CMA Certification

Certified Medical Assistant certification is by far the most widely required for medical assistant jobs – even those that require other certifications in addition. It’s offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Your CMA certification will remain active for 60 months after you pass the CMA certification exam.

What CMA Certification Means

Earning your CMA certification by passing the CMA exam makes you eligible for the majority of entry-level medical assistant jobs. Although federal law doesn’t require medical assistants to have more than a high school diploma (or a GED or other equivalent) most hospitals and clinics around the country still require CMA certification from all their medical assistants, as this helps protect them against lawsuits from patients. This certification proves that you’ve got a working knowledge of the skills necessary for medical assisting, from medical terminology to office administration. Your CMA certification will be a matter of public record, which means any employer can easily verify it through the AAMA; and it’s valid in every U.S. state, no matter where you originally get certified.

About the CMA Certification Exam

The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, grouped into four segments of 40 minutes each. You’ll have 160 minutes to complete the exam, and up to 195 minutes total, including breaks and an optional tutorial section at the beginning. Topics include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology (body structure and function), basic psychology, professionalism and communication, medical documentation and licensing, office administration and scheduling, use of computers, record-keeping, billing and accounting, clinical preparation and treatment, collecting and processing medical specimens, administering medicines, emergencies and first aid, and nutrition. The exam is graded by computer.

Requirements and Costs to Take the CMA Certification Exam

The exam is open to anyone who’s graduated from an education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). People who’ve been convicted of a felony, or who’ve had a professional license revoked, denied or suspended, are typically not eligible to take the exam; although the AAMA may waive this restriction under certain circumstances. The exam costs $125 for anyone who’s graduated from one of these programs within the last six months, and for current AAMA members. For everyone else, it costs $250.

Applying to Take the CMA Certification Exam

The exam is offered on 90-day cycles throughout each year, and applications are due four months prior to the exam date. You can submit your application online through the AAMA’s website. If you???????????????????ve completed a program accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES within the last six months, you should only have to submit your certificate of completion. If you’ve passed the six-month period, you’ll have to submit your official school transcript. If you’re already an AAMA member, on the other hand, you’ll only need to submit your AAMA certificate number. Once the AAMA approves your exam application, they’ll send you a confirmation email with further steps for selecting an exam date.

Preparing for the CMA Certification Exam

Most of the material covered on the exam will be similar to the material covered in your preparatory courses, so you can complete a lot of your preparation by reviewing your tests, notes and textbooks from those classes. You’ll also want to prepare with some study guides designed specifically to help you with the CMA exam. Many students recommend Lippincott Williams & Wilkins’ Medical Assisting Exam Review very highly, and Kinn’s The Medical Assistant Study Guide and Procedure Checklist Manual Package is another popular resource. The AAMA also provides free practice tests for certain sections of the exam on its website, and many local chapters of the Association offer exam preparation courses as well.

Keeping Your CMA Certification Active

Everyone who holds CMA certification must get recertified every 60 months by earning a total of 60 “recertification points.” You can earn these in two ways: By retaking the CMA certification exam, or by earning continuing education (CE) credits from an accredited school or from the AAMA’s e-Learning Center. Although it isn’t free to retake the exam or to take courses, there’s no overall additional fee just for staying certified.