Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Assistant Certification

What is a medical assistant certification?

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential is a voluntary certification awarded by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). It’s a way to show employers that you have not only graduated from an accredited program but also passed an exam proving that your knowledge and job skills meet the strict industry standards set by the AAMA.

How do I earn a medical assistant certification online?

To qualify for the CMA exam, you must first graduate from a professionally-accredited medical assisting program. Eligible programs are those accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). There are hundreds of accredited programs available online. Upon completion of the program, you are eligible to sit for the exam. You must take the exam itself in-person. You cannot take it online, nor is certification included with your program diploma.

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Is medical assistant certification a legal requirement?

Currently, there are no federal or state laws that require certification to work as a medical assistant. However, as the healthcare industry grows, the job market becomes more competitive. As a result, more employers require certification as a hiring condition.

If it’s not a legal requirement, why is medical assistant certification important?

Even though the government doesn’t mandate it, many employers do require certification as a way of knowing that they’re hiring the most qualified candidates. Many malpractice insurance carriers also require medical assistants to be certified as a defense against potential lawsuits, which means that more employers also require it every day. And for companies that don’t, that certification will give you a distinct advantage over applicants that aren’t certified. CMAs also command a higher salary than their uncertified counterparts.

Does certification affect my job duties as a medical assistant?

While there are no federal or state laws that require certification for medical assistants to practice, some states do have laws that limit the scope of that practice for those who aren’t certified. For example, in the state of California, only certified medical assistants are allowed to train other medical assistants on-the-job. In those states, certification becomes more important because it’s a way to ensure that you’re able to perform any job duties delegated to you, thereby making you a more valuable employee than someone who has a limited scope of practice.

Who is eligible to take the Certified Medical Assistant exam?

Eligible candidates fall into one of three categories:

  • Completing students and recent graduates of an accredited program
    • Current students can take the exam no more than 30 days before completion of their program.
    • The AMAA defines a recent graduate as someone who applies for the exam within 12 months of graduation.
  • Non-recent graduates of an accredited program
    • A non-recent graduate is someone who applies for the exam more than 12 months after graduation.
  • CMA recertificants
    • A recertificant is someone who has previously passed the exam and received a CMA certification.

How long is the medical assistant certification exam?

The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions administered in four 40-minute segments. There is an optional 15-minute tutorial, 160 minutes to answer the questions, and an optional 20-minute total for breaks between each segment for a maximum time of three hours and 15 minutes.

How long is the medical assistant certification exam?

The fee for the CMA exam is $125 for members of the AAMA, completing students, and recent graduates (within 12 months). The fee doubles to $250 for non-recent graduates. There is also a $50 reactivation fee for expired credentials.

How long after graduation can I take the medical certification exam?

Students must pass the CMA exam within five years of graduation. After 60 months, they will lose their eligibility.

How long does a medical assistant certification last?

You must renew your certification every five years.