Job Prospects: Good
Typical Annual Compensation:
- Bay Area . . . . . . . $31,713 - 48,800
- Central Valley . . . . $27,709 - 41,897
- Sacramento . . . . . $28,790 - 43,075
Job Market Update
Overall growth in health services, fueled by the aging of the Baby Boom generation, should increase demand for medical secretaries over the next decade. Many other openings will come from the need to replace workers leaving the occupation. Nationally, employment is expected to grow by 17 percent, about 68,000 new jobs from 2006 to 2016, faster than the average for all occupations.
Medical Secretaries (also known as Unit Support or Patient Relations Representatives, Health Unit Coordinators, Medical Receptionists, Medical Office Specialists, Front-Office Managers, and Patient Coordinators), are considered the executive managers of the medical office and are responsible for anything that isn’t directly related to treating patients. They perform a variety of administrative duties including answering phones, handling correspondence, keeping records up to date, making appointments, recording medical histories, transcribing dictation, and processing insurance and other medical forms. Tasks can range in complexity from ordering supplies to assisting physicians or medical scientists with speeches, articles, and conference proceedings. In smaller offices, medical secretaries may have a great deal of patient interaction; in larger institutions, they might be personal secretaries to a department head, or work in the medical records department with other administrative staff. Regardless of the setting, one of their main responsibilities is to make sure the office they work in runs smoothly.
Medical secretaries work in a variety of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, group medical practices, insurance companies, government health departments, and medical research departments.
Their jobs often involve sitting for long periods and working with a computer keyboard, so they may encounter problems of eyestrain, stress, and repetitive motion ailments.
While the majority of medical secretaries and administrative assistants are full-time employees who work a standard 40-hour week, about one in five works part time, and many others are employed in temporary positions. A few participate in job-sharing arrangements, in which two people divide responsibility for a single job.
Medical secretaries must have strong computer skills, including proficiency with word-processing and spreadsheet programs. Demand is increasing for candidates with knowledge of other software applications, such as desktop publishing, project management, and database management. Most medical secretaries also need to be familiar with medical terminology, insurance rules, billing practices, and the procedures common to health clinics, hospitals and laboratories.
Due to the exacting nature of the medical field, excellent written and verbal communication abilities and organizational skills are a must. Employers also look for good customer service and interpersonal skills, as medical secretaries must be tactful in their dealings with patients and their families. Discretion, good judgment, initiative, and the ability to work independently are especially valued.
Those interested in medical secretarial work must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Since those working in the field need some medical knowledge, employers favor applicants with college credits, and prefer an associate’s degree.
High school students interested in becoming a medical secretary should take courses in word processing, English, composition, shorthand, algebra, introduction to business, business computer applications, recordkeeping, cooperative office education, and studies related to health occupations and medical professions.
For more information on medical administrative careers, visit these websites:
AllAlliedHealthSchools.com – Consult a comprehensive directory of accredited colleges, universities, and online health schools with thousands of programs. Search by degree, program, city or state to find the training you need to change your career or start a new career. 888-235-3990
HealtheCareers.com – Search jobs by discipline and location. Specialty healthcare job board covers all types of medical careers, including administrative roles. 888-884-8242
iaap-hq.org – The International Association of Admin Professionals has info on becoming a Certified Professional Secretary and a Certified Administrative Professional. (816) 891-6600
Theaeap.com – Members of The Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals receive assistance with professional development, career development and career advancement. Website includes job board and ‘The Executary’ newsletter. (703) 237-8616