Which Certification Is Right For My Medical Assistant Career?

Posted by Athena Career Academy on Dec 21, 2017

Which Certification is right for my Medical Assistant Career?


Medical assisting is one of the fastest growing careers in healthcare.

Medical assistants perform both clinical and administrative duties including:

  • Checking patients in and out upon arrival and departure,
  • Answering phone calls and questions,
  • Assisting providers with exams and procedures,
  • Administering injections or medications,
  • Working in the electronic health record (EHR,)
  • Taking patient vital signs.

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In most states, medical assistants do not need to be licensed. However, they may need licensing for certain procedures like giving injections. IN addition, many of the best positions are highly competitive. This means that many medical assistants are now deciding to become certified as the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential represents the highest standard of professionalism in the field. There are four types of certification to choose from. Pursuing the proper one is important for your ultimate career goal.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

Credentials for a Certified Medical Assistant come from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA.) The CMA is the only allied health professional required to graduate from an accredited postsecondary medical assisting program that focuses on training for work in medical offices, clinics, and other outpatient care centers. 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


The CMA credential requires recertification every 60 months.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

Receiving the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant designation from the National Healthcare Association (NHA) can allow medical assistants to perform more clinical duties. 
The CCMA 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
Once certified as a CCMA, you also must complete continuing education credits every two years to maintain your status.

National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)

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

NCMA certification expires 2 years after the test date. To renew your certification you are required to attend one live seminar and one workshop every two years.


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Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

A Registered Medical Assistant is a medical assistant who has passed the American Medical Technologies (AMT) Certification Exam and has been awarded the credential of RMA. This credential 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 RMA credential requires completion of the AMT Certification Continuation Program every three years.

While you can work as a medical assistant without being certified, employers are more often looking for the best of the best. Becoming certified demonstrates to employers, coworkers, and patients that you have mastered the knowledge and skills necessary to provide high quality service. Contact Athena Career Academy to discuss your medical assistant career and which certification is right for you.

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Topics: Clinical Medical Assistant