Medical assistant certification is a way of demonstrating mastery of the clinical and administrative job duties of medical assisting. Medical assistants pursue certification through organizations that play a regulatory role in the medical assisting industry. The process is optional and voluntary for medical assistants, though increasingly employers prefer hiring medical assistants who are certified.
Certification is usually the next step medical assistants take after graduation from an accredited training program.
There are several medical assistant certifications available, offered by a few different organizations. They are:
- The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
- The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification from American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
- The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
This page focuses on the CMA certification from the AAMA, as it is the most well-known and most highly sought credential.
What is a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)?
A certified medical assistant is simply a medical assisting professional who has passed the certification exam issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Certification is essentially a professional “seal of approval” attesting that a medical assistant has the necessary knowledge to excel in medical assisting.
Certified medical assistants are required to undergo continuing education and re-certify every 60 months if they wish to keep their certification current. The AAMA’s certification is considered by many to be the standard for the industry.
Benefits of Certification
There are many benefits to becoming a certified medical assistant. Since more employers are requiring certification as a hiring criterion, being certified tends to make MAs more attractive to employers. Since certified medical assistants have demonstrated their expertise in medical assisting duties, employers see them as more of an asset than non-certified ones.
Some benefits of medical assistant certification include:
- Greater employability. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, certified medical assistants will have the best job prospects in the decade to come.
- Greater earnings potential. Certified medical assistants are generally paid higher salaries than non-certified medical assistants.
- Greater career growth. Certified medical assistant may be trusted with more responsibilities than their non-certified counterparts, which can lead to more, and better, promotion and growth opportunities.
How to Get Medical Assistant Certification
There are several steps involved in getting medical assisting certification and becoming a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA):
- Establish certification eligibility. To be eligible to take the AAMA exam to become a CMA, you must have completed a medical assistant training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). You must also have completed a medical assisting externship, which comes as part of most programs. Your graduation does not have to be recent.
- Apply. Once you have completed an accredited medical assisting program, you must complete the application to take the AAMA exam. The exam registration fee is $125 for AAMA members and recent graduates of CAAHEP or ABHES-accredited schools, and $250 for everyone else. Personal checks are not accepted by the AAMA. You must also have a reliable email address.
- Schedule your exam appointment. Once your certification application has been approved, you will be sent a scheduling permit and will be notified to schedule an appointment to take the certification exam. You must bring your permit with you.
- Study. There are several resources that can help prepare you for the AAMA exam:
- The AAMA certification exam content outline, available on the AAMA website.
- AAMA practice exams, also available on their website.
- A CMA certification exam review course, taken at an accredited medical assistant school or training program. This is the most intensive preparation for the certification exam.
- Pass the certification exam. Once you have passed the AMAA exam, you will receive a certificate and wallet credential.
For a more detailed explanation of becoming a Certified Medical Assistant, see our step-by-step guide to becoming certified.
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) must undergo continuing education and recertify every 60 months in order to stay certified. The AMAA recertification process is the same as the initial certification process.