Whether they’re lending their talents to big-city healthcare systems or clinics that serve the state’s rural population, as trusted healthcare support professionals, Montana’s medical assistants are enjoying a thriving job market thanks to a growing senior population that’s putting unprecedented demands on the state’s healthcare providers.
In fact, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry projects a 3.4% increase in the number of medical assistants in the state between 2019 and 2021 to stay on top of the growing demand for healthcare services.
Montana’s largest cities are, of course, your best bet if you want to secure a top job in medical assisting. As the state’s largest healthcare organization, the Billings Clinic alone has a staff of more than 4,200, including 450 physicians and advanced practitioners working within a multi-specialty practice group setting.
If you want to join the ranks of Montana’s growing medical assisting profession and become a stand-out candidate when it comes time to land a job with one of the state’s top healthcare leaders, you’ll need to come to the table with the right blend of education and training.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take to get you there:
|Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Assisting|
|Achieve a National Credential in Medical Assisting|
|Pursue Medical Assistant Employment in Montana|
As unlicensed support staff, Montana medical assistants, are required to work under the supervision of a Montana licensed physician or podiatrist, who is responsible for assigning all administrative and clinical tasks.
Physician or podiatrist supervision must be active and continuous but does not actually require the physical presence of the supervising physician at the time or place the services are rendered, provided that the physician is available for consultation. However, the physician must be onsite when a medical assistant performs the following:
- Performs invasive procedures
- Administers medicine
- Performs allergy testing
Medical assistants in Montana are NOT allowed to perform the following tasks:
- Invasive procedures in which human tissue is cut or altered by mechanical or energy forms (including electrical or laser energy or ionizing radiation), unless the physician or podiatrist is on site
- Care for an in-patient admitted to an acute care hospital facility licensed by DPHHS
- Monitor conscious sedation, unless under the direct supervision of a physician or podiatrist
- Administer fluids or medications through an IV, unless under the direct supervision of a physician or podiatrist
- Administer blood products by IV
Step 1. Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Assisting
An accredited program in medical assisting is the first step to becoming a medical assistant in Montana.
Accreditation by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) ensures you’re completing a course of study that includes the education and training you’ll need to serve as a competent, entry-level medical assistant and guarantees you’ll meet eligibility for national certification.
The CAAHEP and the ABHES accredit certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs, and all three of these types of programs feature a similar course of education and training with many elements of the curriculum in common. To date, there are 2 ABHES-accredited medical assistant programs in the state, one in Missoula and one Billings, and many more accredited options online.
However, while certificate and diploma programs can take you from student to graduate in just 10-12 months, associate degree programs take about 2 years to complete because they also include a general education core – a set of courses focused on communications, mathematics, the social sciences, the physical sciences, and more.
Many Montana employers now require (or at least prefer) candidates with an associate’s degree, so you may enjoy better and more varied job opportunities and better earning power with a two-year degree on your resume. And an Associate of Science (AS) should be your program of choice if you have plans to advance your education at some point to the bachelor’s level, as most or all of the courses are designed to easily transfer to a four-year degree in fields like healthcare administration, and virtually any area of allied health. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are also widely available, but are designed as career preparation programs so they don’t typically work as transfer degrees if you’re considering a bachelor’s later on.
Step 2. Achieve a National Credential in Medical Assisting
National certification, while not required to practice, should always be on your radar because it displays your commitment to the profession and continuing education. It may also be what you need to get a leg up on the competition when it comes to land a job or earn a promotion.
And more and more employers now prefer candidates who hold one or more professional credential. The two most widely recognized certs in the profession are:
- The American Association of Medical Assistants: Certified Medical Assistant credential
- American Medical Technologists: Registered Medical Assistant
But you may also find opportunities for national certification through other organizations:
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
- National Healthcareer Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel In Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
Step 3. Pursue Medical Assistant Employment in Montana
Once you’ve earned the education and national certification that places you among Montana’s most qualified, you can begin your job search by checking out opportunities available through some of the state’s largest hospitals and clinics:
- Vincent Healthcare, Billings
- Peter’s Hospital, Helena
- Patrick Hospital, Missoula
- James Healthcare, Butte
- Northwest Healthcare, Kalispell
- Northern Montana Hospital, Havre
- Holy Rosary Healthcare, Miles City
- Community Medical Center, Missoula
- Bozeman Deaconess Hospital
- Billings Clinic, Billings
- Benefis Health System, Great Falls
Membership in the Montana State Society of Medical Assistants, which has chapters in Dillon, Flathead, Gallatin, and Great Falls, is a great way to stay connected and up-to-date with the profession and the healthcare industry as a whole. It’s also the ideal resource for locating some of the best continuing education opportunities to keep your national certification current.
2019 job growth projections from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry 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.