How Can I Become a Medical Unit Secretary?

Research what it takes to become a medical unit secretary. Learn about job duties and training and education requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Administrative Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Medical Unit Secretary?

A medical unit secretary is a medical secretary working in the office of a specific unit within a larger hospital or medical center. For instance, they may work in the department of surgery, oncology or pediatrics. They perform general clerical duties, such as scheduling appointments, answering phones and handling insurance billing. They may also provide support for doctors, nurses and other staff by taking basic patient medical history.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Education Required Certificate or associate's degree for entry-level; bachelor's degree for advancement
Key Skills Time management, communication, keyboarding and computer basics, knowledge of medical terminology
Certification Voluntary
Job Growth (2014-2024) 21%*
Average Salary (2015) $34,330*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Work Will I Do as a Medical Unit Secretary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as a medical secretary, your work duties may include entering data into the records management system or creating and updating reports, correspondence, articles and other documents for the physicians and staff (www.bls.gov). You may help with billing or other accounting duties and handle incoming and outbound phone calls. You may also order supplies, negotiate with vendors or organize meetings and presentations.

In some offices, your duties may overlap with those of medical assistants; with the right training, you might assist with patient care or admitting and evaluation. The trend is for less specialization and more sharing of duties within a unit or department.

According to both the BLS and O*NET OnLine, you may need to know how to use a variety of office equipment, such as fax machines, computers, scanners, printers, copiers and other technologies (www.onetonline.org). You may also need to use point-of-sale-equipment to process payments directly from patients.

What Kind of Training Will I Need?

The BLS reports that most offices now prefer to hire applicants with an associate's degree or certificate. These credentials are now becoming the standard for entry and advancement. Proficiency with computers is very helpful as offices are using more advanced technology. Many community colleges and vocational-technical schools offer associate's degree or certificate programs for those interested in medical office careers.

According to the BLS, your courses will probably include keyboarding skills, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, records management, office procedures, bookkeeping, software applications for medical offices and billing.

A bachelor's degree coupled with experience and certification, as with the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) or Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation, can be very helpful in advancing to supervisory or management positions.

The American Society of Administrative Professionals (ASPA) offers seminars and courses to enhance your professional standing as well as their Professional Administrative Certificate of Excellence (PACE) program (www.aspaporg.com).

What Other Skills or Qualifications Will I Need?

You will need good keyboarding and computer skills, be comfortable using specialized software and understand medical terminology and office procedures to work in this field. You will not have as much direct patient contact as a nurse or direct-care provider unless you are also a medical assistant, but you will need to be able to interact well with others and be tactful and compassionate.

Due to the overall growth in health care careers, there is a projected growth of 21% for all medical secretaries between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. If you are also adaptable, can work independently and are well-organized with good time management and communication skills, you may find many career opportunities available in this growing field.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a medical secretary, you can find work in other settings outside of hospital units, such as the front desk of a family physician's office, physical therapy clinic or nursing home. You could also become a secretary at a non-medical organization, such as a law firm. Although a high school diploma is the only educational requirement for one of these jobs, a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program can improve your job prospects. If you want to stay on a medical unit, you could pursue a different office job, such as a career as a medical assistant. These professionals have administrative duties, but they are also qualified to provide basic medical care when necessary. You would need to complete a postsecondary certificate program in order to get this job.

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