How to become a medical receptionist

Written by Kate Lopaze

Careers in healthcare are booming right now. With significant advances in technology changing the game and an ever-larger population in need of healthcare services, it’s one of the biggest growth industries for the foreseeable future. But what if you’re not as interested in the hands-on medical end of things, or your skills are more administrative in nature? Becoming a medical receptionist could be the right path for you, with the best of both worlds.

What does a medical receptionist do?

Medical receptionists have many of the same duties as receptionists in other industries, but with a healthcare twist—managing patient records, taking initial medical information when a patient comes in, and managing day-to-day tasks for a medical office. A medical receptionist’s responsibilities may include the following:

  • Answering phones and greeting patients in the office
  • Taking preliminary patient information, including medical and billing data
  • Answering questions for patients and visitors
  • Communicating with patients and medical staff
  • Helping to manage patient flow by communicating delays to patients, and announcing patient arrivals to the medical staff
  • Managing patient details and records in accordance with patient confidentiality laws
  • Monitoring and stocking medical office supplies
  • Maintaining the waiting room or other public areas

The medical receptionist is often the first person people see when they enter a doctor’s office or other medical facility, so he or she is responsible for keeping a calm, welcoming environment for patients. This is typically a job with a standard 40-hour work week, although shifts may be necessary in medical offices that maintain weekend or overnight hours.

What skills do medical receptionists have?

Medical receptionists need to have solid people and administrative skills to keep things flowing efficiently in the doctor’s office.

Organizational Skills: Because the medical receptionist is usually the front-line person in a medical office, things need to be kept organized. We’ve all been in situations where the doctor’s office waiting room is chaotic with appointments delayed, and the medical receptionist can help manage this effectively by processing people quickly and efficiently, and making sure that all the necessary information is being communicated to the medical staff.

Technical Skills: The medical office may have recordkeeping software used to record patient information, so the job may require a degree of tech-savviness in addition to the usual Word and Excel skills. You should also be adept at using multi-line phone systems.

Customer Service Skills: Patients are customers, and the fact of being at a doctor’s office can add an extra level of stress. The medical receptionist should be friendly and good at handling people calmly, no matter what the situation may be.

Time Management Skills: Medical offices, especially busy ones, are based around appointment schedules. That means that as a medical receptionist, you may need to be multitasking (checking in multiple people, communicating information from the medical staff to waiting patients, processing paperwork) at any given time.

What do you need to become a medical receptionist?

There’s no specific degree necessary to become a medical receptionist, but you should have a high school diploma (or equivalent). Because of the administrative nature of the job, it’s typically not necessary to have specific medical knowledge. A background of basic medical knowledge and terminology can be helpful, however.

How much does a medical receptionist make?

The median annual salary for medical receptionists is $29,832, or $13.52 per hour, per This can vary depending on whether the job is heavier on medical expertise or administrative focus.

What is the outlook for medical receptionists?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for these receptionists is expected to grow by more than 10% by 2022—faster than average for all jobs.

This can be a best-of-both-worlds job if you’re looking for an entry point into the healthcare field—you won’t be working with the gritty ins and outs of medicine, but you’ll still be an essential part of the medical office. If this sounds like the path for you, good luck!

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About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.

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