Front Desk Jobs: Medical Receptionist Job Description and Salary Information

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Explore day-to-day medical receptionist duties, and learn more about jobs as a medical receptionist, including the skills required, salary, and career outlook.

[Featured Image]:  A female, wearing a white uniform, and has an ID around her neck, is holding her laptop in an office  as she performs her duties as a medical receptionist

A medical receptionist is an administrative professional who works in health care offices and other medical facilities. It's an ideal career choice for someone who wants a job in the growing medical field but doesn't want a clinical position. Essentially, you'll be the person who helps connect patients with health care providers. The median pay for medical receptionists and secretaries in the United States is about $18.01 for hourly rates and $37,450 annually [1]. That's a little more than secretaries who work in other fields.    

Medical receptionist duties may range from setting up appointments to managing medical records, which means you'll need strong administrative skills and some medical terminology and knowledge of procedures. Because you'll likely greet patients and their loved ones as they enter a medical office or facility, you'll also need to be a great communicator and customer service-oriented. 

Training requirements for a medical receptionist will vary by job. Still, you may need to have some college education, a certification, or have taken some courses on topics like medical terminology and medical billing. Sometimes, a high school diploma is all you need, but the more applicable skills and experience you have can make you more appealing to potential employers. 

What does a front desk medical receptionist do?

Medical receptionist duties vary from job to job, but they usually involve administrative work and customer (patient) service. You'll typically work at the front desk in a medical setting, performing tasks like greeting customers, data entry, answering phones, and clerical work. Throughout the day, you'll interact with patients, their loved ones, and others who call or visit the office, like salespeople, vendors, and insurance companies.  

While the job you apply for will list the medical receptionist duties for that specific location, you can expect it to include tasks like:

  • Greeting patients and their loved ones when they come for appointments

  • Answering phone calls and emails from patients

  • Maintaining an office schedule for other staff members

  • Filing medical records and other documents

  • Keeping the front desk or office organized and running smoothly

  • Scheduling appointments and follow-ups for patients

  • Calling patients to remind them of their appointments

  • Using a computer, medical office software, and other technology to keep information organized and up-to-date

  • Processing payments from patients

  • Assisting patients with filling out forms and answering their questions

  • Transcribing notes from doctors

  • Keeping the waiting and reception areas clean and inviting

  • Contacting insurance companies

  • Ordering supplies as necessary

  • Maintaining a working relationship with the medical receptionists at other medical offices or departments as necessary. 

While many of your duties as a medical receptionist involve clerical work, like filing records and scheduling appointments, you will also spend a great deal of time working directly with patients to ensure their visit to your facility is optimal. Not only does that mean greeting them with a smile, but it also means being helpful with issues like payments, filling out forms, or scheduling. That also means protecting their privacy by handling conversations and paperwork discreetly. You may even find that patients are anxious, upset, or worried about their health, so providing comfort and support may also be a part of your job. 

Finally, keeping the office or department running smoothly and staying organized will go a long way in helping to ensure patients have the best possible experience. Remember, when a patient visits or calls that health care facility, you are the first person they'll speak to. How you respond can leave a great or horrible first impression. 

Where do front desk medical receptionists work? 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, most medical receptionists and secretaries work in physicians' offices. However, you can also work at hospitals, clinics, and outpatient facilities. You may also find jobs in dentists' offices or the offices of other types of health care practitioners, as well as diagnostic and medical laboratories. While it is not quite as common, jobs for medical receptionists may come up in fields like law, politics, business, retail, and personal care. 

It's also important to keep in mind when searching for jobs as a medical receptionist that they may be listed under other names. Medical secretary, medical administrative assistant, patient coordinator, and unit secretary are some of those job titles. 

Medical receptions also have some room for advancement. With the right experience and training, you may eventually work up to an office or practice manager position. You may even find that you'd like to expand your experience in the health care world and take a more clinical role, like becoming a lab tech or medical assistant. Just keep in mind that this usually requires more training or education. Of course, you can also use your clerical and customer service experience to eventually work as a receptionist, administrative assistant, or customer service rep in a field away from health care.  

No matter where you work as a medical receptionist, you'll likely spend most of your time in an office. That often means working a typical full-time 40-hour work week, though if you work in a hospital or facility that's open 24 hours, you may be required to work nights and weekends.   

What are the requirements to work front desk jobs: medical receptionist? 

The requirements to work as a medical receptionist will vary from location to location. At a minimum, you'll need a high school diploma. Beyond that, some organizations may be willing to offer on-the-job training. However, a candidate who brings the right skills, experience, and education to their job interview is often more favorable than one who doesn't. Many candidates choose to get a certificate to strengthen their resume, and while it's not required, an associate or bachelor's degree can also help make you stand out in a field of job candidates.

Education 

To work as a medical receptionist typically requires at least a high school education. Some organizations may prefer for you to have a college degree, but that is not necessarily a requirement for the job. However, it does look good on your resume.

Read more: What Is an Undergraduate Degree?

Certifications aren't necessarily a requirement, but they can help your resume stand out above the rest when applying for a job. The Medical Administrative Assistant Certification offered by the National Healthcareer Association is one option. You'll learn CPR, first aid, medical ethics, medical terminology, and all about health insurance, among other topics. You might also consider the Electronic Health Records Specialist Certification. You'll learn how to manage and interpret health records, including patient data, like allergies, prescriptions, and patient history. You can often find these certification programs offered through community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and even some universities. 

Experience 

Experience isn't necessary to become a medical receptionist, but it never hurts to gain as much as you can. Again, many organizations will offer on-the-job training, which allows you to learn their specific policies and procedures for their front office. They may also have you attend training on medical software, billing, or medical terminology. Should you decide you need or want to gain experience, you can always look for internships and volunteer work in medical facilities. Even better if you can find something that allows you to work hands-on with customer service, managing records, or any other type of administrative work.  

Skills

While there's no set required amount of education and experience needed to become a medical receptionist, you will want to possess some human skills, as well as skills relating to typical office work. As an office employee, requirements may include:

  • Comfort using computers, including email, scheduling programs, medical office software, and databases

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Word

  • Comfort using answers the phone and directing calls

  • Data entry

  • Billing

  • Appointment setting and scheduling

  • Management of records, both physically and electronically   

Because working in a medical office is different from working as a receptionist in other organizations, you'll also need to be familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). It helps protect patients' privacy regarding their medical records and information. Again, knowledge of medical terminology and medical procedures and conditions is also a must. 

It also takes special human skills to work as a medical receptionist. While any type of front desk job requires someone with many of these skills, it's important to remember that you are working with patients who may be scared, anxious, or upset about their health. You'll need to be sensitive, discreet, compassionate, and comforting when working with the patients who call, email, or visit the office daily. A positive attitude is a must.  You'll also need the following human skills: 

  • Written and oral communication 

  • Ability to multitask

  • Attention to detail 

  • Organization 

  • Teamwork

  • Flexibility

  • Time management 

  • Professionalism 

Finally, while being bilingual isn't a requirement to work as a medical receptionist, it can certainly improve your chances of landing a job. If you speak another language, particularly Spanish, be sure to put that on your resume.

Salary and career outlook 

According to the BLS, the demand for health care is rising, and the industry is growing faster than any other. That means the career outlook for becoming a medical receptionist is likely to be good, at least for the next decade. The BLS predicts that employment in health care will grow at a rate of 16 percent between 2020 and 2030 [2]. 

In May 2021, the mean hourly wage for medical receptionists, secretaries, and administrative assistants was $19.11, and the mean annual salary was $ 39,740 [1]. The median hourly wage for this job type was $18.01, while the median yearly salary was $37,450 [1]. The industry in which you work, the type of medical facility you work, and your state or geographic location may play a role in how much you earn as a medical receptionist.

Next steps 

If you want to become a medical receptionist, it's time to build your resume to stand out above the competition. You can do that by learning something new that might help further your career. Visit Coursera, where you'll find options offered by some of the most prestigious schools in the world, like Medical Terminology offered by Rice University or Learn Spanish: Basic Spanish Vocabulary offered by UC Davis.

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Develop your skills in medical terminology. Identify word parts (prefixes, suffixes, and roots) and abbreviations commonly used in the medical field, read and understand health records, and identify terms associated with all 10 major organ systems.

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436013.htm#nat." Accessed May 11, 2021.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm." Accessed May 11, 2021.

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