From the front desk where patients are greeted and phones are answered, to the back office where billing is handled, to the exam rooms where patient services are administered, Oklahoma’s medical assistants keep doctors’ offices and clinics up and running, patients on schedule, and the whole business of healthcare delivery streamlined and organized. And in Oklahoma, jobs for these healthcare support professionals continue to grow as a result of a healthcare sector that’s stronger than it’s ever been.
With the University of Oklahoma (OU) Medical Center recently constructing a state-of-the-art medical tower (the largest hospital expansion project in Oklahoma City), another 450,000 square feet of space will be added to the world-class OU campus; a system that already has more than 11,000 employees, the state’s only freestanding children’s hospital and Level 1 trauma center, and the state’s largest physician network.
It is growth like this that has helped drive the state’s medical assistant profession. According to forecasts from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the number of medical assistants here will grow by 2.9% between 2019 and 2021.
With about 1,130 annual job openings in this field (as a result of retirements, normal attrition, and new job growth), you’ll have plenty of exciting job opportunities just waiting for you once you’ve got the education and training today’s healthcare employers demand.
Here are the steps to take to get you there:
|Complete an Accredited Medical Assisting Program|
|Earn a National Credential in Medical Assisting|
|Learn About Exciting Job Opportunities in Oklahoma|
|Maintain and Improve Your Professional Qualifications|
According to Oklahoma law, medical assistants are designated as unlicensed professionals that practice under the supervision of a physician. Medical assistants in Oklahoma are restricted from providing any service that is reserved for licensed medical professionals.
Step 1. Complete an Accredited Medical Assisting Program
There is no substitute for a comprehensive course of study in medical assisting.
In addition to serving as an excellent foundation on which to build a career in medical assisting, a formal program that’s accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) ensures you’re prepared and eligible for national certification – a frequent pursuit among medical assistants and a common requirement among employers.
Both the CAAHEP and the ABHES accredit certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs in medical assisting. All accredited programs feature a similar course of education and practical training in medical assisting, with courses focused on topics such as:
- Medical terminology and communication
- Medical law and ethics
- Medical informatics
- Medical insurance billing and coding
- Medical assistant clinical procedures
- Medical assistant computer programs and applications
- Medical office laboratory procedures
Certificate and diploma programs, because they feature a targeted, focused course of study in medical assisting, take just 10-12 months, on average, to complete. Associate degrees, however, take about 2 years to complete because they also include a general education core that includes courses in the sciences, mathematics, communications, and more.
Despite this longer course of education, many aspiring medical assistants choose the Associate of Science (AS) degree because it often results in more job opportunities and higher wages.
Plus, the courses of an AS degree easily transfer to a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field if your professional goals include advancing your degree in the future.
Step 2. Earn a National Credential in Medical Assisting
National certification is an excellent way to display a commitment to your profession, to continued education, and to your advanced level of knowledge in medical assisting. You’ll find that many employers now require medical assistants to hold at least one national credential, and many more are willing to offer higher salaries and promotions to those who have gone the extra mile and earned national certification.
The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential, sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), remains the most widely sought-after credential in medical assisting. Once you’ve graduated from an CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited program, you’ll qualify to take the Certified Medical Assistant Exam. Passing this exam will earn you the CMA credential.
You’ll apply online to take the exam, which tests your knowledge in the following areas:
- General subjects
- Medical law and regulatory guidelines
- Professionalism and medical ethics
- Quality assurance, risk management, and safety
- Medical terminology
- Administrative subjects
- Medical reception and patient assistance
- Medical business practices
- Establishing a patient’s medical record
- Appointment scheduling
- Medical office finances
- Clinical subjects
- Anatomy and physiology
- Documentation of patient intake and care
- Infection control, emergency management, and first aid
- Assisting the provider and patient preparation
- Processing and collecting specimens
- Diagnostic testing
- Medical assistant pharmacology
While the CMA is the most popular credential, it’s certainly not the only one:
- American Medical Technologists (AMT) – sponsor of the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential
- National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) – sponsor of the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) credential
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA) – sponsor of the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) credential
- National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP) – sponsor of the Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) credential
Step 3. Learn About Exciting Job Opportunities in Oklahoma
Once you’ve completed an accredited medical assisting program and earned a national credential, you’ll qualify for some of the most exciting jobs in medical assisting. You can begin your job search by checking out some of the fantastic opportunities available through the state’s largest health systems, such as:
- OU Medical Center, Oklahoma City
- Francis Hospital, Tulsa
- Anthony Hospital, Oklahoma City
- John Medical Center, Tulsa
- Tulsa Regional Medical Center, Tulsa
- Mercy Health Center, Oklahoma City
Now is also the time to network with your colleagues, stay current on the latest changes to the profession, and find some of the best continuing education opportunities to keep your national credential current by becoming a member of a professional association like the Oklahoma Medical Assistant Society, the state chapter of the AAMA.
Step 4. Maintain and Improve Your Professional Qualifications
All national credentials in medical assisting must be maintained and renewed:
- To maintain the CMA, every five years you must either earn 60 re-certification points with at least 30 of these from AAMA-approved continuing education units, or retake the CMA exam.
- To maintain the RMA, you must annually renew your membership with AMT and complete 30 Certification Continuing Program (CCP) points every three years.
- To maintain the NCMA, you must complete annual Continuing Education (CE) courses that are approved by the NCCT.
- To maintain the CCMA, you must earn at least 10 Continuing Education (CE) credits biannually.
- To maintain the NRCMA, you must renew your membership annually with the NAHP, maintain a valid CPR certification, and earn two Class-A Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year
2019 job growth projections from the Oklahoma Employment Security 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.