More than 4,000 medical assistants throughout the nation participated in the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) 2013 Compensation and Benefits Survey. The survey revealed some very interesting findings on how certification, geography and industry impact earning potential for medical assistants.
Employee benefits are often considered an important component to medical assistant salaries. According to the AAMA’s 2013 compensation survey, 87 percent of all full-time respondents reported receiving some kind of benefits from their employer. Of those medical assistants receiving benefits, nearly 74 percent reported receiving major medical coverage, and another 61 percent reported receiving vision coverage.
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Medical Assistant Salaries for Certified vs. Non-Certified Medical Assistants
The AAMA survey found, among other things, that there was a significant gap in compensation between medical assistants without certification and medical assistants who held the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification:
- Average salary for full-time medical assistants, non-CMA certified: $14.29/hour or $27,914/year
- Average salary for CMA-certified full-time medical assistants: $15.35/hour or $29,889/year
Salary data for medical assistants and CMAs was further broken down by years of experience:
Years of experience: 0-2
- $13.44/hour or $25,848 per year for full-time CMAs
- $13.25/hour or $25,658 per year for full-time non-CMAs
Years of experience: 3-5
- $14.83 per hour or $25,158 per year for full-time CMAs
- $14.30 or $26,340 per year for full-time non-CMAs
Years of experience: 6-9
- $15.67 or $30,756 per year for full-time CMAs
- $15.69 or $29,821 per year for full-time non-CMAs
Years of experience: 10-15
- $16.96 or $32,954 per year for full-time CMAs
- $17.72 or $35,300 per year for full-time non-CMAs
Years of experience: 16-plus years
- $18.16 or $36,038 per year for full-time CMAs
- $18.28 or $37,528 per year for full-time non-CMAs
Demand for CMAs over their non-CMA certified counterparts (and their higher salaries) may be due to a number of factors, including:
- The pressure of potential malpractice suits: Managed care organizations may place mandates on employers to employ certified medical assistants.
- The 2012 ruling by the Centers for Medicaid Services, which said that only credentialed medical assistants are allowed to enter laboratory, medication, and other radiology orders into the computerized provider order entry system (Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs).
Medical Assistant Salaries by Geographic Region
Medical assistant salaries are affected by the geographic region in which they are located, as was reported by the 2013 AAMA compensation survey.
The Pacific region of the United States reported the highest average earnings for full medical assistants with the CMA credential of $33,322 ($17.60 per hour). New England followed closely behind, with CMAs there earning an average of $30,997 per year, although the West North Central region reported the second highest per-hour salary of $16.15.
- New England: $15.93 per hour/$30,997 per year
- Middle Atlantic: $15.22 per hour/$29,756 per year
- East North Central: $14.67 per hour/$28,614 per year
- West North Central: $16.15 per hour/$30,871 per year
- South Atlantic: $14.54 per hour/$28,619 per year
- East South Central: $14.13 per hour/$28,712 per year
- West South Central: $14.75 per hour/$30,450 per year
- Mountain: $15.06 per hour/$30,208 per year
- Pacific: $17.60 per hour/$33,322 per year
The U.S. Department of Labor has provided a detail analysis of medical assistant salaries across the nation as show in the table below (2013):
Medical Assisting Salaries by Work Setting
The AAMA 2013 compensation survey also broke down medical assistant (CMA) salaries by the setting in which they work. Almost 87 percent of the medical assistants surveyed reported working in a physician’s office, with just 2.6 percent reporting an emergency or outpatient hospital work setting, and another 1.1 percent reporting an ambulatory surgery work setting. The remaining 7.4 percent of survey respondents reported working in “other” workplace settings, such as inpatient hospital care, nursing homes, home and hospice care, and residential care.
Average salaries for medical assistants, according to work setting, included:
- Ambulatory setting: $16.26 per hour/$32,350 per year
- Emergency/outpatient hospital department: $15.94 per hour/$33,745 per year
- Physician’s offices: $15.32 per hour/$29,749 per year
- Other: $15.95 per hour/$30,958 per year
Of the 87 percent of respondents working in physician offices, 64 percent of medical assistants reported working in a primary care office or practice, while another 32 percent worked in a medical or surgical specialties practice. Fifty-one percent of medical assistants reported working in a single-specialty practice, while 45 percent reported working in a multispecialty setting.
Medical assistants who worked in primary care settings reported an average salary of $15.19 per hour/$29,412 per year, while medical assistants in other medical and surgical specialty offices reported earning slightly less, at $15.75 per hour/$31,004 per year.
Medical assistants working in a multispecialty physician’s office reported an average earning of $15.44 per hour/$30,062 per year, slightly higher than those working in single-specialty physician’s offices, who reported an average salary of $15.26 per hour/$29,791 per year.