medical assistant schools

Medical Assistant Licensure

If you’re pursuing a career in medical assisting, you’ll likely want to do everything you can to prepare for opportunities in this field. One step you can take is to earn a medical assistant license or certification.

“License” and “certification” are sometimes used interchangeably; both refer to a professional credential for medical assistants. Read on to learn whether or not a license is required and how to go about earning this credential.

Do I need a medical assistant license to pursue a career?

The short answer is no. Medical assistants are not required by law to hold licensure or certification. However, employers generally prefer to hire medical assistants who are certified. Consider that certification measures a candidate’s knowledge and skills against the standards of the medical assisting profession. In order to earn certification, medical assistants must pass an assessment and prove they meet very specific qualifications. It’s easy to see why this credential could hold weight for future employers. While it’s up to you whether or not you wish to pursue certification, keep in mind that medical assistants who take this extra step may be more competitive for professional opportunities. 

How do I earn medical assistant certification or licensure?

The process of earning certification depends on the organization that will be evaluating you. Generally, you will need to be at least 18 years old in order to qualify. In some cases, you will need to have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program prior to pursuing certification. Even if attending a postsecondary medical assisting program is not mandatory to earn your license, certifying organizations may require candidates to pass an exam that tests their professional knowledge.  For many medical assistants, it makes sense to pursue certification following formal preparation, such as a diploma program or an associate’s degree in medical assisting. For more specific information about the steps you must take to earn licensure, consult the certifying agency that will be awarding your license.

What organizations offer a medical assistant license?

Currently, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies accredits five medical assistant certifications, each with slightly different requirements. One you may have heard of is the CMA, or Certified Medical Assistant, from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The National Healthcareer Association offers two licenses depending on your area of professional focus: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) or Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA). American Medical Technologists offers the RMA, or Registered Medical Assistant. Finally, the National Center for Competency Testing offers the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA). 

Confused yet? Don’t be overwhelmed by the different types of medical assistant certification and licensure available to you. By the time you have graduated from your medical assisting program, you should have a clear idea of your professional goals, which will help you to decide which license is the best fit. For example, you may find that you wish to focus on clinical medical assisting if you have little interest in the administrative side. Your program instructors are typically a good resource for helping you determine what license to pursue. Also, if you know any practicing medical assistants, be sure to ask them what certification they hold, and why they chose that particular credential.

While a medical assistant license is not mandatory, many candidates like you opt to take this additional step. Certification is not the only route to a medical assisting career, but it is one way to prove that you have the knowledge and competencies necessary to succeed in this rewarding profession.

Ultimate Medical Academy
A.S. Health Sciences - Medical Administrative Assistant
As a UMA student in this online program, you’ll learn how to keep the healthcare system moving forward. That includes learning how to greet patients and get them checked in, schedule appointments, assist with patient insurance claims, perform medical coding and more.
Medical Assistant Career Diploma
Offered through Penn Foster College, the self-paced Medical Assistant diploma program can help you prepare to take the next steps toward becoming a skilled medical assistant. Geared toward students who don’t want or need to earn an associate’s degree, the course will cover 41 lessons, as well as a 160-hour externship for hands-on experience.
Purdue University Global
Medical Office Administration Certificate
Purdue Global’s online medical office administration program is designed to equip you with the knowledge and technical skills necessary to pursue entry-level positions in this exciting field. Coursework focuses on areas including insurance processing and fundamental medical office administrative and clerical tasks.
Grantham University
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Admin Assistant
The Medical Administrative Assistant (AAS-MAA) associate program provides a solid foundation in basic medical office functions, teaching you the skills needed for providing administrative support to healthcare professionals. This program can also serve as a step toward a more advanced degree in healthcare. Upon completion of the program, students may sit for the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exam, an entry-level medical assistance industry certification from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Independence University
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting
The Medical Assisting AOS degree program is designed to provide the students the knowledge and clinical skills for gaining entry-level employment in a medical facility in both administrative and clinical areas. Specific training is provided in preparing instruments and materials, vital signs, phlebotomy, medication preparation and administration, clinical documentation and assisting the physician with exams and procedures. Training in computer and administrative skills is also provided as they pertain to electronic health records and medical office procedures. The student will be able to function independently with administrative duties as well as clinical duties and computer functions of the office.