Medical Assistant Salary Guide

LearnHowToBecome Team
Laura Leavitt
September 27, 2021

When you think about medical careers, you might think of sky-high student debt and years of schooling. As it turns out, you can become a medical assistant with only a short post secondary education program or even entirely on-the-job training.

The opportunity to begin working in healthcare and earning a salary early on in your career may make a medical assistant role a great fit for you. Read on to learn how much medical assistants make.

How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make in the United States?

The medical assistant salary is below the median for all occupations in the United States in most cases. That median is $41,950, and medical assistants make $36,930 on average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

That said, it's possible to use a medical assistant role as a springboard to more training and pay, and contexts like outpatient care centers often have higher-than-average pay for medical assistants.

Salary Changes Throughout the Career Path

When you first receive your post secondary certificate or associate degree in medical assisting, you can apply for medical assistant roles. These are available in many industries, but according to the BLS, medical assistants in outpatient care centers have the highest salaries.

To get into the higher percentiles of medical assistant work, you'll keep an eye on what kinds of specialties might get you a higher rate of pay. For instance, having multiple years of experience as an oncology medical assistant might make you eligible for a pay bump if a cancer treatment clinic needs someone with your expertise.

You can also research additional continuing education and training on particular equipment that could make you more versatile and valuable. With additional credentials, your certified medical assistant salary can go up over time.

If you prefer to move into a higher pay range, consider becoming a nurse. Similar to medical assistants, you can also grow your income further by finding in-demand specialties within the field and developing your knowledge and experience there.

The average nurse salary is just over $80,000, according to the BLS.

If you realize you'd like to have a primary care provider role, you can continue your education through a nurse practitioner, PA, or medical doctor program. These programs take substantially longer and can be costly, but the pay rates after these programs are very strong.

Your experience in medical assisting will be a valuable source of context for your classroom and practical learning in these programs. Consider the following salaries for each role:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant: CNAs perform many similar patient care tasks as medical assistants but without the focus on records and administrative tasks.
  • Dental Assistant: Dental assistants also have similar mixes of patient care and administrative task loads to medical assistants, but they work exclusively in dental work.
  • Pharmacy Technician: If you want to specialize outside of patient care and instead wish to work in a pharmacy, this role will allow you to serve customers as well as maintain the pharmacy environment and measure out medications.

Pay Difference By Location


Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Opportunities and Job Growth for Medical Assistants

Medical assistants are sorely needed right now in many parts of the U.S. The field is expected to grow 19%, which is much faster than the 4% growth expected on average in occupations in the U.S. You can up your chances of finding medical assistant work even further by looking for work in these states and metropolitan areas:

Top States by Highest Job Concentration

Top Metro Areas

Other Benefits of Becoming a Medical Assistant

Depending on your employer, a medical assistant job may or may not also have a benefits package with access to a healthcare plan or retirement benefits in addition to your medical assistant salary.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Medical Assistant?

Many medical assistants can begin working and learning on the job, but a short certificate program can also motivate your employer and show your interest. Coursework may last several weeks, potentially three months, and be connected to an externship where you can practice with the skills you've obtained. These courses often cost $2,000 or less, but it will depend on which kind of institution you choose.

You can also seek different certifications that may boost your chances of employment or a higher starting salary. Exams vary in cost but can be around $100.

Salaries for Related Jobs

Dental Assistant

  • Average salary: $42,310
  • Cost to become: One-year certificate program, state licensure exam/costs.

Certified Nursing Assistant

  • Average salary: $32,050
  • Cost to become: Short training program (offered in high schools or community colleges), competency exam.

Pharmacy Technician

  • Average salary: $36,450
  • Cost to become: One- or two-year program, either a certificate or an associate degree. Certification exam, recertification costs over time.

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Laura Leavitt
Contributing Writer

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