Becoming a Unit Clerk: 10 Questions to Help You Make the Right Choice

Young medical assisstant putting away files in doctors office

Are you considering a career as a unit clerk in a hospital setting? Being a unit clerk can be a challenging and rewarding role, but it is important to make sure that this is the right path for you. Here are answers to 10 questions you should know before pursuing a career as a unit clerk. 

1. What Does A Unit Clerk Do In A Hospital?  

A hospital unit clerk is responsible for managing the administrative tasks of a hospital unit. They maintain patient records, schedule appointments, and communicate with patients, families and medical staff. They also ensure that the unit is running smoothly by monitoring the inventory of supplies and equipment. 

2. What Is The Difference Between A Medical Office Assistant And A Unit Clerk? 

A medical office assistant (MOA) typically works in a clinic or doctor’s office, while a unit clerk works in a hospital setting. An MOA is responsible for managing patient files, scheduling appointments, and performing minor medical duties like taking vital signs. A unit clerk is responsible for managing the administrative tasks of a specific unit within a hospital. 

Although these roles are distinct, there is plenty of overlap between the two positions, meaning experience in one can land you a job in the other. 

3. What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Unit Clerk/Medical Office Assistant?  

To start training to become a unit clerk or medical office assistant you can complete a simple academic entrance assessment that provides grade 12 equivalence. For mature students and students who have been educated outside of Canada, it’s not necessary to provide high school transcripts for entry.  

You will also need to have a clear criminal record check and be cleared to work in a medical setting. In addition, you’ll need to prove that you have good communication, organizational, and computer skills. 

4. How Do You Become A Unit Clerk/Medical Office Assistant In Alberta?  

To become a unit clerk or medical office assistant in Alberta, you typically need to complete a unit clerk course that covers training on clinical information systems, medical terminology, and office skills. Some colleges and vocational schools in Alberta offer programs to prepare students for these roles directly. Additionally, you can look for opportunities to gain experience in healthcare by volunteering at a hospital or clinic. 

The biggest barrier to hiring for most applicants is relevant job experience. The unit clerk diploma program at ABES College includes a practicum for each student, so you will gain the work experience necessary for hiring.  

5. How Long Is A Unit Clerk College Program?  

The length of a college program for a unit clerk or medical office assistant can vary depending on the institution. Some programs can be completed in as little as six months, while others may take up to 2 years when studied part-time. 

At ABES, we offer a Unit Clerk & Medical Office Assistant Diploma Program that can be completed in 6 months of full-time studies. This 6-month study period includes a 6-week full-time practicum. With this diploma, you’ll be qualified as both a Unit Clerk and an MOA in just 27 weeks! 

6. What Is A Typical Unit Clerk Salary? 

The salary for a unit clerk or medical office assistant varies widely depending on the location and type of facility they work in. According to Alis, the median salary for medical administrative assistants is around $49,700 per year. And according to Job Bank Canada, hourly wages range from $23.08 and $36.25 per hour.  
In the Calgary area, unit clerks working in AHS start at approximately $25/hour, to a maximum of $30/hour with shift differential (an additional payment for non-standard working hours). 

7. What Is A Typical Day Like For A Unit Clerk?  

A typical day for a unit clerk can include tasks such as answering phones, scheduling appointments, maintaining patient records, and communicating with patients, families, and medical staff. They may also be responsible for managing supplies and equipment for the unit and ensuring that the unit is running smoothly. They may also coordinate with other healthcare staff to ensure that patients receive the best care possible. 

8. What Does The Start Of A Unit Clerk or MOA Career Look Like? 

Most unit clerks are hired as casual employees to start with, and many of our students are offered casual positions from the unit in which they completed their practicum. Casual employees can work in multiple units and even in multiple hospitals, and they can accept or turn down work as suits their personal circumstances to provide them with greater flexibility.  

Medical office assistants are usually hired in a full-time position, with a consistent working schedule, but without the flexibility that comes with casual work. 

Still, have questions about the differences between a unit clerk and an MOA? Read this blog for some additional insights into these career options!

9. Are Unit Clerk Positions In Demand?  

Unit clerk positions are certainly in demand, as they play an important role in the healthcare system.  With an aging population and an increased need for healthcare services, the demand for unit clerks is expected to continue to grow in Alberta. 

According to the 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook report, medical administrative assistant positions are expected to grow 3.4% annually. As a result, 150 new positions are forecasted to be added each year due to population growth and older generations retiring.  

10. Can I Work As A Unit Clerk With An Online Program Certificate? 

Yes, it’s possible to work as a unit clerk with an online program certificate. At ABES College, our online Unit Clerk and Medical Office Assistant program includes a practicum placement, so you will get valuable work experience while having the flexibility to complete the classroom portion of your education online.  

Reach Out To ABES Admissions Today! 

If you’re ready to take the next step, consider enrolling in our Unit Clerk & Medical Office Assistant Diploma Program in Calgary. We’re also pleased to offer online delivery for anyone needing extra flexibility with their studies.  

Reach out to an ABES admissions advisor to learn more about the program and financial aid today!