Medical Assistant Programs in South Dakota: Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant

Many people use the term “multi-skilled” to describe medical assistants. After all, they do a little bit of many things, carrying out both clinical and administrative duties in support of medical doctors and other healthcare professionals. South Dakota has taken steps to insure that its medical assistants are multi-skilled in another sense: that they indeed have the skill set needed for the job. Unlike many states, South Dakota registers medical assistants. It’s the task of state boards – and not just individual doctors and health systems – to ensure that rigorous standards are met.

Medical assisting is a high demand job. Early 2020 finds one of the area’s largest health systems advertising sponsorships to select individuals who have been admitted to medical assisting programs. They’re offering financial assistance in exchange for a future work commitment.

Most Popular South Dakota Medical Assistant Programs

South Dakota currently has three medical assistant programs that hold prestigious CAAHEP accreditation. All are long-standing programs, having held accreditation for more than 20 years.

Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, CAAHEP-accredited since 1995, offers an Associate of Applied Science. The program includes 240 hours of externship. The most recent placement survey found 99% of graduates either employed or furthering their education. According to CAAHEP reporting formulas, the 2018 cohort had a 91.7% job placement rate and a 92.9% examination pass rate.

Mitchell Technical Institute offers an associate degree option. The school boasts a 90% placement rate for the most recently reported cohort. The 2018-2019 Annual Program Assessment Review reported that all students who had attempted the CMA or RMA examination in the prior year had passed it.

Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls offers a CAAHEP-accredited diploma option. The program can be completed in one year.

Meeting South Dakota Standards

South Dakota medical assistants are under the joint regulatory control of the South Dakota Board of Medical Examiners and the South Dakota Board of Nursing. They register with the South Dakota Board of Medical Examiners.

South Dakota medical assistants are at least 18 years old. The foundation for a medical assisting career is a high school diploma or GED. The individual will need to complete a medical assisting program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or holds other appropriate accreditation. The program must provide classroom, laboratory, and experiential components appropriate to prepare entry-level medical assistants.

The individual will need to take a certifying examination through an approved national organization. The Board will also seek evidence of good moral character.

Out-of-state medical assistants with substantially equivalent training may be credentialed in South Dakota.

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South Dakota Medical Assistant Examination and Certification Options

There are multiple recognized third party organizations.

Individuals who complete programs that hold medical assisting accreditation at the program level qualify to test for the Certified Medical Assistant certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) through the American Medical Technologists (AMT). So do graduates of some non-accredited programs (though AAMA has made this pathway available only as part of a three-year pilot program).

Multiple accredited South Dakota programs note CMA (AAMA) eligibility among the things they have to offer their students. The South Dakota Society of Medical Assistants calls the CMA (AAMA) the gold standard, noting many employers prefer it.

The National HealthCareer Association (NHA) has stated that their Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) credential has also been approved in South Dakota (

Many South Dakota positions are open only to individuals who have maintained active third party credentials. Organizations may have quite a few that they will accept. One South Dakota health system listed the following (in addition to AAMA, NHA, and AMT credentials).
• Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) from the American Medical Certification Association (AMCA)
• National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

The health system noted that the list was non-exhaustive.

South Dakota Medical Assistant Duties

South Dakota has provided relatively detailed information about scope of practice. Among the allowable clinical duties are EKGs, blood glucose testing, venous blood draws, and certain types of skin test. Although medical assistants are prepared to carry out a wide range of technical tasks, they are not considered to have the preparation necessary to exercise professional judgment. They don’t do patient education or counseling but may provide information to patients.

Top South Dakota Medical Assistant Employers

The following are among the organizations that hire South Dakota medical assistants:

• Regional Health
• Sanford Health
• Avera Health
• Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas
• Rapid City Medical Center, LLP
• DaVita
• Yankton Medical Clinic
• Prairie Lakes Healthcare System
• Sioux Falls Veteran’s Administration Health Care System

Sioux Falls-based Avera made the Kununu list of top healthcare employers in 2019 – the organization came in at #6 nationwide!

Medical assistants typically provide services in facilities like outpatient centers or doctor’s offices, but they may be found in other settings as well. One long-term care organization recently advertised for medical assistants at multiple South Dakota sites.

Salary and Career Outlook

South Dakota medical assistants earned $14.37 an hour (or $29,890 for a full-time year) in 2018. The 10th percentile figure was $11.61 an hour, or $24,150 a year. The 90th percentile figure was $18.03 an hour, or $37,510 a year.

The most recent employment survey carried out by Lake Area Technical Institute found former students averaging $14.10 an hour six months past graduation.

South Dakota’s medical assistant job concentration is below the national average. The South Dakota medical assistant profession has been projected to experience 19% occupational growth across the 2016 to 2026 decade.


The South Dakota State Society of Medical Assistants is the state professional association (

Related Content:

CNA Programs in South Dakota

LPN Programs in South Dakota

How to Become an LPN in South Dakota

RN Programs in South Dakota

How to Become an RN in South Dakota

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