Medical Assisting programs in Oregon

In Oregon, medical assistants generally earn an average of $33,000 annually†, which makes their salary almost at the same level as the national average for medical assistants. Metro areas such as Salem and Portland even offer higher compensation than cities in densely populated areas. While experience has a great impact on how much a practitioner receives annually, other factors such as educational training and location of practice also influence the salary of medical assistants.

For instance, formally trained medical assistants who have passed a certification exam for medical assistants have more bargaining power when it comes to salary and career direction. Therefore, arming yourself with quality medical assistant education in Oregon and opting to work in metro areas rather than small cities can lead to more competitive initial salary if you are an entry-level applicant.

Pathways of Becoming a Medical Assistant

There are three different types of medical assistants you can choose from: Clinical, Administrative and Clerical. Clerical and Administrative medical assistants perform many of the administrative tasks such scheduling appointments, updating/filing medical records and insurance filing whereas clinical staff spend less time on administrative duties and more on patient care such as administering injections, taking x-rays etc.

A high school diploma is the basic educational prerequisite to begin a career in medical assisting. Usually, fellow medical assistants will train you on the job regarding your clerical and clinical responsibilities. However, this practice is slowly changing, as more employers prefer to hire formally trained applicants to lesser-qualified individuals. Another plus point is if the applicant is a certified medical assistant.

You may obtain proper medical assistant training through local colleges, vocational schools, or universities offering the medical assisting program. The easiest route is to finish the certificate course within a year of study. Your next best option is the more intensive program, which can be completed in two years - the associate's degree in medical assisting. Both programs can be your starting point towards a medical assisting career. Now, if you have plans of pursuing higher education, you can easily move up to a bachelor's degree if you opt for the associate's degree program.

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The U.S. Department of Education recognizes two accrediting boards for medical programs – the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). These accrediting agencies decide whether medical programs meet the quality standards set for specific areas of the medical field, which is, in this case, the medical assisting industry. In addition, graduating from accredited medical assisting schools is an eligibility requirement if you intend to take the certification test for medical assistants.

Is Certification a Requirement?

Becoming certified as medical assistant is not a condition for you to work as a medical assistant. With or without it, you may begin looking for medical assistant jobs and might even have the possibility of being hired. However, becoming a certified medical assistant shows that you have passed certain standards set for medical assistants. It enhances your qualifications and improves your chances of finding the best medical assisting position for you.

As already mentioned, only those who graduated from accredited medical assisting institutions are eligible to sit for an exam. Otherwise, you have to have at least five years of continuous medical assisting experience before you will be allowed to take the test.

Two of the most popular certifying bodies (there are four in total) are:

Oregon Wages for Medical Assistants

Table 1 Salary Data Source: U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Level of Experience Hourly Rate Annual Salary
Entry-Level Wage $11.96 $24,900
Median Wage $15.76 $32,800
Experienced Wage $20.32 $42,300

† US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010–11 Edition: Medical Assistants.

Medical Assistant Programs by State

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