Ask any medical assistant and they’ll tell you; a busy physician’s office or clinic is nothing they can’t handle. Armed with a strong skillset that allows them to deftly handle any and all administrative and clinical tasks assigned to them, these healthcare support pros really are the stars of the show when it comes to maintaining order in a busy office environment. And Maine is home to plenty of busy medical practices.
Their ability to keep larger practices and clinics running efficiently is more important than ever, given that hospital consolidation here has become the norm – about 60% of all hospitals in the state are now part of a larger system. Take, for instance, Brewer’s Northern Light Health, once Eastern Maine Healthcare System. Today this system is home to a growing network of hospitals and clinical sites (exceeding 100) and some of the most innovative care throughout the state.
Recent projections from the Maine Department of Labor, which reveal an increase of 2.3% in the number of medical assistants between 2019 and 2021, reflect this increased demand. And with an average of 530 annual job openings due to retirements, job turnover, and new job growth, there’s plenty of space for you to get in there and join the ranks of Maine’s growing medical assistant field.
But first you’ll need the right education and training to get you there. Here are the steps you’ll want to take to become a medical assistant in Maine:
|Complete a Medical Assistant Education Program|
|Become Nationally Certified|
|Land a Job You’ll Love|
|Maintain Your Credentials|
Step 1. Complete a Medical Assistant Education Program
While no legal mandate in Maine requiring formal training for medical assistants exists, this hasn’t stopped employers here from requiring medical assistants to come prepared with a formal course of education in medical assisting and a national credential. In fact, more often than not, you’ll find job requirements for medical assistants to include both education and certification.
First things first: Not all medical assistant programs offer the same level of education and training, so your best bet is to choose a program that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Choosing a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited program not only guarantees that you’ll qualify for national certification, but it also assures you that it includes everything you’ll need to practice as a competent, entry-level medical assistant.
There’s 1 ABHES-accredited program located in South Portland, and 5 CAAHEP-accredited programs located in Bangor (2), Presque Isle, Fairfield, and Calais.
Accredited programs are offered as certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs, all of which provide a similar course of education and training in medical assisting that includes both classroom learning and a practical experience/internship in a healthcare setting.
Typical coursework includes:
- Medical Law and Ethics
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Medical Office Procedures
- Insurance Coding
- Technical Writing
- Medical Terminology
- Computer Applications
- Medical Assistant Technology
Certificate and diploma programs take about 10-12 months to complete, while associate degree programs require about 2 years of study. However, despite this longer course of study, the associate degree has become the degree of choice for many aspiring medical assistants in Maine because it often results in more professional opportunities and higher wages.
Employers often seek medical assistants with associate degrees because the general education core of these programs produces more well-rounded professionals who come with better written and verbal communication skills – a bonus when working in an office setting.
Completing an Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Assisting also pay off in dividends for medical assistants who choose to advance their education to the bachelor’s level at some point. You can expect all or most of the courses of an AS degree to transfer to a bachelor’s degree in an allied health field, thereby dramatically reducing the time it takes to complete a four-year degree.
Step 2. Become Nationally Certified
You’ll earn eligibility for national certification once you finish an accredited program in medical assisting. While a number of national certifications exist for medical assistants, the two most widely recognized certs are:
- The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants. You can apply to take the CMA exam online, and you’ll have the option of taking it at a Prometric testing center of your choice. In Maine, these centers are located in Bangor, South Portland, or Presque Isle.
- The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) through the American Medical Technologists. You can apply to take the RMA exam online, and you’ll have the option of taking it at a Pearson VUE testing center of your choice. In Maine, these centers are located in Bangor, Westbrook, South Portland, and Presque Isle.
Other respected general and specialty certification 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
Step 3. Land a Job You’ll Love
Congratulations! You’ve earned the qualifications that will make you an attractive candidate to Maine’s healthcare employers. Once you’ve got that resume polished, you can begin by checking out some of the job opportunities available through Maine’s largest healthcare systems, such as:
- MaineHealth, Portland
- Northern Light Health, Brewer
- Mercy Hospital of Portland
- Acadia Hospital, Bangor
- Aroostook Medical Center, Presque Isle
- Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, Blue Hill
Now is also the time to get involved in the profession by joining the Maine State Society of Medical Assistants, which has chapters in DownEast, Kennebec Valley, Penobscot, and Southern Maine. Membership in a professional organization comes with a number of benefits, including networking and continuing education opportunities, and is a great way to stay current on the latest happenings in the profession.
Step 4. Maintain Your Credentials
Maintaining your national certification includes meeting specific continuing education requirements:
To maintain the CMA designation, you must fulfill one of the following:
- Pass the Certification/Recertification Examination (the same test you took when you originally became certified) again
- Complete continuing education – if you choose this route, follow these steps:
- Download the AAMA Recertification by Continuing Education Application
- Complete 60 recertification points during the five years your credential is valid, including:
- 10 general points
- 10 administrative points
- 10 clinical points
- 30 points combined from the above three categories
- A minimum of 30 of your total 60 points must come from AAMA-approved continuing education units (CEUs)
- Document your continuing education to mail to the AAMA with your recertification application. An AAMA Registry Transcript is issued for AAMA-approved continuing education. Other continuing education must be documented by providing a certificate of attendance/completion, date of activity, sponsor of activity, activity description, and credits earned
To maintain the RMA designation, you must meet the AMT’s Certification Continuation Program (CCP), which includes completing 30 points every three years. You can earn points through professional education, formal education, employment verification, authorship of written works, instructional presentations, organizational participation, or a combination of these categories.
2019 job growth projections from the Maine Department of Labor 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.