Dental and Medical Secretary
Dental and Medical Secretary
Education and Training: High school plus training
Salary: Median—$26,540 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Dental secretaries and medical secretaries perform clerical and secretarial duties for dentists and physicians, respectively. They take shorthand, type, and file patients' records. To do their jobs, they must have an understanding of the procedures and terms that physicians and dentists use. Secretaries may also keep track of patients' payments, so they must be familiar with insurance rules and billing practices.
Secretaries sometimes take a patient's medical history before the physician or dentist sees the patient. Secretaries may also ask what the patient's symptoms are and how long a condition has lasted. If this information is collected in advance, physicians and dentists can devote their time to diagnosing and treating patients.
Medical and dental secretaries also arrange appointments for patients. They make sure that people who need immediate care are able to see the doctor or dentist without delay. When there are emergencies that make the physician or dentist late, secretaries must tactfully explain the delay to patients who are waiting.
Most secretaries work in the private offices of physicians and dentists. Some work in hospitals and clinics. Secretaries with knowledge of medical terms are also employed by the medical information and medical emergency departments of large companies. Other dental and medical secretaries work in the research laboratories of drug companies. They may also work for health organizations or government agencies.
Education and Training Requirements
Most medical and dental secretarial positions require a high school education. Candidates need skills in word processing, filing, and bookkeeping. Some employers provide on-the-job training in medical or dental terminology, but most prefer to hire candidates who have secretarial training. Computer and word processing skills have become increasingly important in this field. Training courses are given in business and vocational schools and in junior and community colleges. Courses last from a few months to two years.
Getting the Job
Check with your school placement office. Physicians, dentists, hospitals, and clinics often advertise jobs in local newspapers or job banks on the Internet. For a government job, apply to take the necessary civil service test.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement is possible with further education and experience. Secretaries may go on to become medical or dental assistants or technicians. The field is expected to experience average growth through the year 2014.
Medical and dental secretaries work in clean and comfortable offices. Much of their time is spent at desks. They have a great deal of contact with a variety of people both in person and on the telephone. Sometimes their days are hectic. They must be prepared to move quickly from one situation to another. Medical and dental secretaries must be calm and capable of dealing with all kinds of problems. They should also be responsible, organized, and efficient.
Medical and dental secretaries work thirty-five to forty hours a week. Because their hours match those of physicians and dentists, many secretaries have some evening and weekend work.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association of Medical Assistants
20 N. Wacker Dr., Ste. 1575
Chicago, IL 60606
National Health Council
1730 M St. NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20036
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary greatly depending on education, experience, and location. Medical and dental secretaries earned a median income of $26,540 per year in 2004. Benefits may include paid vacations, holidays, health insurance, and sick leave.