Louisiana’s medical assistants are just what the doctor ordered…part administrator, part patient liaison, and part physician helper.
Valued for their ability to multi-task and keep a doctor’s office or clinic organized and running smoothly, medical assistants are an important part of Louisiana’s innovative healthcare system, which includes national leaders like Ochsner Health, ranked first among Louisiana’s Best Children’s Hospitals in cardiology and heart surgery for four years in a row by U.S. News & Health Report.
A strong healthcare sector here has translated into a steadily growing medical assisting workforce, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, it’s projected to grow by 2.7% between 2019 and 2021.
If you want to become part of this exciting profession, you’ll need to first come with the credentials that’ll put on you par with the state’s most qualified medical assistants. Here are the steps to take to get you there:
|Pursue an Education in Medical Assisting|
|Become Nationally Certified in Medical Assisting|
|Become Familiar with the Medical Assistant Job Market in Louisiana|
|Maintain and Upgrade Your Medical Assisting Credentials|
According to state law, medical assistants in Louisiana practice without state-issued certification or licensure, with the exception of those who take blood or perform certain laboratory procedures, who must hold a license with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.
Regardless of a lack of state licensure, many of the state’s top healthcare employers seek out medical assistants with a formal course of education in medical assisting and a national certification on their resume.
Step 1. Pursue an Education in Medical Assisting
A formal certificate, diploma, or associate degree program in medical assisting is the best, first step to a career in medical assisting in Louisiana. Regardless of which type of program you choose, finding one that is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) ensures you’ll be properly prepared to land a job as an entry-level medical assistant and guarantees your eligibility for one of the profession’s national certifications.
All accredited diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs deliver a similar course of education and training in medical assisting, which includes courses such as:
- Human body structure and function
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Ethics and law for medical assistants
- Medical transcription
- Pharmacology for medical assistants
- Medical insurance billing
- Medical assistant internship or practicum
Certificate and diploma programs take just 10-12 months to complete, while associate degree programs take 2 years because they include a general education core that provides a more well-rounded course of study.
Many Louisiana employers require or prefer candidates with an associate’s degree over a certificate or diploma and, in many cases, an associate’s degree results in more earning power. And if you’ve got your eye on advancing your education at some point, earning an Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Assisting should be your program of choice, as most or all of the courses of an AS easily transfer to bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration, health sciences with a concentration in medical assisting, and any other allied health field.
Step 2. Become Nationally Certified in Medical Assisting
National certification goes a long way in establishing yourself as an expert in your field and displaying a commitment to your profession. And you can bet that most employers either require or prefer candidates with a national designation.
Two of the most prominent credentials are:
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). You’ll need to graduate from a medical assistant training program accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES (or one that is equivalent to an accredited program) and pass the Certified Medical Assistant Exam.
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) through the American Medical Technologist (AMT). You’ll qualify to take the RMA exam by completing a medical assisting program from a school 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.
But there are also many other national certifications available in medical assisting. Like the CMA, and RMA you’ll need to pass an examination to achieve one of these national credentials:
- Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) – sponsored by the National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP)
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) – sponsored by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
- Medical Assistant (NCMA) – sponsored by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
Step 3. Become Familiar with the Medical Assistant Job Market in Louisiana
Once you’ve earned the education and national certification necessary to join the ranks of Louisiana’s qualified medical assistants, you can begin your job search by checking out opportunities available through some of the state’s largest healthcare systems, such as:
- Willis Knighton Medical Center, Shreveport
- Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans
- Francis Medical Center, Monroe
- Willis-Knighton Bossier Health Center, Bossier City
- Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Baton Rouge
Louisiana does not have its own state chapter of the American Association of Medical Assistants, but you can still become involved by joining the national AAMA association. Becoming a member of a professional association is a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest legislative changes to the profession, network with others in the profession, and find plenty of continuing education opportunities to keep your national certification current.
Step 4. Maintain and Upgrade Your Medical Assisting Credentials
You’ll need to complete specific education requirements to maintain national certification:
- CMA – To renew this credential, you will need to earn 60 re-certification points, including 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units, or you can retake the CMA Exam.
- RMA – To renew this credential, you will need to maintain a yearly membership with AMT and complete 30 Certification Continuing Program (CCP) points every three years.
- NRCMA – To renew this credential, you will need to maintain a yearly membership with the NAHP, keep your CPR card up-to-date, and complete at least two A-class Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year, except during your first renewal year.
- CCMA – To renew this credential, you will need to complete 10 Continuing Education (CE) credits every two years.
- NCMA – To renew this credential, you will need to complete a series of annual Continuing Education (CE) that is approved by the NCCT.
Phlebotomist, Lab Assistant Licensing
Earning a license as a phlebotomist or lab assistant through the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners is a great way to get a leg up on the competition and position yourself for better job opportunities and a bigger paycheck.
To become a licensed phlebotomist or lab assistant, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- Complete a training program in basic laboratory science
- Pass a test demonstrating you possess essential knowledge of laboratory science
- Have at least a high school education
Phlebotomist – complete one of the following options:
- Option 1:
- Complete a phlebotomist training program that includes at least 20 hours of classroom lecture or the necessary amount of clinical practice
- Pass a phlebotomist test following completion of the training program
- Option 2:
- Earn a phlebotomist certification through a nationally recognized agency that includes passing an exam
Once you’ve achieved eligibility, complete a Clinical Lab Personnel Application Packet and submit it to the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners in New Orleans.
2019 job growth projections from the Louisiana Workforce Commission 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.