As a medical assistant, you are not required by law to be licensed or certified, but you may choose to become a Certified Medical Assistant. This is a voluntary certification that can be earned through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). This certification shows that you have met the rigorous qualifications required to earn the credential. If you intend to become a medical assistant, chances are your employer will want you to become certified.
Why Become Certified?
There are many reasons to become certified. Certified medical assistants have taken the steps to show that they are highly skilled and knowledgeable. As such, employers often prefer certified medical assistants over job candidates that are not certified.
Certified medical assistants often earn a higher salary and have a greater chance of advancing into management positions during their careers. In short, certification is a great way to demonstrate your dedication to the profession and gain professional respect and recognition.
Steps to Becoming Certified
The first step to getting your medical assistant certification is to make sure you are eligible.
To be eligible, candidates must either be recent graduates or in the process of completing a medical assisting program that is CAAHEP or ABHES accredited (see our list here). To be considered an eligible candidate, students must be no more than 30 days from graduation, and recent graduates must take the certification exam within 12 months after graduating.
Once you confirm that you meet the requirements to take the Certified Medical Assistant exam, it is then time to apply. Visit the AAMA website where you can download the application and the Handbook for Candidates. You can also view FAQs, timelines, and other information through the AAMA site.
The application fee is $125 and is nontransferable and nonrefundable. Fees can be paid by money order, credit or debit card, certified or cashier’s check, or institution check.
The AAMA Certification Department will update you on your application status within 30 days of the mailing date on your application.
Once your application is processed and approved, you will receive an email confirmation that includes your Scheduling Permit instructions. Once you receive this email, you must log in and print your Scheduling Permit. Use this permit to schedule the exam, and make sure you take the permit to your exam appointment.
While waiting for your exam date, take the time to study for the test. This is the most important step to ensuring you are successful in becoming a certified medical assistant. You can study using the CMA Exam Content Outline and by using other sources. Medical assisting publications and websites are great resources of current information, as are practice exams. You may also take a CMA exam review course through an accredited medical assisting program or a local AAMA chapter.
The next step to becoming certified is to sit for and pass the exam. Once you pass, you will receive a wallet card and certificate showing your credential. You will also have the legal right to use the title Certified Medical Assistant on your resume and job applications.
To stay current, you will be required to recertify every 60 months through either a re-certification exam or continuing education credits.
Where to Prepare to Become a Certified Medical Assistant
You have two options for both your training and your exam prep: traditional classroom-based courses and online programs.
There are many quality online medical assisting programs and exam prep services that can help you meet your educational and career goals from the comfort of your own home.
Check with accredited online programs for exam review courses and other study materials that would allow you to study for the exam from home on your own schedule. If you haven’t done so already, read up on our top selected programs, or find on-campus programs in your area using our state guide.