Medical secretaries act as the face of the doctor’s office, managing the stream of patients coming in and handling any administrative tasks. Here’s how to become one.
A medical secretary is the person who greets you when you enter a doctor’s office and manages the administrative side of the clinic. They ensure the clinic runs smoothly and efficiently. Becoming a medical secretary can be a steady income for someone who is meticulous, organized, enjoys interacting with people, and is familiar with using software programs.
Jobs in the health care industry are expected to grow 16 percent between 2020 and 2030, in part due to an aging population and the COVID-19 pandemic . That includes medical secretaries, who take care of a clinic or hospital’s operations so doctors, nurses, and medical assistants can provide health care efficiently.
In this article, you’ll learn all about medical secretaries and how to become one.
Medical secretaries manage the flow of patients in a clinic or doctor’s office. Also known as medical administrative assistants or medical receptionists, a medical secretary performs administrative tasks and is knowledgeable about a medical office’s processes.
They tend to be the first face you see when you walk into a doctor’s office. Many medical secretaries also work behind the scenes to ensure vaccine and prescription records are orderly and up to date. Medical secretaries check patients in, collect insurance cards and copayments, and play the important role of maintaining an organized clinic.
Medical secretaries are different from medical assistants, who are trained to handle clinical tasks. Medical assistants help physicians or nurses with direct patient care, though some of their duties may overlap with a medical secretary’s when they handle patient records.
Medical secretaries can work in the following locations:
Doctor’s or physician’s offices
Outpatient care centers
Nonprofit organizations (grantmaking or fundraising)
Scientific research facilities
A medical secretary tends to have these tasks and responsibilities:
Greets patients and visitors, and directs them to the appropriate doctor or specialist
Makes sure patients complete their intake forms, personal and medical histories, and insurance information
Uses software programs to record medical charts, reports, and other details
Schedules patient appointments for surgeries, check-ups, and consultations
Answers the telephone and directs calls to the appropriate staff member
Maintains administrative organization with spreadsheets and word processing systems to prepare invoices, medical records, reports, and more
Organizes medical and paper records in the office
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Medical secretaries should have the following workplace skills:
Effective communication (written and oral)
Attention to detail
A medical secretary should also be a great multi-tasker and have some technical skills:
Knowledge of medical terminology and procedures
Familiarity with basic bookkeeping skills and processing insurance claims
Intuit QuickBooks, accounts receivable software
Experience with software systems, especially those used by medical offices
NueMD, Phreesia, Epic Systems, medical coding software
Ability to send emails, generate reports and keep track of scheduling
Microsoft Office or Google Docs for word processing and Excel spreadsheets
Outlook or Gmail
Over the years, medical offices have become much more digitized. Patient records, medical histories, insurance claims, finances, and more, are now all accessible on data-driven software programs tailored to the medical industry.
Being a medical secretary can provide a steady income in a field that will always be needed. You can earn more certifications or move into another higher-paying role within the health care industry as you gain more experience.
Before you start applying for jobs, it’s good to make sure you have all the requirements. Here are the education, training, and certification requirements for becoming a medical secretary.
While the minimum education requirement to become a medical secretary is a high school diploma or equivalent, you might also consider an associate or bachelor’s degree. Earning a certificate from a technical school in medical administration or a similar program that emphasizes medical training can also boost your chances of landing a job. Once hired, you’ll most likely receive on-the-job training, even if you’re just getting trained on the specific processes and procedures a clinic uses.
According to Zippia, 20 percent of medical secretaries have just a high school diploma, while 29 percent have an associate degree and 24 percent have a bachelor’s degree .
You do not need a certification to become a medical secretary. However, like for many professions, it can make you stand out when searching for jobs. You can get certified as a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) with the National Healthcareer Association. To take the CMAA exam, you must complete a training program or have one year of work experience and a high school diploma (or GED).
The CMAA exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions on medical laws, office procedures, and insurance procedures.
As you progress in your career, you may decide to take more courses that qualify you for additional certification. For example, you can become a certified medical assistant through the American Association of Medical Assistants. With additional coursework in medical coding, you can become a certified medical records technician.
Here’s how to get started on your career as a medical secretary.
Start by gaining a solid foundation by earning at least a high school diploma. Some community colleges or technical schools offer medical administration training programs that teach you the specific skills and terminology you’ll need to be a medical secretary. Do your research to decide which program is right for you, your budget, and your lifestyle.
If you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field, consider health care administration, which provides you with all the skills and clinical knowledge you’ll need to know to succeed as a medical secretary.
It is optional to get certified but recommended. Your resume will be stronger, and you’ll have access to more job opportunities. Employers are more likely to consider job candidates who have a certification.
After getting your training and certification, you may decide to apply directly for medical secretary roles. However, if you have trouble finding one specifically in the health care industry, you might consider finding a job doing secretarial or administrative work for any type of office or industry.
Once you have gained some work experience, apply for more medical secretary jobs. If you have already landed one and have been working for a few years, you may choose to apply for executive medical secretary roles.
No matter which path you choose, you can always turn to online learning platforms, vocational schools, universities, or certification providers to equip you with new career opportunities within health care.
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1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Healthcare Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.” Accessed August 23, 2022.
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436013.htm.” Accessed August 23, 2022.
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Secretaries and Administrative Assistants-Job Outlook, .” Accessed August 30, 2022.
4. Zippia. “Medical Office Secretary Education Requirements, https://www.zippia.com/medical-office-secretary-jobs/education/.” Accessed August 23, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.