Discover What Certifications Can Advance Your Career as a Medical Assistant
Getting on the path to a successful Medical Assisting career can be an excellent idea for your future. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that overall employment of Medical Assistants (MAs) is projected to grow 18 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average of all other occupations (4%). Also, about 104,400 openings for Medical Assistants are projected each year, on average, over the next decade. These flourishing jobs can be located in hospitals, various physician offices, and other healthcare facilities. However, the best jobs may go to those with Medical Assistant certifications.
Doctors and nurses have come to rely on MAs to handle both administrative and an increasing number of clinical tasks as part of their day-to-day responsibilities. This may include a variety of tasks such as updating the patient’s medical records, administering medicines under the supervision of a physician, assisting during medical examinations, preparing medical samples for laboratory testing, managing the schedule of appointments, and assisting patients with their bills and in filling out forms.
(Click here for our career guide on how to become a Medical Assistant.)
You can earn five different Medical Assistant certifications once you’ve graduated from an accredited MA program. This article covers all five of these certifications, the specific competencies each covers, and the value of that certification to your MA career.
The Best Medical Assistant Certifications
Following are five of the most popular Medical Assisting certifications for increasing your knowledge, skillsets, and advancing your career:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
- Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified (PMAC)
Why Consider Earning a Medical Assistant Certification?
To be prepared to land the best jobs, you’ll want the best kind of training. For Medical Assistants, this usually means completing specific certifications. Some states require that MAs complete certain accredited programs or pass an exam. But even in states that don’t require certifications, you’ll find many benefits to going this route, as many of the best employers require it.
Earning a certification demonstrates that you have acquired the knowledge and skills to perform the job well. According to the National Healthcare Association, 89% of organizations encourage or require their Medical Assistants to be certified.
All of these factors contribute to the increasingly higher standards many hospitals, organizations, and clinics have put in place as they seek to add qualified Medical Assistants to their teams.
What Is the Best Certification for Medical Assistants?
The most important consideration when looking at potential certification options is choosing the credential that will best align with your planned career. It would be best if you asked yourself questions like:
- Which kind of healthcare interests me?
- Am I more interested in the clinical or administrative side of Medical Assisting?
- What type of office or facility would I like to work in?
- Which certification could qualify me for more advanced roles in the future?
Whether you’re just thinking about a career in Medical Assisting, or you’re already an MA looking to expand your training, broaden your skills, and value to your employer, certification may be a great option.
Photo taken directly from the AAMA website.
1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
What Is the CMA Exam?
Passing the CMA (AAMA) exam demonstrates that a Medical Assistant has been educated and tested in a wide scope of general, clinical, and administrative responsibilities. The CMA certification is offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
CMA Exam Content
The CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam is a rigorous exam that requires a thorough, broad, and current understanding of health care delivery. The CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam Content Outline provides an overview of the wide scope of knowledge required in general, clinical, and administrative categories.
The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions administered in four 40-minute segments.
CMA Exam Eligibility
To be eligible for this exam, you must meet the criteria for one of three eligibility categories.
- Completing or recent graduate of an accredited 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.
- Nonrecent graduate of an accredited program: A candidate who applies for the exam more than 12 months after graduation is a nonrecent graduate. If you graduate from a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited program that was accredited at any time during your enrollment, or graduate within the 36 months prior to the program becoming CAAHEP or ABHES accredited, you are eligible to apply for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam under Category 1 or 2.
- CMA (AAMA) recertificant: For this option, you must have previously passed the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam and are applying to recertify the CMA (AAMA) credential.
CMA Exam Locations
You can select a Prometric testing exam location when you make your exam appointment with Prometric.
About the AAMA
The Certified Medical Assistant (AAMA) credential represents a Medical Assistant who has been credentialed through the Certifying Board (CB) of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The credential is awarded to candidates who pass the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam.
Photo taken directly from the AMT website.
2. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
What is the RMA exam?
Passing the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam certifies Medical Assistants through a comprehensive set of both administrative and clinical skillsets. American Medical Technologists (AMT) provides this certification, which signifies a respected, rigorous credential that highlights a keen knowledge of quality patient care and expertise.
RMA Exam Content
The RMA exam tests Medical Assistants on their knowledge of a wide array of administrative, clinical, and communication skills.
There are a total of 210 questions that make up this exam: 46 on Anatomy and Physiology; 75 or Administrative Medical Assisting; 31 on Clinical Medical Assisting; and 58 on Clinical Patient Interaction.
RMA Exam Eligibility
To be eligible for this exam, you must complete one of the following four routes:
- Education: In order to sit for the RMA exam, you must be a recent or scheduled graduate of an accredited MA program or institution or a program that is housed within an accredited institution. You must have 720 hours of instruction, including at least 160 hours of externship.
- Military: For this option, you must be a recent graduate or scheduled to graduate from a formal medical services training program of the United States Armed Forces.
- Work Experience: When choosing the work experience route, you must be employed as a medical assistant for a minimum of 5 of the last 7 years (with no more than two of those years as an instructor in a post-secondary medical assistant program). The experience must include both clinical and administrative duties and be full-time at 40 hours/week (part-time combination allowed).
- Instructor: You must be currently instructing in an accredited medical assisting program or have completed a course of instruction in a healthcare discipline related to medical assisting. You must also have a minimum of 5 years of full-time teaching experience in a medical assisting discipline that encompasses a range of both clinical and administrative competencies that are broadly representative of core medical assisting duties. An applicant who has less than 5 years of teaching experience, but more than 1 year, must provide documentation of at least 3 years of full-time clinical work experience in a healthcare profession in which the scope of practice is commensurate with, or exceeds, the medical assisting scope of practice.
RMA Exam Locations
You have three location options for taking your RMA exam: At school, at a Pearson VUE Testing Center, or at a private site via live remote proctoring (LRP) on a personal computer.
About the AMT
American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers an RMA credential you can be proud of. Established in 1939, AMT follows rigorous standards, strict eligibility requirements, and offers an affordable and simple certification process. Many employers only recognize and support AMT-certified members.
Photo taken directly from the NHA website.
3. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
What is the CCMA exam?
Passing the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam certifies Medical Assistants and helps them access better career opportunities with a stronger clinical focus. The CCMA certification is geared toward Medical Assistants who wish to be more involved with clinical procedures than with overall office administration. This certification is offered through the National Healthcare Association (NHA).
CCMA Exam Content
The CCMA exam tests participants on the following:
- Foundational Knowledge and Basic Science
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Clinical Patient Care
- Patient Care Coordination and Education
- Administrative Assisting
- Communication and Customer Service
- Medical Law and Ethics.
The CCMA certification exam consists of 150 questions. The exam is based on in-depth employer insights, the latest industry trends and data, and collaboration with subject matter and technology experts.
CCMA Exam Eligibility
To be eligible for this exam, you must complete one of the following:
- Education: You must have successfully completed a medical assistant training program within the last 5 years (plus a high school diploma or GED equivalency).
- Experience: You must have 1 year of work experience within the Clinical Medical Assistant field within the last 3 years (plus a high school diploma or GED equivalency).
- Apprenticeship: You must have successfully completed a Registered Apprenticeship Program as Clinical Medical Assistant (program must be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor).
- Teaching License: You must have a current state-recognized teaching certificate, license, or have at least 3 years of full-time teaching experience in a health care or health science field.
CCMA Exam Locations
You can choose a location to take this exam, online or in-person, either at your school, a PSI testing center near you, or through live remote proctoring at the location of your choice.
About the NHA
The NHA is the largest allied health certification agency in the United States, with over 1 million certifications awarded since 1989. Healthcare institutions are experiencing a strong need for employees with validated, nationally recognized certifications. An NHA credential shows that you are dedicated to your chosen field, demonstrating a proven level of knowledge and a desire for excellence.
Photo taken directly from the NCCT website.
4. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
What is the NCMA exam?
Passing the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam certifies Medical Assistants with well-rounded clinical and administrative skills. The NCMA certification may be the best option for those who wish to work in medical practices such as physicians offices or outpatient clinics. This certification is offered through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).
NCMA Exam Content
The NCMA exam tests applicants in the following areas:
- Clinical Medical Procedures
- Phlebotomy, ECG and Other Diagnostic Tests
- General Office Procedures
- Medical Office Management
- Law and Ethics
The NCMA certification exam consists of 150 scored questions.
NCMA Exam Eligibility
There are three routes of eligibility to take the NCMA exam:
1A. Current Student: The first route is being a current student in a Medical Assistant program from an NCCT (authorized) school. For this option, you must be a United States high school 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 to obtain full accreditation. Additionally, all required documents must be submitted within 2 years after successful program completion in order for your certification to be released.
1B. Graduate: You can also qualify as a graduate from a Medical Assistant program from an NCCT (authorized) school, within the past 5 years. You must be a United States high school student, graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED). And 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.
2. Experience: You can go this route if you have 2 years of verifiable full-time experience as a Medical Assistant practitioner within the past 5 years. You must be a United States high school student, graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED). You must have 2 years of full-time employment or equivalent (4,160 hours) as a Medical Assistant under the direct supervision of a certified/licensed physician or primary care provider within the past 5 years. Finally, 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.
3. Military: If you’ve completed Medical Assistant training or its equivalent during U.S. Military service within the past 5 years, you can be eligible. You must be a United States high school student, graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED). And 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 5 years.
Alternatively, if you are a member [active-duty, retired, veteran] of the United States Armed Forces, or a spouse thereof, and have 2 years of verifiable full-time experience as a Medical Assistant practitioner within the past 5 years, you may also qualify. You must be a United States high school student, graduate or hold equivalent credentials (e.g., GED). You must have 2 years of full-time employment or equivalent (4,160 hours) as a Medical Assistant under the direct supervision of a certified/licensed physician or primary care provider within the past 5 years. Finally, 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 Locations
For testing site information, contact NCCT at 800-875-4404.
About the NCCT
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) is an independent credentialing organization that has tested healthcare professionals and instructors throughout the United States since 1989. NCCT provides multiple qualifying paths for certification in several roles, including the NCMA exam. The NCMA exam certification is recognized nationally. Note: Washington requires candidates to meet certain requirements prior to application to NCCT for testing.
Photo taken directly from the ASPMA website.
5. Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified (PMAC)
What is the PMAC exam?
Passing the Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified (PMAC) exam distinguishes MAs with the standard for excellence in the profession of Podiatric Medical Assisting and upgrades the professionalism of podiatry and caring for patients in the office. This test is designed for podiatric Medical Assistants employed in a podiatry office that are in good standings with the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants (ASPMA).
PMAC Exam Content
The PMAC exam tests applicants on an acquired level of knowledge in many aspects of podiatric medicine. Three exam options are offered, as follows:
The Administrative exam (390 questions); the Clinical Exam (339 questions); and the Radiology exam (135 questions).
PMAC Exam Eligibility
The PMAC certification is most valuable for Medical Assistants who work, or plan to work, in a podiatry office. You must become a member of ASPMA in order to take the exam.
PMAC Exam Locations
There are two ways to take the PMAC exam:
- Online certification: You have 30 days to complete all sections of the exam from the start date of the first exam.
- Written form with a review course at several conference locations: Check the ASPMA calendar for dates.
About the ASPMA
The ASPMA promotes, fosters, improves, sustains and advances the profession of Podiatric Medical Assistants. Their goal is to elevate the standard of education of PMAs. The ASPMA also plays a role in the advancement of the podiatric medical profession and to the improvement of public health.
New to Medical Assisting? Get started with the program at Brookline College
Brookline College offers a Medical Assisting Program that provides the necessary training for entry-level positions as a medical assistant in a healthcare facility such as a clinic, physician’s office, or urgent care facility. Graduates of this program can apply their skills and knowledge in such areas as patient interaction, basic coding and billing, office procedures, use of technology, medical legal documentation and electronic medical records. It can be completed in as little as 9 months. This diploma, combined with specified experience and other requirements can serve as the basis before seeking Medical Assistant certifications.