How to Become a Medical Assistant in West Virginia

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Whether they’re effortlessly handling the clerical and administrative duties required at the front desk and back office, or lending their talents in the exam room when working alongside physicians and nurses, West Virginia’s medical assistants are absolutely indispensable to every setting where healthcare services are delivered in the Mountain State.

And their efforts have never been more valuable. According to the West Virginia Hospital Association, despite its diminutive size, this state is home to no less than 63 hospitals and health systems that contributed nearly $10 billion to the state’s economy and employed more than 44,000 people as of 2019.

And with major systems like West Virginia University Medicine, one of the largest employers in the state with affiliated hospitals throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, the number of medical assistants here continues to grow.

According to forecasts coming from the West Virginia Division of Labor, the number of medical assistants here will grow by 2.7% in the short period between 2019 and 2021. These sort of positive employment projections tell the whole story – there’s never been a better time to get the training you need to establish yourself in the field of medical assisting..

Here’s what you’ll need to do to become part of this growing profession in West Virginia:

Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Assisting
Earn Competitive Medical Assistant Credentials
Pursue Medical Assistant Jobs Available in West Virginia
Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

 


 

Step 1. Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Assisting

Completing a medical assistant certificate, diploma or associate degree 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) is simply the best, first step to take to become a qualified medical assistant.

Choosing a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited program not only prepares and qualifies you for national certification, but it also ensures you’ll have the education and practical training to make you a well-qualified, entry-level medical assistant.

Fortunately, there are a variety of on-campus and online accredited programs from which to choose in West Virginia, including in cities like:

  • Parkersburg
  • Princeton
  • Dunbar
  • Huntington
  • Wheeling

Accredited programs, regardless of whether they’re designed as diplomas, certificates, or associate degrees, feature a similar course of study in medical assisting that includes courses in:

  • Essentials of human systems for allied health professions
  • Folk health care practices
  • Health care law and ethics
  • Medical terminology
  • CPR, first aid, and emergency procedures
  • Medical assistant office programs and applications
  • Medical office billing and coding
  • Medical assistant internship or practicum

However, while certificate and diploma programs take just 10-12 months to complete, associate degree programs take about 2 years to complete because they also include a general education core – a set of courses covering mathematics, English, the social sciences, and physical sciences, and more.

Despite a longer course of study, the associate degree has become the degree of choice among both medical assistants and employers. Employers prefer candidates with an associate’s degree because they tend to produce well-rounded medical assistants with stronger analytical and communication skills, while medical assistants prefer the associate’s degree because it often results in better pay and better/more varied job opportunities with some of the state’s top healthcare employers.

And if you have goals of advancing your education to the bachelor’s level at some point, the Associate of Science (AS) will get you where you want to be in a fraction of the time, as most or all of the courses of an AS transfer to bachelor’s degrees in healthcare-related programs of study.

 


 

Step 2. Earn Competitive Medical Assistant Credentials

While national certification is not a requirement to practice as a medical assistant in West Virginia, plenty of employers now turn to national certification when it comes time to find the most qualified medical assistants.

This means that with a national credential (or two) on your resume, you’ll not only display a commitment to your profession and continuing education, you’ll also capture the attention of more employers when it comes time to land a job or a promotion.

Once you’ve completed an accredited program in medical assisting, you’ll qualify to take one of the following national certification examinations:

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

You’ll need to take and pass the Certified Medical Assistant Exam to earn the CMA through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The exam tests your knowledge in three, main areas:

  • General medical assistant subjects
  • Clinical medical assistant subjects
  • Administrative medical assistant subjects

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

You can earn the RMA through the American Medical Technologists (AMT) if you already hold the CMA or by taking the RMA exam.

Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)

You can earn the NRCMA through the National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP) by taking and passing the NRCMA exam.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

You can earn the CCMA through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) by taking and passing the CCMA exam.

 


 

Step 3. Pursue Medical Assistant Jobs Available in West Virginia

Once you’ve earned the education and certification that make you a competitive candidate for some of the top medical assisting positions, you can start your job search by checking out the latest opportunities through some of the state’s leading hospital systems:

  • Mon Health Medical Center, Morgantown
  • JW Ruby Memorial Hospital, Morgantown
  • Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Glen Dale
  • Wetzel County Hospital, New Martinsville
  • Hampshire Memorial Hospital, Romney
  • War Memorial Hospital, Berkeley Springs
  • Princeton Community Hospital, Princeton

 


 

Step 4. Maintain and Improve Your Medical Assistant Qualifications

You’ll need to maintain and renew your national certification through continuing education:

  • To maintain a CMA credential you will need to earn at least 60 re-certification points, including 30 AAMA-approved continuing education units, before your CMA expires. Once you are issued a CMA it will be valid for a period of 60 months.

One of the best ways to stay on top of the latest opportunities in, and changes to, the medical assisting field is through membership in a professional association, which serve as great resources for continuing education, networking, and job opportunities.

Although West Virginia does not have its own state chapter of the American Association of Medical Assistants, the AAMA recommends joining the national AAMA association. If you would like information on joining the AAMA or starting a West Virginia chapter of the AAMA, contact the AAMA Membership Department at membership@aama-ntl.org.

 

2019 job growth projections from the West Virginia Division of Labor 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 May 2020.

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