While the nurses and doctors do the healing, medical secretaries are just as vital to the health-care industry to take care of all the paperwork that’s required by everyone from insurance companies to government regulators, as well as the patients and doctors themselves. As a medical secretary, you can find work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, dental practices or insurance offices. You’ll handle the clerical work using your knowledge of the field and the facility. In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical secretaries earned a median income of $31,060 per year.
Medical secretaries have no official education requirements. Your skills are much more important. However, employers are unlikely to consider anyone without at least a high school diploma. Associate or bachelor's degrees are becoming a common prerequisite. Education is highly functional for this field. Employers expect candidates to be familiar with medical terminology, to be skilled at typing and shorthand, to understand the basics of medical practice and to be skilled communicators. Although there’s not a standard course of study, you should pursue a curriculum that develops these skills.
Certification is also not mandatory for getting a medical secretary job, but it can be useful. Certification is a good way to distinguish yourself from other job candidates to show that your skills go beyond the basic requirements for the job. The National Healthcareers Association offers the title of Medical Administrative Specialist, which requires at least high school education and one year of experience or official training before you can take the exam. The American Medical Technologists offers a Medical Administrative Specialist credential, which you also get by applying and passing an exam.
Although no two facilities are run the same way, employers do value candidates who have previous experience. This can include anything relevant, such as internships, on-the-job training programs or previous jobs in a similar field. The point is for you to understand the industry and your role in it. Medical secretaries must be familiar with ethical and legal standards in the health-care industry too. You must keep up to date with technological advances and industry standards for coding and recording to stay effective and useful. Basic proficiencies with office equipment and computer programs are a plus.
In addition to measurable skills like words typed per minute, medical secretaries need to have less tangible and possibly more important skills. Social and communication skills are vital in the field. You need to be able to effectively communicate with your coworkers to keep accurate records. Communication with patients and third parties is also very important for ensuring that people get proper care and can effectively be referred to the right facilities. Social skills and an ability to learn and adapt to changes in your facility are crucial as well because part of your job is to interact with all different kinds of people on many different levels.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."