Medical assistant salary in California might be the best in the United States for medical assistants seeking work. The average annual salary for a medical assistant in the state is $44,780, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median salary for a medical assistant in the state is $38,780. This is much more than the average national salary of $38,190 and the median salary of $37,190.
|Medical Assistant Salary in California||Median Annual Pay|
|-Lowest 10 percent||$30,210|
|-Median 50 percent||$38,780|
|-Highest 10 percent||$61,800|
Several things are causing this trend, such as California’s high cost of living. But there are also other important factors, such as meeting the needs of the state’s high-quality healthcare system, the growing demand for medical assistants with a lot of experience, and the fact that many large employers encourage post-graduate education and certification in more than one field.
Why is medical assistant salary in California so high in 2023?
One apparent reason medical assistants get paid more in California is the high cost of living there. World Population Review says California is the third most expensive state in the U.S., with a cost of living index of 151.7. Housing and transportation costs in California are known to be very high. Hawaii and the District of Columbia are the only higher ones. Texas has a cost of living index of 91.5, while Ohio’s is only 90.8.
But higher pay for medical assistants in California isn’t just about the cost of living; it’s also about the work environment. In California, job postings often say that medical assistants must be certified and have graduated from programs that have been approved. Compared to some states, California medical assistants tend to have more experience, education, training, and certifications, which tends to raise their salaries. They are at the forefront of national trends when it comes to professional development.
Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, is the CEO and legal counsel for the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). He says that employers are more aware of medical assistants’ professional skills and give them more responsibility. Balasa says that medical assistants are trained to work in places like clinics and doctors’ offices, and more and more employers see them as essential members of the medical team.
Balasa says that employers today want medical assistants with more education and training than they did in the past. Most medical assistant jobs require a formal education after high school. This could be a one-year certificate or diploma program or a two-year associate degree program.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal agencies and executive orders from state governors made it legal for medical assistants to do more. This helped relieve the stress on doctors and nurses. Balasa says that these “government actions” have changed the knowledge, skills, and professional traits that medical assistants will be expected to have and that these changes may be permanent.
In California, there are a lot of jobs for medical assistants who have less experience and training but learn on the job. But those who join larger organizations and move into training/instruction, supervisory, and leadership roles have formal education in the field, several years of experience, and multiple certifications (in medical assisting and related areas like phlebotomy, allied health instruction, etc.). They are involved in both state and national professional organizations.
And it looks like California has welcomed the change in the role of medical assistants with open arms. By a wide margin, this state hires more medical assistants than any other and pays them for their skills.
Where in the State are Salaries Highest for Medical Assistants?
No matter where in California you want to live, you may be able to find a job as a medical assistant that pays more than the national median, which is the middle point between the highest and lowest salaries. When you look at the top 15 highest-paying metro areas in California, you’ll see that the median annual wage is higher in all but one of them than the national average of $37,190. This is true whether you want to live in northern or southern California, by the sea or in one of the valleys.
There may not be a better time than now in the Golden State to become a medical assistant.
California’s largest industry in terms of jobs and income is health care, and the need for qualified health care workers seems to grow daily. The California Future Health Workforce Commission said in 2019 that the state’s health care workers are in “grave short supply.” Everyone, from the best clinicians to the newest support staff, has exciting opportunities in this kind of setting.
Complete a diploma, certificate, or associate degree program in medical assisting, and you could become one of California’s 97,700 medical assistants. By 2021, that number will grow to 103,100, a 5.5% increase in just a few short years.
As you move up the career ladder as a medical assistant in California, your salary can go up by $20,000 or more. As of May 2019, the average hourly wage for a medical assistant in this country was $18.10, or $37,640 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest pay in the field is $28.43 per hour, or $59,130 per year, for someone with a few years of experience and the CMA designation.
Average hourly pay for medical assistant salary in California’s | Average hourly pay in metro areas
Most medical assistants work in Los Angeles, but the highest-paid ones are in San Francisco, where the top 10% make an average of $31.98 per hour.
The following BLS numbers give an idea of how many medical assistants in California’s most significant cities earn per hour between the median and the top 10%:
- Bakersfield: $15.20 – $20.65 (approximately 2,130 medical assistants)
- Fresno: $16.33 – $22.52 (approximately 3,320 medical assistants)
- Los Angeles: $17.43–$26.63 (Long Beach and Anaheim are part of the greater metro area) (approximately 32,040 medical assistants)
- Modesto: $17.22 – $24.69 (approximately 1,410 medical assistants)
- San Diego (greater metro area, which includes Carlsbad): $18.58–$25.36 (approximately 8,130 medical assistants)
- The greater metro area of San Francisco, which includes Oakland and Hayward, is between $23.26 and $31.98. (approximately 12,320 medical assistants)
- The greater metro area of San Jose, which includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, is between $21.95 and $30.82. (approximately 5,100 medical assistants)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What Do Medical Assistants Do All Day?
In the offices of doctors, hospitals, and other health care facilities, medical assistants do both administrative and clinical work. Their jobs depend on where they work, what they specialize in, and how big their practice is.
- Most of the time, medical assistants do the following:
- Write down the patient’s history and personal info.
- Check essential things, like blood pressure.
- Help doctors check up on their patients.
- Give injections or medicines to patients as doctors tell you and state law allows.
- Schedule patient appointments
- Get blood samples ready for lab tests.
- Fill out patient records with their information.
Medical assistants get and write down information about each patient. They must be able to keep this information private and only share it with other doctors and nurses treating the patient.
Some medical assistants’ jobs are changing because of electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs are being used by more and more doctors, who are moving all of their paper patient records to electronic records. The EHR software that is used in their office needs to be learned by the assistants.
Physician assistants, who look at, diagnose, and treat patients under the supervision of a doctor, are not the same as medical assistants. In larger practices or hospitals, medical assistants may focus on either office work or patient care.
In larger practices or hospitals, medical assistants may specialize in either administrative or clinical work.
Administrative medical assistants
Often, they fill out insurance forms or code information about their patients’ health. They usually answer the phone and set up appointments for patients.
Clinical medical assistants
Depending on which state they work in, they have different jobs to do. They might do simple tests in the lab, get rid of contaminated supplies, or sterilize medical tools. They may also have to tell patients how to take their medicines or follow special diets, get them ready for x-rays, take out stitches, draw blood, or change dressings.
Some medical assistants specialize in the type of medical office where they work. Here are some examples of different kinds of medical assistants:
Ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants
They help eye doctors and optometrists do their jobs. They teach people how to put in, take out, and take care of their contact lenses. An ophthalmologist may also get help from an ophthalmic medical assistant during surgery.
Podiatric medical assistants
help podiatrists do their jobs (foot doctors). They may make molds of feet, take and develop x-rays, and help podiatrists with surgery.
What kind of pay and benefits can I expect as a medical assistant?
In California, the median salary for a medical assistant in 2022 will be $41,342 per year or $19.88 per hour. In the Sacramento Metro Area, the median salary for a medical assistant is $51,576 per year or $24.80 per hour. At the median, half of the workers make more money, and half make less.
|Change to Hourly Wages|
|Annual Wages for 2022||Low|
|-Sacramento Metro Area||$40,574||$51,576||$65,882|
|-Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2022 Wages do not reflect self-employment.|
|-The Sacramento Metro Area includes El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, and Yolo counties.|
Most benefits include paid time off for vacation, holidays, and sickness. Many assistants also have health and dental insurance paid for by their employers and retirement plans.
What is the Job Outlook for a Medical Assistant?
From 2016 to 2026, the number of jobs for medical assistants is expected to grow by 29%, much faster than the average for all jobs. As the baby boomer generation ages, there will be more demand for preventive medical services, often given by doctors. So, doctors will hire more assistants to take care of routine administrative and clinical tasks. This will allow doctors to see more patients.
More and more group practices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities will also need support workers, especially medical assistants, to do administrative and clinical work. Most medical assistants work in primary care, a part of the healthcare industry that is growing steadily.
How To Become a Medical Assistant in California
Most medical assistants have a certificate or other proof of education after high school. Some people get into the job with just a high school diploma and learn on the job.
Medical assistants usually get their degrees from programs after high school. Even though most states don’t require formal education to become a medical assistant, employers may prefer to hire assistants who have finished these programs.
Medical assisting programs can be found at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities. It takes about a year to finish one of these programs. Most of the time, these programs lead to a certificate or a diploma. Some two-year programs at community colleges lead to an associate’s degree. In both the classroom and the lab, all programs teach students about anatomy and medical terms.
Some medical assistants have a high school diploma or something similar and learn their jobs on the job. If you want to be a medical assistant after high school, you should take classes in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and maybe even business and computers.
Analytical skills: Medical assistants need to understand medical charts and diagnoses and follow them. They may have to code a patient’s medical records so that they can be billed.
Detail oriented: Medical assistants must be careful when taking vital signs or writing down information about a patient. Accurate records are essential for doctors and insurance companies.
Interpersonal skills: Medical assistants must be able to talk about patients with other medical staff, like doctors. They often deal with people who are in pain or upset, so they need to be able to stay calm and act professionally.
Technical skills: Medical assistants should know how to use essential clinical tools to take vital signs like a patient’s heart rate and blood pressure.
Medical assistants who don’t have a certificate from a college or university learn their skills on the job. Physicians or other medical assistants may teach a new assistant medical terms, instrument names, how to do daily tasks, how to talk to patients, and other functions that help keep an office running smoothly. Medical assistants also learn to record patient information and code paper and electronic health records (EHRs). Depending on the facility, an assistant’s training can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
In most states, medical assistants don’t need to be certified. But employers may want to hire assistants who are licensed. Several groups offer certification. For each certificate, an applicant must pass an exam and have taken one of several paths. Some ways are getting a degree from an approved program and gaining work experience. Most of the time, a person must be at least 18 before they can apply for certification.
The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association
Some states may require medical assistants to have graduated from an accredited program, passed an exam, or done both. For more information, you can contact the state board of medicine.
Medical assistants can specialize and move into leadership roles as they gain more experience. With more education, they could become registered nurses, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners.
Where do I find a Medical Assistant Job
A traditional way to find a job as a Medical Assistant is to talk to employers directly. There are also good places to look like college placement offices, company recruiting events, job fairs, and online job search sites. On their websites, career groups will sometimes list jobs that are open. There are online job listings like CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
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