Medical Receptionists: Job Description, Duties, and Salary

Written by Coursera Staff • 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 medical receptionist works at an office desk.

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.

In this article, you'll learn more about medical receptionists, including what they do, how much they earn, and how to become one. At the end, you'll also explore cost-effective, flexible courses that can help you start gaining job-relevant skills today.

What is a medical receptionist?

Medical receptionists are administrators who work in the offices of health care providers or other medical facilities, such as clinics or laboratories.

Typically, medical receptionists perform clerical duties, like filing records and scheduling appointments, and spend a great deal of their time working directly with patients to ensure their visits are optimal. Occasionally, patients are anxious, upset, or worried about their health, so medical receptions may also provide comfort and support as a part of their day-to-day job. 

Medical receptions also have some room for advancement. With the right experience and training, they may eventually work up to an office or practice manager position. In some cases, they might also expand their experience and take a more clinical role, like becoming a lab tech or medical assistant.

What does a medical receptionist do?

Medical receptionist duties vary from job to job, but they usually involve administrative work and customer service. You'll typically work at the front desk in a medical setting, performing tasks like greeting patients, entering data, answering phones, and doing 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

  • 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

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

Medical receptionist salary and job outlook 

The average hourly wage for medical receptionists, secretaries, and administrative assistants was $18.51 and the median annual salary was $38,500 as of May 2022 [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.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (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 13 percent between 2021 and 2031 [2]. 

Work environment

According to the US BLS, most medical receptionists and secretaries work in physicians' offices. However, you can also work at hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities, dentists' offices, and in the offices of other types of health care practitioners, as well as diagnostic and medical laboratories.

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, but if you work in a 24-hour hospital or facility, you may be required to work nights and weekends.   


How to become a medical receptionist

You don't need extensive training to become a medical receptionist, but you do need a willingness to learn, care for others, and hone your administrative skills. Here's what you can expect to do as you pursue a career as a medical receptionist.

1. Obtain your diploma (or degree). 

Typically, to work as a medical receptionist you'll need to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some organizations may prefer for you to have a college degree, but that is not necessarily a requirement for the job. However, possessing one may look good on your resume.

Read more: What Is an Undergraduate Degree?

2. Gain some work experience. 

Experience isn't necessary to become a medical receptionist, but having prior receptionist or related experience can give you leverage when applying for jobs. Many organizations will offer on-the-job training, which allows you to learn the specific policies and procedures for their front office. They may also have you attend training on medical software, billing, or medical terminology.

If you want to gain experience, you can look for internships and volunteer work in medical facilities. You can also find work that gives you direct experience with customer service, managing records, or administrative work.  

Looking for medical receptionist jobs? Consider other job titles

When searching for jobs, "medical receptionist" might be listed under other names. Medical secretary, medical administrative assistant, patient coordinator, and unit secretary are some of those job titles. 


3. Hone the right skills.

While there's no set required amount of education and experience needed to become a medical receptionist, you will want to possess certain people and administrative skills. Here are some of the skills you'll likely need as a medical receptionist:

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

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Word

  • Data entry

  • Billing

  • Appointment setting and scheduling

  • Written and oral communication

  • Ability to multitask

  • Attention to detail 

  • Organization 

  • Teamwork

  • Flexibility

  • Time management

  • Professionalism 

  • 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.

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

4. Consider certification.

Certifications aren't a requirement, but they can help your resume stand out. The Medical Administrative Assistant Certification offered by the National Healthcare 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. 

Next steps 

Medical receptionists are central to connecting patients with health care providers. As a result, it's important to possess both well-honed people skills and a strong grasp of the medical field as a whole. If you want to become a medical receptionist, consider building job-relevant skills through a cost-effective, flexible course on Coursera.

In Rice University's Medical Terminology Specializations, you'll learn how to identify word parts and abbreviations commonly used in the medical field, read and understand health records, and identify terms associated with all ten major organ systems.

In UC Davis' Learn Spanish: Basic Spanish Vocabulary, you'll build a working vocabulary of 1,500 of the most used Spanish words and phrases.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics," Accessed August 29, 2023.

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