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How To Become A Certified Medical Assistant

To become certified means that you may have officially met the necessary requirements needed to perform a particular type of work.[i] Therefore, a Certified Medical Assistant has undergone a specific process to earn that title.

Should you become certified?

After attending school for medical assisting and earning your diploma or certificate, your next thoughts probably turn towards your future career, specifically you are thinking about a certified medical assistant. Now, Enter certification. Although certification is optional, earning your certification could jumpstart your career, since it is preferred by employers.[ii] With an increase in the numbers of baby boomers, the demand for preventative medical services will continue to grow and Medical Assistants may just be the bridge to fill the gap.ⁱⁱ As a Certified Medical Assistant, you could also gain the edge to pursue your dream job.

What types of certifications are there?

There are several organizations that offer certification. Most of the time, applicants must be at least 18 years old prior to applying for certification.ⁱⁱ There are four different forms of certification[iii]:

  1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) - from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
  2. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) - from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
  3. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) - from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
  4. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) - from the  American Medical Technologists (AMT)

Comparison of the three types of medical assistant certification

When viewing the different certification types, there are some similarities and differences. The CMA, CCMA, and NCMA as described below.  Discover which one might be a good fit for you:

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)ⁱⁱⁱ

  • Certification sponsoring organization is the AAMA
  • AAMA certifies only medical assistants
  • AAMA is nonprofit organization
  • First CMA exam was offered in 1963
  • Applicant must have completed a medical assisting education that is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Recertification requires 60 CE hours every 60 months in three required categories or recertification by exam
  • A CMA cannot use the credential if it is not current
  • If CMA not current for more than 60 months, must take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination to regain currency
  • The CMA (AAMA) touts itself for standing out among other certifications for its strict adherence to the highest standards of post secondary education, examination administration, and recertification requirements.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

  • Certification sponsoring organization is the NHA
  • NHA certifies several allied health professions
  • NHA is a for profit organization
  • First NCMA exam offered in 1989
  • Applicant must be at least 18 and with high school diploma (or equivalent), and have one of the following:
  • Successful completion of an allied health training program within the past year; or
  • One year of medical assisting employment, and employment as a medical assistant within the last year
  • Recertification requires 10 CE hours - acquired from NHA - every two years
  • Certification no longer valid if not reinstated within two years
  • If certification expires, 10 CE credits and payment of the two-year recertification fee are required, along with a reinstatement fee

National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)

  • Certification sponsoring organization is the NCCT
  • NCCT certifies several allied health professions
  • NCCT is a for profit organization
  • First NCMA exam offered in 1989
  • Applicants must have a high school diploma (or equivalent), as well as one of the following:
  • Graduation from an NCCT approved medical assisting program within the last 10 years; or    
  • Two years of qualifying fulltime employment or equivalent part-time employment as a medical assistant within the last 10 years
  • Recertification requires 14 CE hours every year
  • Certification status becomes noncurrent if lapsed for one year. A certificant can renew by completing required CE hours and paying the fees.
  • If not renewed for three years, past due fees and CE hours must be submitted to become current.
  • Certification revoked if five or more years have lapsed. Exam must be retaken to become certified again.

How can you find out if your medical assistant certification is still valid?

Maybe you are returning to the work force after an extended time off and you need to know if you can use your prior medical assisting certification. Here are some ways you can find out if your certification is still valid:

  • Phone. Pick up the phone and call the certifying organization to inquire.
  • Email. If you prefer to email, send a detailed request and provide your name, social security number and contact details.
  • Online. You may have access to your certification records online. Create an account on your certifying organization’s website and log in to check your status. If you don’t feel like creating an account, check certification details by searching with your verification form provided for employers. Using your social security number, name, or certification ID number, you can search for your information. You may find an inquiry form that you can complete and email to the office as well.

Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant does not have to be a hair-pulling experience. With the right tools and guidance, you can gain the confidence to begin your medical assisting education then pursue your CMA career.

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