What Does a Medical Secretary Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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Image by Katie Kerpel © The Balance 2019

Medical secretaries perform clerical duties in a doctor's or other health professional's office. Like others who work in health care support careers, their work is crucial to the functioning of any facility that provides patient care. They type correspondence and reports, maintain files, pay vendors, handle insurance forms, and bill patients. Medical secretaries interact with the public throughout the day, taking phone calls, scheduling appointments, and greeting patients.

They use a variety of office equipment, including computers, fax machines, scanners, and multi-line telephone systems, to do their jobs. Medical secretaries also apply their knowledge of medical terminology, health insurance rules, and medical billing procedures.

Medical Secretary Duties & Responsibilities

A medical secretary generally performs the following work:

  • Handle phone calls and take messages
  • Schedule staff meetings, which may include reserving conference rooms and ordering food
  • Prepare and traffic invoices, reports, and memos
  • Schedule patient appointments and surgeries, and send appointment reminders and follow-ups via calls or emails
  • Handle mail and faxes
  • Process patient billing and medical insurance claims
  • Perform database and file system management

Medical secretaries are relied upon by physicians, medical staff, and patients to keep office operations running smoothly. In addition to performing administrative and supportive functions, they must know medical terminology and be familiar with various medical procedures and business practices.

A medical secretary should have good computer skills in order to accurately and efficiently process patient information, including payments and insurance claims, manage the office database and patient records, and manage the physician's schedule. They should also be able to write and prepare reports and transcribe and type medical reports.

Medical Secretary Salary

The annual salary for a medical secretary can vary based on work location, education, experience, and skills:

  • Median annual salary: $35.760 ($17.19/hour)
  • Top 10% annual salary: $51,890 ($24.95/hour)
  • Bottom 10% annual salary: $25,390 ($12.21/hour)

Education, Training, & Certification

Medical secretaries do not require advanced degrees, however, executive medical secretaries require a bachelor's degree. Additional coursework and certifications are also helpful in performing this job:

  • High school or equivalency diploma: Required.
  • Bachelor's degree: Required for executive medical secretaries.
  • Certification: Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) and the Organizational Management (OM) specialty certification are voluntary. The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers these certifications to those with experience and who pass a written examination. Many colleges and vocational schools offer educational programs designed to prepare you for testing. Courses may cover word processing, keyboarding, office management, and computer systems.

    This position requires basic office skills and knowledge of medical terminology and hospital, clinic, or laboratory procedures. This can be obtained through classroom instruction or on-the-job training. Community colleges and vocational-technical schools, and even some high schools offer formal training programs.

    Medical Secretary Skills & Competencies

    If you want to be a medical secretary, you need excellent computer skills. You should be able to use email, word processing software, and spreadsheets, in addition to software used for recordkeeping and billing.

    To succeed in this field, you will also need certain personal qualities, called soft skills:

    • Verbal communication: You must be able to convey information to other support staff and medical professionals, as well as patients who visit the office.
    • Active listening: The ability to listen well will allow you to understand your patients' needs and the physician's,or other medical professional's instructions.
    • Writing: Medical secretaries often have to correspond in writing with other medical offices, insurance companies, and patients.
    • Interpersonal skills: This skill set, which includes the ability to understand body language, and negotiate with and persuade people, will help you in your interaction with patients, doctors or other health care professionals, and colleagues.
    • Organizational skills: You will be required to keep track of insurance forms, schedules, patient files, and office supplies.

    Job Outlook

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical secretaries is projected to grow 22% through 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of medical secretaries is dependent on the growth of the healthcare industry. For example, aging baby boomers will require more medical services, meaning an increased need for administrative services to serve these patients.

    Work Environment

    Medical secretaries typically work in an office setting such as physicians' and other health care providers' offices. Work environments include hospitals, outpatient clinics, and surgical facilities.

    Work Schedule

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists medical secretaries as working a typical 9 to 5 full-time day, excluding weekends. In addition, one can opt for part-time work.

    How to Get the Job

    APPLY

    iHireMedicalSecretaries.com lists jobs specifically for medical secretaries. Other popular job sites that post these positions include Indeed, CareerBuilder, and Idealist.org.

    INTERN

    Also research your community for health-care facilities, such as hospitals, community health clinics, dental clinics, outpatient surgical centers, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, private doctor's offices, and mental health clinics. Call or visit the facilities and ask if they need help.

    VOLUNTEER

    Network with others in the profession to find out if they could use an intern or volunteer. Also, visit community college career centers to ask about career opportunities.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    If you are interested in this career, you may also want to consider these similar positions, along with their average annual and hourly salary:

    Source: PayScale.com