Job Duties for Doctor's Office Secretaries

Explore the career requirements for doctor's office secretaries. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, salary, and job outlook 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 Doctor's Office Secretary?

A secretary in a doctor's office works at the front desk, and is also known as a medical secretary. They greet patients when they arrive and take their insurance information and update personal data, such as address changes, in their files. They answer phone calls and schedule appointments. They check with insurance companies and make sure that procedures are covered. Medical secretaries update patient files, may transcribe notes and type documents, and will file documents. Although it is possible to enter this field with a high school diploma, it's common for medical secretaries to complete a certificate or associate's degree and learn medical terminology before entering this field.

Education Required Certificate program, high school diploma, associate's degree
Key Skills Ability to operate a personal computer, type with accuracy, understanding of basic anatomy and medical terminology, knowledge of healthcare industry and medical coding
Job Growth (2014-2024) 23%* for all medical assistants; 14%** for medical secretaries
Median Salary (2015) $30,590* for medical assistants; $33,040** for medical secretaries

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net

What are the Duties of a Secretary in a Doctor's Office?

A doctor's office secretary, sometimes called a medical secretary or medical office assistant, is an administrative professional who works in the front office for a physician or a group of physicians. Once in the position, you may be tasked with answering phones, scheduling and confirming appointments, transcribing dictation, billing patients and filing medical records. Other tasks may include contacting health insurance companies for patient insurance coverage information, and calling hospitals and laboratories to schedule tests or procedures for patients.

Your specific duties as a secretary may vary depending upon the medical specialty of the doctor for whom you work. In a private doctor's office you might be in charge of many tasks, such as recording medical histories or ordering medical supplies. A medical clinic with several doctors may employ several medical secretaries, each assigned to a specific task or unit.

What Education and Skills Do I Need?

As a medical secretary you will be using a computer for many of your tasks and thus you need to be able to operate a personal computer and type with accuracy. Understanding basic anatomy and medical terminology is also a must and will help you communicate effectively with both doctors and patients. You should also have knowledge of the health insurance industry and medical coding procedures so you might bill insurance companies and patients.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You can obtain many of the skills required to become a secretary in a doctor's office by enrolling in certificate, diploma and 2-year degree programs. These programs are offered by more than 500 schools in the United States, including community and technical colleges, 4-year colleges and universities, and specialized allied health schools. Programs are available both on-campus and online. Medical secretary education programs may be called medical administration, medical secretary or medical office assistant programs. No matter the title of the program, most will include courses in medical office software applications, billing and coding procedures, anatomy and physiology, medical documents and medical law.

What is the Potential for Career Advancement?

With a certificate or diploma in hand, you should have the skills necessary to perform the job of secretary in a doctor's office. If you want to advance to a senior secretary or medical office administrator position, further education may be necessary. For example, you might enroll in an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Administration program. With a few more clinical classes added to a certificate or diploma program you could become a medical assistant and help out in the examination room taking vital signs and recording medical histories. Every program is different, so contact your college advisor to find out just how many more courses are required.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

A medical secretary's salary, just like most occupations, varies by location. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( nationwide survey states that in May 2015 the median annual wage for a medical assistant was $30,590. Receptionists that worked in doctor's offices made an average annual wage of $29,450. The BLS also states the projected job growth for 2014-2024 for all medical assistants was 23%. According to O*Net, in 2015 the annual median wage for medical secretaries was $33,040, and the job growth rate was expected to be 14% from 2014-2024, with an anticipated 163,800 new jobs opening in this field.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

General office clerks, secretaries, administrative assistants and customer service representatives all perform tasks that are similar to the work that doctor's office secretaries do. They may answer calls, address customer concerns, update information in files, complete forms, greet customers in person and file documents. They can all enter their career field with a high school diploma. Some who choose to specialize may pursue postsecondary training; for example, legal secretaries benefit from familiarity with legal terminology when working in a law office.

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