Just like other professionals working in the medical industry, MA (medical assistants) must pass a certification exam, which enables them to access paid positions. Anyone looking to work as a MA in the US must pass the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam from the AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants). While states do not require that medical assistants working in state pass the CMA, a majority of medical facilities, physicians’ offices and hospitals demand a CMA certificate from potential employees.
Taking and passing your CMA significantly increases your standing in the job market while preparing you to handle the demands and pressures of the job ahead. Your CMA helps you demonstrate your competency in administrative work, medical treatment and in clinical skills.
Passing the CMA requires adequate preparation and the right mindset. Here are steps to help you prepare for your MA certification exam:
Understand the Exam
The CMA exam is a 200-question, computer-based exam you can take at testing centers across the U.S. and in Canada. While the specifics of the exam change annually, the core subject matter remains the same. Some of the topics you can expect in the exam include:
- Information technology questions specific to the healthcare industry
- Psychology and diagnostic testing
- Office Management and administration
Once you start the test, you will find questions in three main categories:
The AAMA then administers the exam in four segments, with each segment taking 40 minutes, with optional breaks between segments. Overall, the exam should not take longer than 195 minutes.
Once you enter the exam room, you will have access to a short tutorial that teaches you how to use the software. Knowing how to use the software in advance saves you the stress and anxiety of focusing on new information on exam day. Make sure you are familiar with the software beforehand.
Check Your Eligibility
If you are looking to sit for the CMA, you must ensure you are eligible as per these three categories:
- You must be a graduate or preparing to a graduate from a medical assistant program with accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Also note that you cannot sit for the exam if you have more than 30 days to complete your program or 12 months or more after completing your studies.
- If you are a medical assistant applying for re-certification, you must show evidence that you previously passed the exam within the same time given to graduates and students
- Non-recent graduates of an ABHES or CAAHEB accredited program can also apply
There are also specific conditions the AAMA may use to cancel your exam for eligibility:
- Failure to pass the exam three times
- Pleading guilty or being found guilty of a felony
- Previous record of license revocation, suspension or denial by a certification board or a regulatory authority
Exam Fees and Registration
The only way to prepare and guarantee yourself a seat at the CMA exam is to register for the exam and pay the exam fees. AAMA members and students or graduates from ABHES or CAAHEP accredited institutions pay $125 for each sitting while non-members pay $250 per exam sitting. Medical assistants looking for recertification of their licenses pay $50.
Once you qualify to take the exam, you can now re-focus your energy and attention to your studies. Spend time with your tutors and take trial tests for preparation. Register for the MA program at Athena Career Academy, where they will help you with the logistical and practical aspects of your CMA exam.