Oregon’s medical assistants serve as trusted, valuable team members of any doctor’s office, clinic, or ambulatory center staff. Whether they’re tasked with answering phones, greeting patients, prepping exam rooms, or helping physicians during patient exams, these allied health professionals ensure that the office environment is well-organized and efficient and that patient flow is optimized. And their value is reflected in the fact that their numbers are growing exponentially.
When you’re home to major healthcare leaders like Salem Hospital, which operates one of the busiest emergency departments on the West Coast and employs more than 5,200, including nearly 800 medical providers, you’re bound to have impressive job stats.
Case in point: According to forecasts from the Oregon Employment Department, the number of medical assistants is expected to grow by 5.3% between 2019 and 2021 – one of the fastest projected growth rates for MAs anywhere in the country during this time.
If you want to take advantage of this outstanding job market and join the ranks of Oregon’s qualified medical assistants, you’ll need to ensure you’re prepared with the right blend of education and training. Here are the steps to take to get you there:
|Complete an Accredited Medical Assistant Program|
|Earn national Certification|
|Find a Job You’ll Love and Maintain or Upgrade Your Credentials|
Step 1. Complete an Accredited Medical Assistant Program
There is no better, first step to becoming a medical assistant than through the completion of an accredited medical assisting program.
Choosing a 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) guarantees your eligibility for national certification and ensures you have the education and practical training necessary to make you a competent, qualified, entry-level medical assistant.
Both the CAAHEP and the ABHES accredit certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs, and all feature a similar course of education and training in medical assisting, including an internship/field experience that will allow you to easily transition from the classroom to a real world environment. Courses in accredited programs focus on topics such as:
- Fundamentals of medical insurance billing and coding
- Medical assisting in a laboratory setting
- Medical terminology
- Electronic medical administrative procedures
- Medical assisting clinical procedures
- Medical assistant software applications
- Medical assisting practicum
You’ll find that certificate and diploma programs provide the shortest course of study, at just 10-12 months, on average, while associate degree programs take about 2 years to complete. The additional time required to complete an associate’s degree is time well spent, as the general education core within these programs is designed to produce well-rounded medical assistants with sharper analytical and verbal/written communication skills.
Many employers now prefer medical assistants with an associate’s degree. As a result, an associate’s degree on you resume results in better/more varied job opportunities and better earning power. The Associate of Science (AS) is also valuable among medical assistants with goals of advancing their education to the bachelor’s level at some point, as most or all of the courses within an AS transfer to bachelor’s degrees in health-related areas like healthcare administration and public health.
Step 2. Earn national Certification
Successful medical assistants know that the addition of a national credential on their resume is a must to remain competitive. Simply put, earning national certification is the best way to get a leg up on the competition and position yourself for some of the best jobs with the largest healthcare employers.
One of the most widely sought-after credentials in medical assisting is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants.
Once you’ve graduated from an accredited medical assistant program, you’ll qualify to take the CMA Exam, which tests your knowledge in the following areas:
- General subjects
- Psychology and communication
- Medical terminology
- Medical law and regulatory guidelines
- Medical ethics and professionalism
- Quality assurance, risk management, and safety
- Administrative subjects
- Medical reception and appointment scheduling
- Patient advocate and navigator
- Medical business practices and finance
- Establishing a patient’s medical record
- Clinical subjects
- Anatomy and physiology
- Documentation of care and patient intake
- Assisting the provider and patient preparation
- Processing and collecting specimens
- Diagnostic testing and infection control
- Emergency management and first aid
You’ll take the CMA exam at a Prometric testing center near you. In Oregon, there are testing centers located in:
- La Grande
While the CMA remains the most popular credential in medical assisting, there are several other options for earning national certification:
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
- National Healthcareer Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- The American Medical Technologists: Registered Medical Assistant credential
- 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. Find a Job You’ll Love and Maintain or Upgrade Your Credentials
You’ll need to maintain and renew your CMA credential every 5 years. You can either retake the CMA Exam or earn 60 re-certification points according to the following model:
- At least 10 points relating to administrative duties
- At least 10 points relating to clinical duties
- At least 10 points relating to general duties
- At least 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units
Becoming a member of a professional association like the Oregon Society of Medical Assistants (OSMA) is the key to finding exciting continuing education opportunities, connecting and networking with your colleagues, and staying current with the latest changes to the profession and the healthcare industry. The OSMA has chapters in:
- Marion-Polk Chapter
- Lane Chapter
- Linn/Benton Chapter
- River Cities Chapter
Once you’ve got the credentials that make you a well-qualified medical assistant in Oregon, you can start your job search by looking into opportunities through the state’s largest health systems:
- OHSU Hospital, Portland
- Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Providence
- Providence Portland Medical Center, Portland
- Salem Hospital, Salem
- Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, Portland
2019 job growth projections from the Oregon Employment Department 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.