How do I become a Medical Office Assistant?

medical receptionist

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Being a medical office assistant is one of the many interesting and fulfilling careers expected to grow before 2023. As a medical office assistant, you will support health care professionals and ensure that incoming patients receive the care they need in health care facilities, physician offices, regional health offices, chiropractic offices or rehabilitation centres. The specific qualities of the work are determined by the work schedule (part or full time), experience, and the health organization. Generally, medical office assistants interact with patients to make or confirm appointments, complete paperwork, manage patient records system, etc. If you are organized, attentive to detail, can multi-task, and you want a job that contributes to the health of the population while working directly with people, then perhaps becoming a medical office assistant is the right fit for you.

Key Information

Medical office assistants’ duties differ depending on the health organization they are working at. Since medical office assistants can pursue job opportunities in various health facilities or organizations, interested candidates should check the duties outlined in the job description of the job posting.

Generally, medical office assistants perform any of the following duties:

The following has been adapted from the Alberta alis website.

  • Greet patients
  • Schedule and confirm medical appointments with patients
  • Use health software and other computer applications to book appointments or prepare reports, invoices, financial statements, letters, case histories, and medical records
  • Interview patients to complete intake forms or other documents, or help patients complete health history forms
  • Transcribe handwritten notes or oral instructions
  • Complete insurance and other claim forms
  • Submit billing claims
  • Process payments, bank documents, and accounts receivable
  • Set up and maintain records management systems by classifying electronic and hard-copy files
  • Operate office equipment such as voice mail systems, photocopiers, fax machines, and document scanners
  • Use word processing, spreadsheet, database, and presentation software to prepare medical documents
  • Perform other clerical and administrative functions, such as ordering and maintaining an inventory of supplies

There are no set requirements for the medical office assistant job, but most offices require applicants to have a certification of a medical office assistant program. Prospective applicants should contact and ask the employers about the suitability and reputation of the programs leading to such certification.

The following generally boosts your application:

  • Certification of a medical office assistant program (most factors below can be covered by taking an appropriate medical office assistant program.)
  • Previous work or volunteer experience working in a medical office setting
  • Demonstrated skills in verbal and written communication, organization, time-management, problem-solving, using technology, and planning
  • Typing speed of at least 50 words a minute with a maximum of 3 errors
  • Applied knowledge of computers, including but not limited to, MS Windows, Excel, Outlook, etc.
  • Knowledge of medical terminology and instruments
  • Knowledge of human anatomy and physiology
  • Post-secondary degree in clerical and administrative support

Related programs with certification

People without previous experience in medical office assistant job can choose to earn the medical office assistant certificate, which may help boost their job application. The programs below are some of the many programs available in Calgary that give a certificate upon completion.

Please note that different health organizations may only accept certifications from specific programs and therefore it is best to check with the organization you are interested in applying to.

College offering the program Program delivery Website
Bow Valley College Online, Full Time Classroom, or Real-time Online
SAIT Full Time Classroom or Blended
ABES Contact ABES for more information.

Factors to consider when applying to a program

As there are many programs available, you may want to consider these factors to choose the best program for you:

  • Start and end dates
  • Program delivery method
  • Tuition and fees
  • Time commitment
  • Practicum opportunities (optional or required)
  • Required courses and electives
  • Application deadlines
  • Computer requirements for taking online courses

The admission requirements for these programs often include:

  • The successful completion of high school courses, including but not limited to English Language Arts 30 and Math with grades above a minimum acceptable grade
  • Demonstrated English language proficiency

Some colleges have academic upgrading options to fulfill missing admission requirements, which may be suitable for people with no previous high school education in Canada. The availability of academic upgrading options and the ways to fulfill the admission requirements and to demonstrate English language proficiency differ by college. Therefore, you should always check the college website for more details before applying.

The steps during the application process will differ by program, so applicants must visit the website to apply. Here is some additional information to note when applying:

  • Meeting the minimum admission requirements does not necessarily mean the admission is guaranteed.
  • Apply early, preferably well before the application deadline, as the program may fill up quickly.
  • Ensure all needed documentation, such as transcripts, are sent and received by the college before the deadline.
  • During the selection process, some programs may require the submission of supplementary documentation or information.

What happens after you finish your program and receive your medical office assistant certificate? It depends on many factors: which program you decided to do, your previous experience, background, level of English proficiency, and more. If you have completed practicum as a part of your program, you can leverage your experience and network connections to seek job positions. Another tip is to try to use as much of the resources available while in the program as possible, so you are more prepared to begin a new job after graduation.

The following has been adapted from the Bow Valley College website:

What qualities contribute to success as a Medical Office Assistant?

To best support the efforts of physicians and other health care professionals, medical office assistants should be highly organized and attentive to detail. Those who can prioritize and multi-task, are personable, and can maintain their composure under stressful conditions while addressing the needs of health personnel and the public are most successful in this field.

Where can I expect to work after graduation?

Medical office assistant graduates typically find work in medical offices and clinics, hospitals, health and chiropractic centres, insurance agencies, and private businesses.

How much can I expect to earn as a medical office assistant?

The Alberta Government provides up-to-date information on Alberta’s occupational profiles including wage and salary information. Click on the link to find out more.

What is the difference between the medical office assistant and the hospital unit clerk programs? *This question is specific to the Bow Valley College program

Bow Valley College prepares the medical office assistant learner for employment in a medical or health-related clinic. The program includes training in both administrative and clinical skills appropriate for the medical office or clinic, which includes financial management skills, medical billing, and the use of health care applications.

The hospital unit clerk learner is prepared for employment in a hospital setting. The program includes training in processing medical orders, operating hospital information applications, and administrative skills for a hospital nursing unit. Some health regions specify that a hospital unit clerk certificate is a job requirement. However, hospital unit clerk graduates have transferable skills that enable them to find employment in other health settings as well.

There are several courses that may be identical in the two programs. If a learner completes one of the programs, and wishes to gain a certificate in the other, the learner can apply for transfer credit for these identical courses.

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