How to Become a Medical Assistant in Oregon

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Oregon law does not regulate medical assistants, and as a minimum qualification for employment you must have graduated from high school. However the laws in Oregon are dynamic and you are advised to keep up with the latest developments in the field of medical assisting. Many states that have been in a similar position as Oregon have gone on to pass legislation that today does regulate the profession.

To become a medical assistant in Oregon, you may consider completing these steps:

Meet the Medical Assistant Qualifications
Consider a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Credential
Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

Across the state you can expect to find medical assistants concentrated in the following areas:

  • Statewide – 7,940 medical assistants in total
  • 4,880 in the Portland metropolitan area
  • 910 in Salem
  • 590 in Medford
  • 550 in the Eugene and Salem area
  • 480 in the southern Oregon-Linn metropolitan area
  • 430 in Bend
  • 320 in the coastal non-metropolitan area
  • 310 in the north-central non-metropolitan area
  • 220 in Corvallis
  • 180 in the eastern non-metropolitan area



Step 1. Meet the Medical Assistant Qualifications

Many Oregon employers will only hire candidates who have completed a medical assistant training program. Job descriptions will also often include a requirement or preference for candidates who hold a CMA credential. This is especially true in some of the state’s more competitive markets.

Nationally, the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is one of the most common requirements to become a medical assistant.

To be eligible for this certification you will need to graduate from a medical assistant associate degree or certificate program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

As you complete the coursework in a medical assistant associate degree or certificate program, you can expect to take classes in subjects such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Business mathematics
  • Business English
  • Fundamentals of medical insurance billing and coding
  • Medical assisting in a laboratory setting
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Electronic medical administrative procedures
  • Medical assisting clinical procedures
  • Medical assistant software applications
  • Medical assisting practicum



Step 2. Consider a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Credential

If you are choosing to pursue a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential, you will need to pass the CMA Exam. Once you have graduated from an accredited medical assistant school you will be qualified to take this exam, for which you will be allowed 160 minutes to complete 200 multiple-choice questions covering three main subject 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
    • Nutrition
    • Processing and collecting specimens
    • Diagnostic testing and infection control
    • Emergency management and first aid
    • Pharmacology

You can apply online to take the CMA Exam, which is offered at Prometric testing centers across Oregon:

  • In Bend at 2150 Northeast Studio Road, Suite 10
  • In Eugene at 1020 Green Acres Road in the Delta Oaks Shopping Center, Suite 11
  • In Portland at two locations:

    • 14623 Southeast Mcloughlin Boulevard
    • 1122 Northeast 122nd Avenue, Suite A-107

  • In Medford at 101 South Bartlett Street
  • In La Grande near Baker City at 1901 Adams Avenue

As soon as you finish your exam you will receive a pass/fail notification. It can take up to 10 weeks for you to receive your official notification that you have passed, at which time you will also receive your Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. If you do not pass the exam, you can take the initial CMA Exam up to three times. Because the CMA is a nationally recognized certification, if you move to another state that requires such certification, your CMA credential will automatically be recognized.

The most recent nationwide CMA Exam statistics reveal:

  • More than 16,000 candidates have taken the initial CMA Exam
  • Nearly 70 percent – 10,625 people – who took the exam last year passed
  • Last year than 26,000 medical assistants have re-certified as CMAs
  • Currently there are 74,825 currently certified CMAs



Step 3. Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

Your individual employer can require you to maintain and improve your medical assisting qualifications as desired. One of the most common maintenance requirements for medical assistants in Oregon is that of keeping one’s CMA credential up to date.

If you have chosen to earn a CMA credential from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) you will need to maintain this over time. An initial CMA credential is valid for 60 months, and to renew this you will need to 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

When earning your continuing education, keep in mind that one college credit is considered as being equal to 15 re-certification points.

It is always a good idea for medical assistants to maintain their competitive qualifications, especially in a marketplace that is increasingly expanding. As an Oregon resident, you will have a variety of resources available to you for improving your professional qualifications:

  • Medical assistant certificates and diplomas
  • Medical assistant associate’s of science degree
  • Bachelor’s of science degree in medicine or a related field
  • Master’s degree of science or additional advanced degrees in the field of medicine

Many medical assistants will choose to add to their academic qualifications and earn a relevant bachelor’s or master’s degree. Classes that are part of an academic program such will count towards an ultimate degree as well as fulfill potentially half of your re-certification points. With a master’s degree or higher you can also advance to health care positions beyond the scope of a medical assistant.

As a general rule, the more credentials you earn the more employment prospects you can have available to you. When considering your qualifications, there is also more to think about than just initial medical assistant jobs in Oregon. As your expertise increases, you may also find you have additional opportunities to pursue various fields of specialization. You can always also consider obtaining additional education in a particular niche specialization of medical assisting.

The Medical Assistant Field in Oregon

Every employer of medical assistants in Oregon can decide on specific ongoing professional qualifications that will be required for employment. In this unregulated environment having competitive credentials can often be more important in terms of finding employment than it would be in a state with strict regulations in the field.

As you pursue a medical assistant career in Oregon, you may also find it helpful to join a professional organization such as the Oregon Society of Medical Assistants (OSMA). This association has five local chapters throughout Oregon:

  • Central Oregon Chapter
  • Klamath Falls Chapter
  • Lane Chapter
  • Linn/Benton Chapter
  • River Cities Chapter

The OSMA is a professional support agency for medical assistants who perform both clinical and administrative duties. OSMA can provide you with useful information on a range of subjects, including:

  • Information regarding the CMA credential and its maintenance
  • Continuing professional education and development opportunities
  • Employment information and resources
  • Quarterly reports regarding the strength of Oregon’s medical assistant profession
  • Legislative news and updates pertaining to regulations governing the field of medical assisting

OSMA also encourages its members to obtain a CMA credential from the American Association of Medical Assistants. The organization recently reported that Portland in particular is moving closer to adopting CMA as a minimum standard for employment as each year goes by.

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