How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make?

Workers may increase their medical assistant salary in one of many ways. Learn more about medical assistant jobs with the greatest salary potential.

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by Thomas Broderick

Published September 23, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make?
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The healthcare field offers many career paths for people wanting to make a difference, including medical assisting. Medical assistants work in hospitals and other medical facilities, performing administrative and clinical tasks. For example, they may help physicians perform exams on patients, record patient information, and schedule appointments.

Working as a medical assistant requires graduating from a state-approved program awarding a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. Professionals grow in the field by specializing, gaining relevant experience, and changing employers. Other opportunities to increase salary potential include earning a medical assistant certification.

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What Is the Average Medical Assistant Salary?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these professionals earned a median salary of $37,190 in May 2021. This figure fell below the national median salary by about $8,000. Many professionals working for outpatient care centers and hospitals make more than the median.

August 2022 Payscale data reports that the top 10% of medical assistants earn an average salary of about $51,000. This Payscale data also reveals in-demand skills that may lead to increased salary potential, which include clinical supervision and leadership skills. Medical assistant jobs that may lead to a raise include those in emergency rooms and in-vitro fertilization clinics.

Job Growth for Medical Assistants

The BLS projects 18% growth in the need for medical assistants from 2020-2030. The BLS bases this figure on the significant number of retiring people and an aging U.S. population.

This job growth may lead to many open positions for recent graduates and experienced professionals. Employers looking to fill these positions may offer a higher-than-average salary to attract applicants.

How Much Do Medical Assistants Make By State?

States with the highest average medical assistant salary in 2021 included those on the West Coast and the Northeast. Careers in states bordering the Great Lakes offered a high salary as well. These areas feature densely populated metropolitan areas.

Many factors affect why salary varies among states, such as the cost of living. Employers in a state with a high cost of living must offer a good salary so employees can pay for rent, food, transportation, and other essentials.

Source: BLS

Where Can I Make the Most Money as a Medical Assistant?

Highest-Paying States for Medical Assistants

The states below featured a very high cost of living in the second quarter of 2022, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Workers thinking about relocating to one of these states to increase their clinical medical assistant salary should note that the cost of living also varies within states. Apartments in major cities may charge much higher rents than suburban and rural areas.

State Annual Mean Salary
Washington $47,320
District of Columbia $46,690
Alaska $46,390
California $44,780
Massachusetts $44,200

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Medical Assistants

Professionals can find the highest average clinical medical assistant salary by exploring careers in California's San Francisco Bay Area. These cities' high costs of living mean employers must offer more. Zumper reports that Oakland, California residents spend an average of $2,195 per month for a one-bedroom apartment as of September 2022.

Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Salary
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $58,670
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $54,930
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $53,870
Santa Rosa, CA $53,530
Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA $51,530

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas for Medical Assistants

Rural areas attract highly qualified medical assistants by offering them a salary exceeding the cost of living. Professionals without children who earn the average hourly medical assistant salary in Alaska make more than what the typical resident needs to cover living expenses. Workers facing a lower cost of living in these areas may achieve a better quality of life.

Nonmetropolitan Area Annual Mean Salary
Alaska $49,190
Western Washington $43,070
Massachusetts $42,970
Northwest Colorado $41,860
Eastern Washington $41,770

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Industries for Medical Assistants

The industry that workers choose affects their certified medical assistant salary as much as where they live. Professionals in the top two best-paying industries may need additional skills to work alongside brokers, insurance agents, or commercial equipment workers. Developing these skills may require taking undergraduate classes in subjects other than healthcare.

Industry Annual Mean Salary
Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities $52,970
Professional and Commercial Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers $48,940
Outpatient Care Centers $44,680
Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses $44,420
Insurance Carriers $44,390

Source: BLS

How Can I Increase My Salary as a Medical Assistant?

Complete a Medical Assisting Program

Medical assistants must graduate from a state-approved certificate, diploma, or associate program. Students find one of these programs at a local community or junior college. Typical classes cover clinical skills, administrative skills, and electronic health records.

Although they take longer to complete, an associate in medical assisting gives students many advantages. Professionals with a degree offer employers more transferable skills. And they may use their education to transfer to an RN or other bachelor's-completion program.

Obtain Certification

Medical assistants can increase their salary potential by earning a certification. Certifications differ from licenses because a private organization awards them rather than a government agency.

Options include the National Center for Competency Testing's national certified medical assistant. Requirements include graduating from a medical assistant program, passing an exam, and gaining at least two years of work experience.

Consider Relocating

Relocating may offer a more lucrative salary, as well as open new career paths. Recent graduates and experienced professionals can improve their medical administrative assistant salaries by researching the best and worst states for a career change. The latest data from June 2022 shows that Georgia, New Hampshire, and Utah feature a mix of advantages for workers in different industries.

Change Industries

BLS data shows that agencies, brokerages, and commercial equipment suppliers paid the highest average medical assistant salary in 2021. Breaking into one of these industries may require gaining experience and earning certifications. Students in a medical assisting program can work with a career counselor to select classes and develop a career plan.

Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Assistant Salary

Is it worth it to be a medical assistant?

Yes. The BLS projects significant growth in the medical assisting field from 2020-2030. Strong growth can help recent graduates find a job quicker. These professionals also benefit from being able to explore many positions in different states, cities, and industries.

Medical assistants benefit in other ways, too, such as helping physicians and nurses provide the best patient care. These professionals need medical assistants to keep their healthcare facility running smoothly and effectively.

The medical assisting field also features many opportunities to grow professionally, such as specializing in clinical medicine, podiatry, or administration.

How can a medical assistant make more money?

Students preparing for a career as a medical assistant can increase their salary potential by enrolling in an associate in medical assisting program. The latest BLS data from 2020 shows that professionals with an associate degree earned about $50 more per week than their peers with only some college experience. Workers with an associate degree also experienced a lower unemployment rate.

Experienced professionals make more money in different ways, such as earning certifications, changing employers, and moving to another state. Workers can study industry trends, speak with more-experienced peers, and consult with their managers to make the right decision.

What specialty pays medical assistants the most?

The BLS reports that occupational therapy assistants earned a median $61,730 annual salary as of May 2021. This salary exceeded medical assistants' median compensation by about $24,000. Occupational therapy assistants need at least an associate degree from an accredited school and may increase their salary potential with a certification.

Students can find well-paying specialties with an academic advisor's help or by taking career interest inventories. These steps let learners pick a well-paying specialty aligned with their career goals. Selecting one solely for the money may lead to burnout and leaving the healthcare field.

What states pay medical assistants the most?

Washington, the District of Columbia, and Alaska featured the highest average medical assistant salaries in 2021. Typical workers there made at least $9,000 more per year than the profession's median salary. California and Massachusetts medical assistants also earned considerably more than their peers in other states.

Workers should research factors besides a certified medical assistant's salary before relocating, such as the cost of living. States with the most lucrative salaries featured rents higher than the national average.

A high cost of living does not mean professionals should avoid relocating. Medical assistant jobs in an in-demand specialty may pay well above what workers need to cover cost-of-living expenses.

What is the highest salary a medical assistant can make?

The latest Payscale data from August 2022 shows that top-earning certified medical assistants make more than $50,000 per year on average nationwide. Employers in a state with a high cost of living may offer workers significantly more.

People should start considering earning potential while in school. Discussions with academic and career advisors can help students find specializations wherein workers may increase salary potential throughout their career.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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