Starting a career as a certified medical assistant is often rewarding, especially given the plethora of modern medical knowledge one obtains. There is also the joy a medical assistant gets from playing a pivotal role in saving lives daily.
The outlook for the field is also great. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2030, there will be an expected growth rate of 18% for medical assistants.
While working as a medical assistant doesn’t require certification, some employers prefer a certified medical assistant as it shows that an individual has gained the necessary professional expertise and skills to provide high-quality service.
Who is a Medical Assistant?
To say that medical assistants play a vital role in the healthcare industry would be an understatement. These professionals can be found in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and even doctor’s offices, ensuring the smooth running of these institutions.
They are responsible for providing clinical assistance by performing tasks ranging from administering medications, measuring vital signs, preparing patients for medical examination, and performing electrocardiograms.
Administrative roles may include taking and maintenance of medical records and scheduling appointments.
Being a medical assistant, however, does not necessarily equate to being a certified medical assistant.
What is a Certified Medical Assistant?
A certified medical assistant is a medical assistant who has received prerequisite certification to perform clinical and administrative duties within a medical facility. In other words, a certified medical assistant is a medical assistant who furthered their career by qualifying for certification after undergoing and completing a medical assistant training program and passing a certification exam.
These professionals are trained to fulfill a slightly higher level of duties depending on the medical facility’s needs and the specialty of the physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. For example, a certified medical assistant might be tasked with drawing blood, giving injections, and performing electrocardiograms.
For this reason, many employers prefer certified medical assistants to regular medical assistants. This isn’t the only benefit of getting certified as a medical assistant. We look at some other reasons medical assistants choose to get certified below.
Benefits of Getting Certified
Certified medical assistants tend to enjoy the following benefits:
- Higher Earnings: While not all employers consider certifications as a requirement to hire medical assistants, employers still pay higher wages to certified medical assistants.
- Increase job opportunities: According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), they file more than 100 employer requests daily for certified medical assistants’ certifications. Employers mostly prefer individuals with experience and professional expertise to back them up.
- State Requirement: Some states require certification. While a medical assistant’s current state may not need it, it may be necessary later on if they move to a different state wherein certification is mandatory.
- Flexibility: An additional benefit of getting certified is flexibility in negotiations. Certified medical assistants often get the advantage of negotiating working hours, especially those who work in a physician’s office or a clinic.
Types Of Certifications
Various organizations offer medical assistant certification. Each of these organizations has varying requirements. While some organizations require completing medical assistant training programs, others require only years of hands-on experience.
Of all the certification bodies, three stand out in popularity and reverence. We list all three below.
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
Certified Medical Assistant certificates are awarded by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
This certificate is widely recognized nationally and globally. According to the AAMA, the organization responds to more than 100 requests for CMA certification daily.
CMA Eligibility & Exam Details
Graduates of medical assisting programs from accredited courses and schools by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education School. Certification is only valid for 60 months and must be recertified after 60 months.
CMA exams contain 200 multiple-choice questions
Clinical Medical Assistant Certification
The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant certification is administered through the National Health Career Association. CCMA focuses more on the clinical procedures for aspiring medical assistants.
CCMA Eligibility & Exam Details
The CCMA requires candidates to fulfill one of the following requirements:
- Have a High School diploma or GED
- Be a graduate of medical assistant training programs from accredited schools
- Have a one year working experience as a medical assistant.
CCMA certification must be renewed every two years. The exam contains 50 scored questions and 15 unscored pretest questions.
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
The registered medical assistant certification is administered by the American Medical Technologists and nationally recognized by the Allied Healthcare Employers.
RMA Eligibility & Exam Details
To pursue a registered medical assistant certification, the candidate must either be:
- a graduate of an accredited medical assisting training program
- a graduate US Armed Forces medical assisting training program,
- a candidate with work experience as a medical assistant not less than five years
- A medical assistant instructor who has worked for a minimum of five years and has previously completed a course in the healthcare-related discipline.
Certification is valid for three years, after which it must be renewed. The RMA exam contains 210 questions.
Which Certification is the Best?
There is no definite measurement to determine which certification is the best for aspiring medical assistants. All certification bodies highlighted above are popular and respected in their ways and are not separated by much when it comes to quality.
Instead, factors like consideration of specialty, interested roles of candidates, and eligibility status could help sway prospective applicants one way over the others.
Also, employers interested in hiring certified medical assistants will accept any accredited certificates mentioned above. As long as you have any of them, you should be welcome at most institutions and enjoy all the benefits of being a certified medical assistant.