Medical Secretaries: Career Info & Requirements

One of the fastest growing segments of the secretarial field, medical secretary careers involve general administrative duties with specialized medical and healthcare operations knowledge. Read on to find out the education requirements, skills involved, salary and employment outlook for this career.

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Career Definition

A career as a medical secretary can take several forms, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov. In a physician's office, a medical secretary's job responsibilities may involve recording medical histories, completing insurance paperwork and arranging for patients' hospital procedures. Some medical secretaries work with medical doctors and scientists in research settings as well, transcribing dictation, making arrangements for speeches and conference engagements and assisting with articles and reports. Still others find employment in hospitals and outpatient care centers.

How to Become a Medical Secretary

Required Education

With high school diplomas or the equivalent, students can enter 2-year programs in technical or vocational schools and community colleges which will lead to an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree. Coursework for medical secretaries will include general office procedures, medical communications and insurance and billing procedures. For the widest variety of career options, medical secretaries should pursue certification by a professional organization such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), www.iaap-hq.org, through which they can earn the CPS (Certified Professional Secretary) or CAP (Certified Administrative Professional) designation. Medical secretaries interested in furthering their careers in the medical field may also be certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), www.aama-ntl.org, to earn designation as a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA).

Skills Required

Knowledge of medical terminology, healthcare operations and medical office procedures is important, and prior healthcare employment or volunteer experiences can greatly benefit aspiring medical secretaries. Medical secretaries should also understand billing and insurance procedures and communicate effectively with others; excellent interpersonal skills are a must. An aptitude for multitasking and organization will also be an advantage for a medical secretary.

Career Outlook

The BLS predicts average growth in the secretarial and administrative industries, but since the most job prospects are in the healthcare sector, aspiring medical secretaries have every reason to be optimistic. That said, the BLS predicts job opportunities for medical secretaries to increase 41% during the 2010-2020 decade, which is nearly triple the average rate for all other careers. In 2012, medical secretaries earned an average annual income of $32,670, per BLS figures. Wide, even job distribution across the country makes a career as a medical secretary a very transferable one; qualified professionals will find promising job prospects just about anywhere.

Alternate Career Options

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

These technicians manage health information involving patient insurance, in addition to medical and treatment histories. Some techs have associate's degrees, but often a postsecondary certificate suffices. Some employers look for techs with professional certifications. Faster than average employment growth of 21% was predicted by the BLS from 2010-2020, and an average annual wage of $36,770 in 2012 was reported.

Medical Assistants

For those who want to work with both the clinical and administrative side of a medical setting, a career as a medical assistant might be appealing. Most assistants with high school diplomas can learn the skills while on the job, although some employers do look for applicants with certifications. The BLS revealed an average annual salary of $30,550 and projected faster than average job growth of 31%, from 2010-2020.

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