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Dental and Medical Secretary Job Description, Career as a Dental and Medical Secretary, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

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.

Dental and medical secretaries talk to patients on the phone and arrange appointments for them. They make sure that patients who need immediate care see the dentist or doctor with minimal delay. (Photograph by Kelly A. Quin. Thomson Gale. Reproduced by permission.)

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.

Working Conditions

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
(312) 899-1500

National Health Council
1730 M St. NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 785-3910

International Association of Administrative Professionals
10502 NW Ambassador Dr.
P.O. Box 20404
Kansas City, MO 64195-0404
(816) 891-6600

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.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine