How to Become a Medical Receptionist in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a medical receptionist. Learn about the education requirements, job outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Medical Office Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Medical Receptionist Do?

Medical receptionists perform administrative tasks in medical settings. They may work in hospitals, clinics or doctors' offices. Medical receptionists answer phones, direct calls, take messages, greet patients when they arrive, process medical forms and schedule appointments. They may also maintain patient accounts and be involved in billing insurance companies or clients for services, or relaying relevant information to a medical insurance biller for that purpose. Although it is possible to become a receptionist without postsecondary training it is common to complete a certificate program to prepare for a career as a medical receptionist. Training includes basic medical terminology that is used in offices.

Education Required High school diploma or GED, certificate program (recommended)
Training Required Work experience: medical office (recommended)
Key Skills Communication, customer service, discretion, organization
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% (medical secretaries)*
Median Salary (2015) $33,040 (medical secretaries)*

Sources: *O*Net

What Is a Medical Receptionist?

A medical receptionist is a support worker who serves as the first point of contact between the public and a medical facility or medical office. Your duties as a medical receptionist would include greeting incoming patients and visitors, obtaining and verifying patient information, obtaining patient signatures and accepting payments. You also make appointments, take phone messages and assist with data entry and medical records management.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

If you're willing to learn on the job, a high school diploma or GED is sufficient education for medical receptionists. According to O*Net Online, 41% of receptionists have some postsecondary training (www.onetonline.org) and 20% have a postsecondary certificate. High school courses in biology, computers and English provide background technical knowledge you can apply to your receptionist duties.

Step 2: Volunteer in a Medical Office

Volunteering isn't necessary for employment, but employers will give you more favorable consideration if you have experience. You can observe operations in a medical office while improving your phone skills and learning to conduct yourself in a professional manner. A volunteer position could also lead to a full-time job at the same facility.

Step 3: Earn a Certificate

Formal training isn't essential either, but sometimes employers prefer to hire applicants who have it. Many community colleges and 4-year schools offer certificate programs tailored to medical reception work. A program teaches you how use business productivity applications, organize a medical office and perform assorted office duties. Course topics vary but may cover first aid and CPR, business communications, medical terminology and medical ethics.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

Hospitals, clinics, private physician's offices, medical labs and nursing homes are among the facilities where you could find work. Figures from O*Net Online show that approximately 528,000 people were employed as medical receptionists in 2014. Employment was projected to rise over 14% from 2014-2024, with an estimated 163,800 job openings becoming available. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees strong need for receptionists among health care practitioners and personal care service providers (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com reported that as of May 2015, the middle 80% of medical receptionists earned annual salaries in the range of $20,161 - $41,397.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Your career as a medical receptionist also has room for advancement. You could earn a medical assisting associate's degree and become a medical assistant, or you could earn an associate's degree in medical administrative assisting and become an administrative assistant. If you previously earned a certificate, you can apply your credits toward either degree. With enough experience and education, you could be promoted to office manager or supervisor.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Receptionists perform many of the same tasks as medical receptionists; however, they may work for businesses, law offices, schools or other employers. They usually complete a certificate or associate's degree program to prepare for their career. Office clerks may not need postsecondary training. They perform many tasks that are similar to the work a medical receptionist does. They answer calls, greet clients, schedule appointments, type documents and file documents. Legal secretaries usually need postsecondary training, and they perform the tasks of a secretary in a legal office. They may need some training in legal terminology and will schedule appointments, prepare documents and file materials as part of their duties.

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