Medical assisting is not typically a state-licensed/certified profession. This means that medical assistants do no typically need specific credentials to practice in the field. The only exception to this includes medical assistants who perform specific duties, such as phlebotomy or x-rays, as state laws may require specific training and certification in these areas.
However, medical assistants are still able to set themselves apart as highly qualified professionals with a certain degree of knowledge and expertise in the profession through voluntary national certification. In addition to professional recognition for medical assistants, employers often seek medical assistants with national certification, for a number of reasons. For example, the AAMA reports that a number of managed care organizations are now placing specific mandates on employers to employ certified medical assistants. Further, as of 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ruled that only credentialed medical assistants are allowed to enter laboratory, radiology, and medical orders into their computerized system.
The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Credential
One of the most widely recognized national certification for medical assistants is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
Due to the litigious nature of the United States, many employers now seek medical assistants who possess the CMA as it provides evidence, says the AAMA, that the employer is exercising a high degree of care and diligence in its medical assisting employment procedures.
To become a CMA, medical assistants must be able to meet a certain number of requirements:
- Candidates must have graduated from a medical assisting program (may be a one-year certificate or diploma program or a two-year associate degree program) that is accredited by either:
- The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- Candidates must take and pass the CMA Certification Examination
Prometric provides the computer-based testing services for the CMA Certification Examination. The CMA must be renewed every 5 years, and recertification is dependent upon either the completion of the CMA Certification/Recertification Exam or the completion of continuing education.
A total of 60 recertification points are necessary to renew a CMA credential. At least 30 points must be accumulated as follows:
- 10 points in administrative
- 10 points in clinical
- 10 points in general
The remaining 30 points may be accumulated in any of the above content areas. Further, at least 30 of the 60 recertification points must be accumulated from AAMA-approved continuing education units. One continuing education unit, 1 contact hour, or 1 college credit hour equals one recertification point.
The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Credential
The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential, through American Medical Technologists (AMT), is reserved for medical assistants who meet one of the following requirements and who take and pass the RMA exam:
- Education: Candidates must be recent graduates (within the last 4 years) from a medical assisting program approved by the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or by the AMT Board of Directors. The program must include at least 720 clock hours of medical assisting, including a clinical externship of at least 160 hours.
- Military: Candidates must be recent graduates (in the last 4 years) from a formal medical services training program within the United States Armed Forces.
- Work Experience: Candidates must be a high school graduate and must have been employed as a full-time medical assistant in 5 out of the last 7 years. Work experience must include both clinical and administrative duties.
- Instructor: Candidates must be a current instructor in an accredited medical assisting program and have completed a course of instruction in a healthcare discipline related to medical assisting. Candidates must also have at least 5 years of teaching experience in a medical assisting discipline.
- Other Recognized Examination: Candidates must have taken and passed another certification organization’s exam in medical assisting that has been approved by the AMT Board of Directors.
The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Credential
The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), which is offered through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCTT), is reserved for medical assistants who meet one of the following requirements and can take and pass the NCMA examination:
- Must be a current student or recent graduate (in the past 10 years) from a medical assistant program from a school authorized by the NCCT
- Must be a foreign physician or RN with documented U.S. equivalency in the past 10 years
- Must have been a medical assistant instructor with 10 or more years of experience
- Must have completed a medical assistant training program in the U.S. military within the last 10 years
- Must possess at least two years of verifiable full-time experience as a medical assistant practitioner within the last 10 years
The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Credential
The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), which is offered through the National Healthcare Association, is reserved for medical assistants who can meet the following eligibility requirements and take and pass the CCMA examination:
- Must possess a high school diploma or the equivalent
- Must have successfully completed a training program or one year of work experience as a medical assistant
Specialty Certifications for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants who work for specialty practitioners may choose to become certified through one of the following:
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified (PMAC): Candidates must be a podiatric medical assistant who is a member in good standing of the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants for at least 90 days and has been employed in a podiatry office.
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA): Candidates can become eligible for the COA credential through the Career Advancement Tool (JCAT), a packaged learning resource that helps medical assistants be eligible to take the COA examination.