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Medical Assisting Certification Guide

Discover the Best Medical Assistant Certification for Your Career

Smiling medical professional

Medical Assistants play an essential role on the healthcare team. They provide critical support for physicians and nurses by assisting with both clinical and administrative tasks. They are often responsible for greeting patients, recording their medical histories and personal information, taking vital signs, and assisting doctors during examination.

Medical Assistant jobs also offer numerous benefits. These include decent wages, job stability, and like so many other healthcare professions, an incredibly positive career outlook.

(Click here to read our comprehensive guide on how to become a Medical Assistant).

Another rewarding aspect of becoming a Medical Assistant is the ability to advance within the healthcare field. Some enjoy lifelong careers as MAs, while others build on their experience with additional education to become Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), Registered Nurses (RNs), or Doctors (MDs).

For these reasons, many aspiring Medical Assistants will enroll in MA programs to prepare for certification in this field. While MA certification is not always required, having it can significantly improve your chances of gaining employment with certain employers and healthcare facilities.

In this guide, we will explore the various certifications available for Medical Assistants who wish to advance their careers.

Medical Assistant Certification

What Certifications Can You Get as a Medical Assistant?

There are several credentials you can seek as a Medical Assistant, including the following certifications:

  1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
  2. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
  3. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
  4. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  5. Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)

Typically, you’ll need to pass an exam and have completed one of several routes to be eligible for certification. These routes can include graduation from an accredited program and work experience. In most cases, you must be at least 18 years old before applying for certification.

Keep in mind that some states may require MAs to graduate from an accredited program, pass an exam—or both—in order to practice. People interested in certification are encouraged to contact their state’s medical board or licensing agencies for information on any requirements.

Is a Medical Assistant Certificate Worth it?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most Medical Assistants are not required to be certified in most states. However, some employers may prefer to hire certified MAs.

Healthcare establishments typically want to employ the most qualified individuals, which is why they would prefer to hire MAs with formal training or certification. In this increasingly competitive field, formal MA training can better prepare you for your job and lead to greater job opportunities throughout your career.

In addition, MA certification may also lead to higher wages or leadership roles.

What Is the Best Certification for Medical Assistants?

In short, there isn’t one answer that fits everyone. It depends on your location, goals, and needs. It also depends on your recertification capabilities and which criteria you feel capable meeting throughout your career.

The five certifications we recommend have been accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. This means that these organizations are trusted to certify quality graduates and ensure the safety of the public.

In the following sections, we will provide details on each of the Medical Assisting certifications outlined above.

1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

American Association of Medical Assistants Logo

Picture taken from the AAMA website.

The mission of the American Association of Medical Assistants® (AAMA) is to provide Medical Assistants with education, certification, credential acknowledgment, networking opportunities, scope-of-practice protection, and advocacy for quality patient-centered healthcare.

What Are the Benefits of AAMA Certification?

According to their website, “The AAMA is the premier association dedicated exclusively to Medical Assistants. Members save money, get in the know, and meet people who are in the profession.”

CMA Certification Requirements

CMA applicants must meet the criteria for one of the following categories from the AAMA.

Category 1: Completing student or recent graduate of a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited Medical Assisting program.

  • You must have graduated from or be about to complete a Medical Assisting program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
  • Completing students may take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam no more than 30 days prior to completing their formal education and practicum.
  • Recent graduates are those who apply for the exam within 12 months of graduation.

Category 2: Nonrecent graduate of a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited Medical Assisting program

  • If you apply for the exam more than 12 months after graduation, then you are a nonrecent graduate and fall into this category.
  • Those who graduated from a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited program that was accredited at any time during their enrollment, or who graduated within the 36 months prior to the program becoming CAAHEP or ABHES accredited, are eligible to apply for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam under Category 1 or 2.

Category 3: SCMA (AAMA) recertificant

  • You must have previously passed the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam and are applying to recertify with the CMA (AAMA) credential.

CMA Exam Prep

Here are a few resources from the AAMA to help get you started:

CMA Exam Costs

  • Member Price: $125
  • Non-member price: $250

If your credential has expired, you will pay an additional $50 reactivation fee. In addition, personal checks are not accepted.

How to Maintain CMA Certification?

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) provides one of two ways to recertify:

  1. By Examination: Review and complete the Candidate Application and Handbook for the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination and provide the required documentation and enrollment fee.
  2. By Continuing Education: Review the AAMA Recertification By Continuing Education Application and provide the required documentation and enrollment fee via either online application or mail submission. See the Apply to Recertify by CE page for details.
    • A Note on Online Recertification. Applicants do not need to fill out the Recertification by Continuing Education Application.
    • A Note on Expired Status. Those not recertifying on or before the expiration date of their credential will be considered as having an expired credential. They may reactivate the credential by recertifying by examination or continuing education.
    • A Note on Expired 90 Days. A CMA (AAMA) whose credential has been expired for more than 90 days forfeits the right to reactivate the credential by continuing education and must sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. Important Notice: This policy went into effect starting January 1, 2020.

Apply for the exam here.

2. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

American Medical Technologists Logo

Picture taken from the AMT website.

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) have been certifying healthcare professionals since 1939! You can rely on AMT for credentialing to elevate the profession. They can also serve as your allied health partner for NCCA accredited exams, accessible certification, and ongoing support.

What Are the Benefits of AMT Certification?

Some benefits of certifying with AMT include improving your earning potential, promotion opportunities, and career advancement. Demonstrate your commitment to your profession as well as your future by obtaining an RMA credential.

RMA Certification Requirements

RMA applicants must meet one of the following routes from the AMT.

Route 1: Education

  • People in this category are a recent or scheduled graduate, either from an accredited MA program or a program that is housed within an accredited institution.
  • You must have received 720 hours of instruction, which includes at least 160 hours of an externship.

Route 2: Military

  • In this category, you would be a recent graduate—or scheduled to graduate—from a formal medical services training program of the United States Armed Forces.
  • You must have received 720 hours of instruction, which includes at least 160 hours of an externship.

Route 3: Work Experience

  • You meet his requirement if you’ve been employed as a Medical Assistant for a minimum of five of the last seven years (with no more than two of those years as an instructor in a post-secondary MA program).
  • Your experience must include both clinical and administrative duties.
  • To be eligible, you would have worked full-time at 40 hours/week (a part-time combination isn’t allowed).

Route 4: Instructor

You fall into this category if you are…

  • Currently instructing in an accredited Medical Assisting program
  • Shall have completed a course of instruction in a healthcare discipline related to Medical Assisting
  • Shall have a minimum of five years of full-time teaching experience in a Medical Assisting discipline that includes both clinical and administrative competencies.
  • If you are an applicant who has less than five years of teaching experience, but more than one year, you must provide documentation of at least three years of full-time clinical work experience in a healthcare profession.

RMA Exam Prep

Woman writing in a notebook

You’ll have two hours to complete this exam. To help, the AMT has provided various resources:

RMA Exam Costs

  • The cost of the RMA exam is about $120. Fees are non-refundable and include the application, exam, and first annual fee.
  • There is an additional fee of $90 if you need to retake the exam.

How to Maintain RMA Certification?

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) certification is a three-year cycle with an annual fee that maintains your status year to year. For RMAs, this annual renewal fee is $60.

If your certification has lapsed, you can complete one of the following routes.

  1. Recertify by CCP*
    • Submit a Recertification by CCP Application with supporting documentation and fee.
    • Once requirements are met a new certificate will be mailed to you.

*If certification lapsed 10+ years, you MUST recertify via exam.

  1. Or Recertify by Exam
    • Submit a Recertification by Exam Application and fee
    • Once the application is processed follow the same steps to take the original exam
    • After you pass the exam a new certificate will be mailed to you

Apply for the exam here.

3. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)

National Center for Competency Testing Logo

Picture taken from the NCCT website.

According to the National Center for Competency Testing, “The NCCT is an independent credentialing organization that has tested healthcare professionals and instructors throughout the United States since 1989, with public safety in mind. NCCT provides multiple qualifying paths for certification in allied health roles.”

What Are the Benefits of NCCT Certification?

With the NCCT, you can seek certification for Medical Assistants, Medical Office Assistants, ECG Technicians, Phlebotomy Technicians, Techs in Surgery, Insurance and Coding Specialists, Patient Care Technicians, and Certified Postsecondary Instructors. They also offer reasonable exam fees as well as several certification routes for MAs.

NCMA Certification Requirements

NCMA applicants must meet these requirements from the  NCCT.

Route 1A: Current Student

  • You must be a United States high school current student, graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED).
  • You must submit a copy of your Medical Assistant diploma, certificate of completion, or official (signed) transcript with graduation date.
  • All required documents must be submitted within two years after successful program completion for your certification to be released.

Route 1B: Graduate

  • You must be a United States high school graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED).
  • You must submit a copy of your Medical Assistant diploma, certificate of completion, or transcript with graduation date. This includes U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Route 2: Experience

  • You must be a United States high school graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED).
  • You must have two (2) years of full-time employment or equivalent (4160 hours) as a Medical Assistant under the direct supervision of a certified/licensed physician or primary care provider within the past FIVE years.
  • You must submit a copy of your high school diploma (or equivalent) and the Medical Assistant Certification Qualification by Experience form completed by your employer.
  • Note: Working as an instructor is not equivalent to working as a practitioner.

Route 3: Military

  • You must be a United States high school graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED).
  • You must provide a copy of a SMART transcript or DD214 indicating you have successfully completed a formal medical services training program of the United States Armed Forces relating to the discipline for which you are testing. The DD214 or SMART transcript must be current within the past FIVE years.

OR

  • You must be a United States high school graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED).
  • You must have two (2) years of full-time employment or equivalent (4160 hours) as a Medical Assistant under the direct supervision of a certified/licensed physician or primary care provider within the past FIVE years.
  • You must submit a copy of your high school diploma (or equivalent) and the Medical Assistant Certification Qualification by Experience form completed by your employer.
  • Note: Working as an instructor is not equivalent to working as a practitioner.

NCMA Exam Prep

Here are a few resources from the NCCT to help get you started:

NCMA Exam Costs

The cost of the NCMA exam depends on the route you take.

  • Route 1A, Current Student: $90.
  • Route 1B, Graduate.
    • $90 if taken within six months of graduation.
    • $135 if taken after six months of graduation.
  • Route 2, Experience: $135.
  • Route 3, Military: $90.

How to Maintain NCMA Certification?

Recertification with the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) is required annually and includes just two steps.

  1. Log in to your Recertification/CE Dashboard to pay your recertification fee ($77).
  2. And complete the required CE (14CH of CE annually).

Apply for the exam here.

4. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

National Healthcareer Association Logo

Picture taken from the NHA website.

Since 1989, “The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) has prepared and awarded more than 750,000 certifications to healthcare students and professionals, providing them with nationally recognized measurements of competency paired with easy-to-use study tools and personalized customer service.”

What Are the Benefits of NHA Certification?

Whether you want to work in a doctor’s office or a large hospital system, becoming a CCMA with NHA shows that you are knowledgeable and ready to be a valued member of a healthcare team.

CCMA Certification Requirements

CCMA applicants must meet these requirements from the NHA:

  • Successfully complete a Medical Assistant training program within the last five years.
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED/high school equivalent.

CCMA Exam Prep

Man and woman studying

  • The exam consists of 150 scored questions and 30 pretest questions.
  • You’ll have up to three hours to complete the exam.
  • See this free, detailed test plan to help you study.
  • The NHA offers more study materials, though they may require a fee.

CCMA Exam Costs

  • The exam costs about $155. You can learn more on the NHA website.

How to Maintain CCMA Certification?

The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) has outlined the following steps for renewal. You must renew your certification on or before your expiration date; there is no penalty for renewing early.

  1. Log in to your nhanow.com account.
  2. Select “Renew Certifications” on the left menu.
  3. Select “Complete More CE” to view the library.
  4. Complete 10 continuing education credits.
  5. Pay your recertification fee. Renewing your certification costs $169 every two years, which is about $7 a month.

Apply for the exam here.

5. Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)

National Healthcareer Association Logo

Picture taken from the NHA website.

As previously stated, the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) has prepared and awarded more than 750,000 certifications to healthcare students for decades. In doing so, they have provided them with nationally recognized measurements of competency paired with study tools and personalized customer service.

What Are the Benefits of NHA Certification?

Having a nationally accredited certification like the CMAA can help you stand out. Certification may also be required or preferred for certain job opportunities in the profession.

CMAA Certification Requirements

CMAA applicants must meet these requirements from the  NHA:

  • Successfully completed a program that included Medical Administrative Assistant training within the last five years.
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED/high school equivalent.

CMAA Exam Prep

  • The exam consists of 110 questions and 20 pretest items.
  • You’ll have two hours and 10 minutes to complete the exam.
  • See this free, detailed test plan to help you study.
  • The NHA offers more study materials, though they may require a fee.

CMAA Exam Costs

  • The exam costs about $117. You can learn more on the NHA website.

How to Maintain CMAA Certification?

The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) has outlined the following steps for renewal. You must renew your certification on or before your expiration date; there is no penalty for renewing early.

  1. Log in to your nhanow.com account.
  2. Select “Renew Certifications” on the left menu.
  3. Select “Complete More CE” to view the library.
  4. Complete 10 continuing education credits.
  5. Pay your recertification fee. Renewing your certification costs $169 every two years, which is about $7 a month.

Apply for the exam here.

Advance Your Career as a Medical Assistant

Receptionist helping a patient

We hope this article provides you the knowledge and confidence to advance your Medical Assisting career.

The healthcare industry is full of outstanding specialties and careers. There are numerous paths you could choose, as healthcare professionals will always be needed.

The possibilities are virtually limitless. Good luck!