA $24.00 $49,920
Portsmouth, NH $23.41 $48,690
Barnstable Town, MA $23.25 $48,360
Olympia, WA $23.23 $48,320
Santa Rosa, CA $22.81 $47,440
Portland, OR $22.76 $47,330

Medical Assistant vs. Medical Office Administrator: Job Outlook

Now that you have a good idea of the job duties for these two healthcare jobs and the educational requirements and average salaries, let’s look at the projected job outlooks.

Nurse holding a clipboard with a patient

Medical Assistant Job Outlook

How are MA careers expected to grow over the next decade? The BLS reports that the employment of Medical Assistants is projected to grow 18% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average of all other occupations.

More than 104,000 openings for Medical Assistants are projected each year, on average, over the next decade. These rapidly expanding jobs may be in hospitals, physician offices, and other healthcare facilities. Many of these jobs may require Medical Assistant certifications.

Click here to learn more on how to become a Medical Assistant.

Medical Office Administrator Job Outlook

Employment for Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, although not quite as robust as MAs, is projected to grow by 11% from 2020 to 2030.

It’s projected that employment in this field will top 676,000 by 2030. The strong employment growth is anticipated primarily due to the continued expansion of the healthcare industry. One reason noted for this growth is the medical service baby boomers will require through the next decade.

Click here to learn more on how to become a Medical Office Administrator.

Which Job Is Right for You?

If you’re just starting your healthcare career, you may wonder which of these two careers is the best first step. Educational programs for both of these programs can be completed in about the same amount of time. However, if you’re interested in both clerical duties and clinical tasks, you may want to opt for the Medical Assisting route. The salary*, on average, is only slightly higher for MAs. But a Medical Assisting background may give you more options for additional training and career advancements in the future.

Reach Your Healthcare Career at Brookline College

Good luck as you prepare to choose the healthcare career that’s right for you and the educational partner to help you prepare to work in your field of choice. Brookline College offers a Medical Assisting Program that provides the necessary training for entry-level positions as a Medical Assistant. It also offers a Medical Office Administration Program that provides the training you need to start managing the regular office duties of a medical or dental office or clinic.