Are you considering becoming a medical assistant, and wondering if certification is required to enter the field? Find out the benefits of earning professional credentials, and which types of medical assistant certifications you can pursue today.
Medical assistants, also known as clinical assistants, are essential members of the healthcare team. These professionals help ensure that healthcare settings operate smoothly, and that patients leave satisfied with their visits. On a daily basis, you can find a medical assistant greeting patients, scheduling appointments, updating medical records, recording patient histories, as well as collecting and organizing medical supplies. And this is just a small scope of what they do.
Medical assistants perform both administrative and clinical tasks, in order to support physicians, nurses, and other providers in delivering patient care. While they handle much of the front desk work in the medical office, medical assistants may also help prepare patients for exams, explain procedures to patients, take vitals, and more. For this reason, medical assistants should have sufficient training before getting started.
Medical assistant requirements vary from state to state. In Connecticut, there are no official education or certification requirements mandated for medical assistants statewide. However, many employers today require medical assistants to obtain training and certification before applying. Professional, medical assistant certification proves you have the skill and competence needed to work in a clinical setting. It can help you gain credibility among employers, as well as stand out among other applicants. Additionally, earning certification can position you for higher earning potential and financial advancements within the field.
Several organizations offer medical assistant certification today. In every case, though, you must pass an exam and meet certain eligibility requirements to obtain each certification. Some certifying bodies require that medical assistants graduate from an accredited MA program, while others may require several years of hands-on experience in the field.
Below, we outline your top three options for medical assistant certification, and what is required to obtain each. These certifications are available to medical assistants nationwide and are recognized (and valued) by healthcare employers of all types, all over the country.
The 3 Types of Medical Assistant Certifications
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential is granted to those who successfully pass the CMA (AAMA) examination, administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). As cited by the AAMA, this credential represents world-class certification for medical assistants. It is recognized by employers both globally and nationally. In fact, some employers even require it. The AAMA receives more than 100 requests from employers daily, to verify applicants’ and employees’ CMA certification.
The CMA (AAMA) certification exam is rigorous, consisting of 200 multiple-choice questions administered in four, 40-minute segments. It will test your knowledge of healthcare delivery, health information management, patient intake, safety and infection control, medical insurance, and more. It is no wonder employers prefer to hire Certified Medical Assistants, and place such value on the CMA credential today.
To be eligible for the CMA (AAMA) examination, you must graduate from a postsecondary medical assisting program. This program must be accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), like Goodwin University’s medical assistant programs.
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification is administered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). According to the NHA website, an estimated 89 percent of employers require or encourage certification for medical assistants today.
The NHA certification has simple requirements for aspiring medical assistants, involving either work experience or practical training. In order to be eligible for the CCMA credentialing exam, you must:
- Possess a high school diploma/GED equivalent AND
- Have completed a medical assistant training program (within the last 5 years) OR
- Completed one year of supervised medical assisting experience, in the last 3 years
While one year of work experience may feel like the shortest route, it’s important to note that many medical assistant training programs can be completed in a matter of months. At Goodwin, for example, you have the option to complete your medical assistant certificate in as few as 12 months’ time. This will make you eligible to apply for the CCMA certification upon completion of our program.
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential is administered by the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Like the above certifications, this RMA title is recognized by allied healthcare employers across the U.S. And according to the AMT website, there is increasing pressure for employers to hire more certified medical assistants. This is because certification highlights a medical assistant’s level of achievement, readiness, skill, and commitment to the highest standards within the field.
To become eligible for the RMA certification exam, you must take one of four routes:
- Education: Graduate from an accredited medical assisting program within the last four years, with a minimum of 720 total program hours (including at least 120 clinical hours).
- Military: Graduate from a formal medical assistant training program of the US Armed Forces.
- Work experience: Work as a medical assistant for at least five of the past seven years, fulfilling both clinical and administrative duties.
- Instructor: Work as a medical assistant educator for a minimum of five years, and have previously completed a course in a healthcare related discipline.
Through any of Goodwin’s medical assisting programs, you will become eligible to apply for the Registered Medical Assistant certification.
How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant
With close to 90 percent of healthcare employers wanting to hire medical assistants with certification, it is clear that getting certified is a smart career move. Whether you choose to become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), or Clinical Certified Medical Assistant (CCMA), is up to you. Earning any of the above professional certifications can position you for career advancement opportunities, for high-paying positions, and to beat out other candidates in the process.
The question remains, where do you start?
To become a medical assistant, and to qualify for the above certifications, a good place to start is a medical assisting school. A postsecondary medical assistant program can ensure you are equipped with the clinical, administrative, and tactical skills needed to be successful in this line of work.
At Goodwin, there are two paths to becoming a medical assistant. You may start by pursuing a certificate in medical assisting, which takes just 12 months to complete. Upon completion of the certificate program, you will be prepared to take the RMA, the CCMA, and/or the CMA certifying exams.
All students enrolled in the certificate program have the option to continue on, towards an associate degree. The associate degree in medical assisting can be completed in just 16 to 20 months. And, the prior credits earned in the certificate program can be applied to your associate degree.
To apply to the medical assistant program at Goodwin, you simply need to complete two applications — a general application for admission, as well as the Medical Assisting program application. You will also need to check off some pre-requisite courses in Medical Terminology and Human Biology. Upon completing our requirements, you will meet with the program director, or a practicum coordinator, and determine next steps.
Upon completion of your certificate or degree, you will be well-positioned to become a qualified, certified medical assistant. This is because Goodwin has fully accredited, well-respected medical assisting programs, and connections with employers throughout Connecticut.
Are you ready to become a certified medical assistant, or take your medical assistant career to the next level? Find out more about Goodwin’s medical assisting degree program by calling us at 800-889-3282 today.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.