North Dakota’s massive oil boom, and its most recent bust as global oil prices plummeted, have resulted is some population spikes and a pretty volatile job market in North Dakota. Still, somehow the healthcare industry is flourishing, providing stable employment prospects even as the broader economy struggles to find its footing in some respects. Recent numbers actually show that North Dakota’s healthcare industry has one of the most promising growth projections in the nation for medical assistants.
In fact, according to forecasts by the North Dakota Labor Market Information, jobs here will grow by 5.3% between 2019 and 2021. That’s not surprising in a state that’s been home to major projects like the 2017 construction of Sanford’s Fargo Medical Center, the health system’s largest single construction project and the largest private construction project in North Dakota history.
With about 80 job openings annually resulting from retirements, normal turnover as current MAs advance into other healthcare roles, and new job growth, chances are good you’ll have plenty of options when it comes time to find your first (or next) medical assistant job.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take to become a qualified medical assistant in North Dakota:
Medical assistants in North Dakota work under the direct supervision of nurses and are required to register as Technician – Medical Assistants with the North Dakota Board of Nursing. If you want to distribute medication, you will also need to register as a Medication Assistant III with the North Dakota Board of Nursing.
You must complete a Board-approved education in medical assisting or nursing to earn eligibility to register for both.
Step 1. Become Eligible to Register as a Medical Assistant and Medication Assistant III
To work as a medical assistant in North Dakota in any capacity you need to register. Once registered, you then have the option of taking on an expanded scope of responsibility by becoming a “Medication Assistant III.” Whether you just go for the basic registration or take the extra step to become authorized to administer medication, it all starts with getting the right education and training.
Medical Assistant Registration – To earn eligibility to register as a medical assistant with the North Dakota Board of Nursing, you must complete a Board-recognized formal training program.
Alternatively, you can effectively prove you have the equivalent training and experience by holding one of the following nationally-recognized professional certifications:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
Programs accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) always include the curriculum and practical training required to become certified, so going this route ensures your eligibility for one of these national certifications.
The CAAHEP and the ABHES accredit certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs, and all include a similar course of education and practical training in medical assisting.
There are alternative routes to qualifying for certification by completing a program without CAAHEP and ABHES accreditation as long as you can prove the education and practicum is equivalent.
Certificate and diploma programs provide the quickest route, taking just 10-12 months to complete. However, the associate’s degree, while it takes about two years to complete, has become the go-to option for many students since it opens the door to more opportunities and higher wages.
The Associate of Science (AS) is the ideal choice for medical assistants who plan to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree at some point, as most or all of the credits easily transfer to a four-year degree in health-related fields.
Medication Assistant III – You need to be registered as a medical assistant or other unlicensed assistive person before you can register as a Medication Assistant III.
As a registered medical assistant with dual registration as a Medication Assistant III you will be allowed to administer medication while under the supervision of a licensed medical professional. In this context, you may simply be referred to as a Medication Assistant; however, the official title Medication Assistant III has been adopted to distinguish this class of professional from Medication Assistant I’s and II’s. These professionals do not practice within the same scope and are overseen by a different regulatory body.
Earning one of the above-named certifications (CMA, RMA, CCMA, or NCMA) serves a dual purpose since it also qualifies you for the Medication Assistant III registration with the North Dakota Board of Nursing.
You may also earn eligibility by completing an approved nursing education program that includes courses on pharmacology and how to administer medication, but if you’re not going into nursing that doesn’t really apply to you.
Medical assistants and Medication Assistant IIIs in North Dakota work under the supervision and direction of a medical professional with one of the following nursing credentials:
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Most Responsible Nurse (MRN)
Step 2. Consider National Certification as a Pathway to Becoming Eligible for Registration
The profession has evolved in a way that makes national certification a natural way to get into the profession, or at least a very natural step to take early on if you’re able to find a job without it. Certification like this signals to employers in North Dakota and around the country that you have completed a quality, comprehensive training program that included some real world training through a practicum experience, and then passed an exam to demonstrate your knowledge and professional competency.
Earning one of these certifications isn’t strictly required in North Dakota, but it’s the most standard and streamlined path into the profession:
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) – sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
To earn the CMA, you must pass the Certified Medical Assistant Exam. You can apply online to take the CMA Exam, which is offered at Prometric testing centers in Bismarck, West Fargo, and Grand Forks.
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) – sponsored by American Medical Technologists (AMT)
To earn the RMA, you must pass the RMA Exam.
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) – sponsored by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
To earn the NMCA, you must pass the NCMA Exam.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) – sponsored by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
To earn the CCMA, you must pass the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Exam.
Step 3. Register with the North Dakota Board of Nursing
Once you have met the requirements to become a medical assistant and/or medication assistant, you can register with the North Dakota Board of Nursing by completing the required forms and providing the necessary documentation:
Technician – Medical Assistant
- Technician Registry Application
- Verification of Enrollment Form
- Official transcripts from a formal medical assistant training program or approved national medical assistant credential
- Fees totaling between $30 and $50 depending on your situation
Medication Assistant III
- Initial Medical Assistant III Registry Application
- One of the following:
- Official medical assistant school transcripts and a copy of your approved medical assistant credential (CMA, RMA, NCMA, or CCMA)
- A Verification of Eligibility for Medication Assistant Directory Form submitted by your nursing education program
- Fees totaling between $40-$90 depending on your situation
Once you have successfully registered as a Technician – Medical Assistant and possibly as a Medication Assistant III, your name will be listed on the state’s Unlicensed Assistive Personnel-Technician-Medication Assistant III Registry, also referred to as the UAP-Technician-MAIII Registry.
Step 4. Maintain Your Medical Assistant Credentials and Registration
Every two years by June 30th, you’ll need to renew your medical assistant registration with the North Dakota Board of Nursing. This will involve:
- Verifying that you have been employed as a Technician – Medical Assistant
- Submitting employer verification that you meet competency standards medical assistant
- Paying a $30 renewal fee
If you are registered as a Medication Assistant III, the renewal date will correspond with the expiration of your medical assistant registration so you will renew it at the same time. This is done by:
- Submitting a Medical Assistant III renewal application
- Paying a $40 renewal fee
- Completing one of the following:
- Maintaining one of the following professional medical assistant credentials: CMA, RMA, NCMA, or CCMA
- Demonstrating evidence of clinical practice hours as part of a nursing education program in the preceding two years
Each professional medical assistant credential has its own renewal requirements:
- CMA – Must renew every 5 years by either retaking the CMA Exam or earning 60 re-certification points, including 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units
- RMA – Must maintain an annual membership with RMT and earn 30 Certification Continuing Program (CCP) points every three years
- NCMA – Must complete a prescribed course of Continuing Education (CE) that is approved by the NCCT
- CCMA – Must earn at least 10 Continuing Education (CE) credits every two years
2019 job growth projections from the North Dakota Labor Market Information 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.