Looking for a career change? How to become a medical secretary

The medical field as a whole is a popular job market. The healthcare industry is expected to grow 18% by 2026, adding more than 2 million jobs – that’s more than any other industry.

If you’ve been contemplating a career change to the medical field or are just starting out thinking about schooling and your future career, a medical secretary might be the answer for you.

In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what this job is, what medical secretarial training entails, and how much money you can expect to make. Read on to learn more. 

What is a medical secretary? 

A medical secretary provides secretarial support to doctors in hospitals, health care workers, medical researchers, and general practitioners. Some of the responsibilities of a medical secretary include:

  • Answering questions from patients and staff members.
  • Organizing the doctor’s schedule or appointments.
  • Managing patient lists.
  • Updating patient records.
  • Coordinating testing if blood work or other specimens need to be sent out to a lab.
  • Taking meeting minutes and filing.
  • Handling incoming and outgoing mail.
  • Managing an office budget and payments.
  • Processing insurance claims and payments.

A medical secretary does many of the same things as a secretary in most other industries, but they also perform functions unique to the medical field. 

What does medical secretarial training entail?

If you decide that this is the job for you, you will need a high school diploma. Beyond a high school diploma, there isn’t an industry standard as to what additional degree or training is required. This means that it is ultimately up to the organization hiring you as to what they are looking for. 

Some might want you to have an associate’s degree, some may even want a bachelor’s degree, and even others may be ok with just a high school diploma. It is a good idea, though, to seek some additional training, particularly if you don’t have knowledge in the medical field and with medical terminology. 

Training programs to be a medical billing and coding specialist, medical administrative assistant, or health information technology will often give you the specialized medical knowledge to succeed in this field. 

You may also seek certification for this position as well. Becoming a certified medical administrative assistant will give you a certification that will qualify you to become a medical secretary.

What is the job outlook and salary? 

The medical field, in general, is growing significantly. While the job outlook for traditional secretaries and administrative assistants is expected to decline over the coming years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the demand for medical secretaries will grow 22% by 2026, which is much faster growth than most other occupations. 

The median hourly wage is about $17/hour, for an annual salary of $35,700. At the high end, some medical secretaries are earning nearly $25/hour for an annual salary of over $50,000. Not bad for a job that may not require a college degree. 

There are certain areas of the country that are better for medical secretaries, so that is something to keep in mind if you are considering this field. The top five states employing medical secretaries include:

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Ohio 
  • Michigan

And the states employing the fewest medical secretaries include: 

  • Idaho
  • Wyoming
  • Alaska
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Louisiana 

If you work in Washington DC, Massachusetts, California, Minnesota, and Washington, you can expect to make more money than other states. Learn more about the medical secretary field to make sure it’s right for you.

What skills are required?

In addition to knowledge of medical terminology, you’ll want to have good communication and interpersonal skills. Because you’ll be interacting with patients, doctors, vendors, and insurance professionals on a regular basis, being able to effectively communicate is necessary. 

You might have to deal with angry or disgruntled patients, so having the skills to diffuse these situations and showing the patient that you are listening and taking their complaints seriously will go a long way. 

Additionally, good organizational skills, ability to work independently, ability to work well with others, and leadership and managerial skills are all important to your success in this field as well. 

This is where a training program will benefit you. General business classes will help with the organizational and management side of the job while classes in medical terminology and billing and coding will address the need for medical knowledge. 

Internships and job shadowing

If you’ve never worked in a medical setting before, an internship or job shadowing experience might be useful for you. This will give you the opportunity to see if it’s something that you would actually like. 

Many schools will offer some sort of program where you can get some hands-on experience while you are in your training program. If you know someone who works in this occupation, you could always do an informal job shadow just to learn more about what they do. 

Are you looking for a new career? 

Whether you’re already working in the medical field and looking to move into a new role, are just starting out exploring career options, or are looking to make a switch into the medical field from another occupation, a medical secretary could be an excellent option for you. 

If you have good interpersonal and communication skills, are highly organized and motivated, and have a desire to work with people, medical secretarial training can set you up for a career that is stable and pays relatively well.