With an eye for detail in the clinic and a sense of how the business of healthcare should be run from the front office, Alaska’s medical assistants keep doctors’ offices and clinics running smoothly. Their broad skillset covering a variety of administrative and clinical tasks is of particular value in a state where healthcare services are in high-demand everywhere from the metros of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau to remote communities. And it’s all thanks to training that covers a patented blend of administrative and clinical skills.
Backed by stats from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development projecting that a nearly 3% increase in the number of medical assistants will be needed during the two-year period leading up to 2021 just to keep up with the growing demand, chances are good there will be plenty of opportunities available for you to hit the ground running after you’ve earned the qualifications the state’s top healthcare employers demand.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take to become a well-qualified medical assistant in Alaska:
|Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Assisting|
|Consider Becoming Nationally Certified|
|Connect with Other Professionals in Medical Assisting and Land a Job You’ll Love|
As defined by the Alaska State Medical Board, medical assistants are unlicensed assistive personnel who perform office and clinical functions. Primary treating physicians are responsible for the patient, as well as the activities of the medical assistants under their supervision when delegating routine duties.
Although formal training to become a medical assistant in Alaska is elective, a degree or diploma program and professional certification will certainly help get your resume to the top of the stack. The combination of formal education and national certification is your ticket to attracting the attention of the best employers and earning top wages.
Step 1. Complete a Diploma or Degree Program in Medical Assisting
A diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree in medical assisting is the natural first step to getting started in the field and landing an entry-level position.
Before choosing a program, consider one accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). By going with an accredited program, you can be confident your curriculum will include the exact blend of coursework and hands-on training you need to do the job. Accredited programs also meet all the qualifications for national certification, providing an easy pathway to earning your credentials.
In Alaska, there are currently 2 ABHES-accredited medical assisting programs and 3 CAAHEP-approved medical assistant programs.
Diploma and certificate programs require less time than an associate’s degree to complete (usually about 10-12 months vs. 2 years), as an associate’s degree includes a core set of general education courses in addition to the medical assisting-focused courses and clinical practicum found in diploma and certificate programs.
But choosing an associate’s degree in medical assisting may set you up for better opportunities – both now and down the road. An Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Assisting not only attracts the attention of employers and gives you more earning power, it also prepares you for a bachelor’s degree. Most of the courses in an AS degree can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree, whether in medical assisting or another healthcare profession, such as nursing.
If you want to administer medication in Alaska, you’ll need to complete an additional course of training that’s been approved by the Alaska Board of Nursing.
Step 2. Consider National Certification
National certification isn’t a requirement to practice in Alaska, but many employers look for candidates who hold one of the two most widely recognized credentials:
- The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA): Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) You’ll qualify to take the CMA examination by completing a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited program, all of which include the minimum practicum hours the AAMA requires. If you didn’t attend a program with one of these specialty accreditations, you can still qualify through a new pilot program by substantiating that the program you graduated from was pretty much equivalent to an accredited program and included at least 560 academic contact hours and 160 practicum hours. You can substitute your first 1,000 hours on the job if your program didn’t include a practicum.
- American Medical Technologist (AMT): Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) You’ll qualify to take the RMA exam by completing a medical assisting program that’s approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. The program must consist of at least 720 program clock hours in medical assisting and must include a clinical externship of at least 160 hours within the past 4 years. You may also qualify by completing a formal medical services training program through the U.S. Armed Forces.
Other options include:
- National Healthcare Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel In Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified
In most cases, you’ll need to qualify through education, experience, or a combination of the two and pass an examination to earn national certification. In short, this is where earning that accredited program comes into play.
Step 3. Connect with Other Professionals in Medical Assisting and Land a Job You’ll Love
One of the best ways to stay connected with other medical assistants in Alaska and learn about advances and changes in the profession is to become an active member of a professional association like the Alaska Medical Assistant Society.
The Alaska Medical Assistant Society has four chapters throughout the State, including:
- The Anchorage Chapter
- The Interior Region Chapter
- The Mat-Su Valley Chapter
- The Kenai Peninsula Chapter
- The Southeast Alaska Chapter
Once you’re ready to land that first job, you may find exciting opportunities through some of the state’s largest medical groups and clinics, including:
- Providence Alaska Medical Center, Anchorage
- PeaceHealth medical Groups, Ketchikan
- Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Palmer
- Alaska Native Medical Center, Anchorage
- Capstone Clinic, Anchorage/Wasilla/Eagle River/Palmer/Kanai
2019 job growth projections from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections Central. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and employment data accessed July 2020.