We asked 37,374 job seekers about their Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). This is what they told us:
Across the country, medical practitioners in healthcare facilities need assistance in clinical, administrative and general duties from qualified health professionals with medical assistant certifications. Training and certification guarantees that a medical assistant possesses the required knowledge and skills to safely work in a clinical or administrative environment.
Certified medical assistants perform a wide variety of tasks, from administrative paperwork to general clinical duties. In a traditional medical clinic setting, the medical assistant may help with preparing patients for the doctor, administering medications, minor in-office procedures and offering general health advice. Medical assistants may specialize in certain fields. For example, a medical assistant in an Ophthalmology office may help patients learn to correctly insert and remove contact lenses.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57% of medical assistants work in medical clinics.1 You can find certified medical assistants working in many different settings, including:
Although there are many different medical assistant associations, training programs and certification paths, the process for earning any medical assistant certification involves training, examination and maintenance.
With so many choices in your path to becoming a medical assistant, you may be overwhelmed. Because the cost of training programs and exams vary, you may find that your choice of certification is a practical decision based on your budget.
You should also look to the focus of the certification. Certain certifications are focused on specific job roles. For example, if you want to work with patients as a clinical medical assistant, you don’t need to pursue an administrative medical assistant certification.
Some employers may require a specific certification for employment. If you have a potential employer in mind, you should check to see which certifications are preferred or required. In addition to your employer, your state may only recognize certain certifications.
To be eligible for a medical assistant certification, all applicants must take training and education from an accredited program or institution approved by the chosen certification board or agency. Applicants can choose any diploma or associate degree program that meets the standard requirements.
In general, medical assistant programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are accepted for almost all certification exams. The length of the course will vary according to the program, but you can expect at least a year of training. Costs can range between $1,200 and $15,000.
Candidates can apply and schedule their certification exam by paying certification fees and submitting their documents online. It is recommended that you schedule your exam with plenty of time to study for the exam.
Many organizations provide study materials to help you prepare for the exam. Taking the time to study can help you confidently pass the exam the first time. Although many exams can be taken several times, there is often a waiting period required between exam dates.
Each certification exam has its own passing score requirements and certification application process. In some cases, you will receive your certification at the successful completion of the exam. However, you could be required to submit a certification application with proof of training and successful test scores.
Each certifying organization will have unique guidelines for recertification. Most certifications require renewal every one to two years. This can often be accomplished through completing continuing education training. You will be responsible for following the recertification schedule and maintaining your CMA certification.
The medical assistant certification curriculum is a complete look at the healthcare industry. The topics covered are designed to help you prepare for your career. Students are trained and tested primarily on administrative, clinical and general subject areas.
Although administrative tasks differ for each medical office, administrative training and testing focuses on duties that relate to scheduling appointments, entering orders into a computerized system, briefing and admitting patients, establishing patient medical records, handling accounts, computer applications, insurance claims and other related tasks.2
Medical assistants act as a liaison between patients and physicians. They help patients understand treatment, procedures and prescriptions. Clinical skills are an essential part of training for medical assistants. Topic areas include patient intake and history, checking of vital signs, collecting and processing specimens, performing basic laboratory tests, generating medical reports, administering medication, instructing patients on diet and various other clinical tasks.3
General medical assistant training covers the basic parts of effective communication and quality assurance. The goal is to provide assistants with the rules and regulations of working in the healthcare industry as well as the state’s legal and ethical considerations. Assistants are also tested for their ability to be proactive during any emergency with risk management, safety and protective practices.4
Many national associations offer medical assistant certifications. The academic, training and testing requirements for earning a certification are different for each association. Applicants must understand the requirements that are outlined by each medical association before they begin the certification process. The different certifications and their governing association include:
|CMA - Certified Medical Assistant||AAMA - American Association of Medical Assistants|
|RMA - Registered Medical Assistant||AMT - American Medical Technologists|
|NCMA - National Certified Medical Assistant||NCCT - National Center for Competency Testing|
|NRCMA - Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant||NAHP - National Association for Health Professionals|
|CCMA - Certified Clinical Medical Assistant|
CMAA - Certified Medical Administrative Assistant
|NHA - National Healthcareer Association|
|MAC - Medical Assistant Certification|
CMAC - Clinical Medical Assistant Certification
MAAC - Medical Administrative Assistant Certification
|AMCA - American Medical Certification Association|
|CCMA - California Certified Medical Assistant||CCBMA - California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants|
Certain associations provide specialty certifications for medical assistants, including the Podiatric Medical Assistant-Certified (PMAC), Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) and Registered Dental Assistant (RDA).
The CMA Certification Program through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is nationally recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).5 This global certification was designed by the AAMA to grant CMA certifications to medical professionals who complete the required training and successfully pass the CMA exam.
Training must be completed through a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or an equal training program. Students are encouraged to check their program’s status with the AACA before beginning training.
Applicants can apply for the CMA exam through one of the following eligibility categories: recent graduate, non-recent graduate or recertification.6 The CMA credential exam can be taken at any Prometric center across the nation throughout the year.7 Once obtained, the CMA is valid throughout the US and must be recertified every 5 years. You can recertify through examination or continuing education credits. The exam fee for non-members is $250. AAMA members pay a $125 exam fee. If the certification expires, there is a $50 reactivation fee.8
The American Medical Technologists (AMT) award RMA certifications to medical assistants who complete training and pass the certification exam.9 Training must be completed through a program or institution accredited by the United States Department of Education (USDE), the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the AMT Board of Directors.
In place of graduating from an approved school, medical assistants may qualify for testing by graduating from a formal medical services training program through the US Armed Forces or having a work history of at least five years as a full-time medical assistant or instructor. AMT allows you to take the exam online at either a school testing site or a Pearson VUE testing center.10 There is a $120 fee for RMA certification, which includes the application, exam and first annual certification fee.11
Recertification is required every three years. Payment of an annual fee and proof of continuing education and professional growth is required to maintain the RMA certification.12
To obtain the NCMA certification, applicants must hold a high school diploma or equivalent and pass an exam administered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).13
To be eligible for the NCMA exam, a candidate must either be currently enrolled in or recently graduated from a medical assisting program at a NCCT authorized institution. As an alternative option, the candidate can show participation in a US Military Service medical assistant program or two years of full-time medical assisting experience.
The NCCT charges between $90 and$135 for the exam application, depending upon the time lapse between graduation and exam registration. The certification is valid for 5 years from the date of issuance.14 The NCMA must recertify every year.
The NRCMA is a nationally approved and recognized certification awarded by the National Association for Health Professionals (NAHP).15 To be eligible for the NRCMA exam, applicants must graduate from a CAAHEP, ABHES or USDE accredited medical assisting program or have two years of medical experience in the US Armed Forces or a medical related field.
The examination fee is $75. The certification must be renewed every 5 years.16 Renewal requires 10 hours of continuing education, a current CPR certification and a fee of $65.
Medical assistants over the age of 18 are eligible for CCMA certification through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).17 To apply for the exam, applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent and complete a clinical medical assisting program approved by the NCCA. Three years of work experience in the medical field may take the place of the training requirement.
The CCMA exam is administered by the board of the NHA in collaboration with PSI testing services.18 There is an application fee total of $155.19 The CCMA certification is valid for two years. Members must earn continuing education credits for recertification.20
The NHA also offers a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) credential to candidates who specialize in the administrative aspect of medical assistance.21 The process of earning the credential is similar to the CCMA.
The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) offers several certifications to applicants who want to specialize in the administrative or clinical medical field.22 AMCA offers the Medical Assistant Certification (MAC), the Clinical Medical Assistant Certification(CMAC) and the Medical Administrative Assistant Certification (MAAC). The requirements for each certification vary slightly in terms of the curriculum, training and exam content.
Applicants with a high school diploma have two options for exam eligibility. They can take a board-approved medical assistant education course in the administrative or clerical field of study. If they have worked in the medical field for at least one year, they can submit their work history and place of employment to fulfill the training requirement.
Applicants take the certification exam at an AMCA approved test site.The CMAC certification application costs $139, while MAC and MAAC applications have a fee of $109.23 The certifications are valid for two years and require recertification through earning continuing education credits.24
The California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants (CCBMA) administers the CCMA certification exam, also known as the CCMA-AC.25 The Certifying Board also offers Basic and Clinical Specialty (CCMA-C) and Basic and Administrative Specialty (CCMA-A) certifications. CCBMA is recognized by the Medical Board of California as an approved certification agency. CCMA certification exams are offered year-round at multiple Pearson VUE testing centers.26
Those who are 18 years or older can apply for a CCMA certification. Applicants must receive training through an accredited medical assisting program or be currently employed as an administrative medical assistant. The required training hours equal 4,160 hours of experience or two years of full-time employment. Currently employed medical assistant instructors also qualify to take the exam.
Exam application fees range from $145 to $185 depending upon the specialization.27 CCMA certifications must be recertified every 5 years from the date of testing through the continuing education method.28
Most states consider medical assistants as those who work under the supervision of a physician or physician assistant. State regulations vary and should be checked for compliance. Although most states are relaxed on their regulations, many employers require training and certification.
1. “Medical Assistants”. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on February 21, 2020.
2. “California Certified Medical Assistant Examination Study Outline”. California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 3, 2020.
3. “Core Curriculum for Medical Assistants”. Medical Assisting Education Review Board.Retrieved on January 3, 2020.
4. “Content Outline”. American Association of Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 3, 2020.
5. “NCCA Accreditation”. Institute for Credentialing Excellence. Retrieved on January 3, 2020.
6. “Eligibility Requirements for the CMA (AAMA) Examination”. American Association of Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 3, 2020.
7. “AAMA–American Association of Medical Assistants”. Prometric. Retrieved on January 3, 2020.
8. “Exam Application Steps”. American Association of Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 3, 2020.
9. “Homepage”. American Medical Technologists. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
10. “AMT Testing”. Pearson VUE. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
11. “Get Certified”. American Medical Technologists. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
12. “Stay Certified”. American Medical Technologists. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
13. “Homepage”. National Center for Competency Testing. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
14. “Guide to the Recertification Process”. National Center for Competency Testing . Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
15. “NRCMA Certification Examination”. National Association for Health Professionals. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
16. “Renew”. National Association of Health Professionals. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
17. "Medical Assistant Certification (CCMA)”. National Healthcareer Association. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
18. "License Information”. PSI. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
19. "Candidate Handbook”. National Healthcareer Association. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
20. "How to Renew Your Certification”. National Healthcareer Association. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
21. "Certified Medical Administrative Assistant CMAA”. National Healthcareer Association.Retrieved onJanuary 10, 2020.
22. "Homepage”. American Medical Certification Association. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
23. "Candidate Handbook”. American Medical Certification Association. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
24. "Keeping Your Certification Current”. American Medical Certification Association. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
25. "Medical Certification”. California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
26. "Examination Study Outline”. California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
27. "California Certified Medical Assistant Examination Application”. California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
28. "Recertification”. California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants. Retrieved on January 10, 2020.
Editorial content last updated: November 2019
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All information on this page, including but not limited to price, cost, instructions, descriptions, and the content of a certification course, is presented for informational purposes only, may be an approximation, is subject to change, and may have been generated by third parties. Prior to enrolling in a course for a certification, please contact the proper school or certification administrators for information regarding certification requirements.