What Is Medical Assistant Certification Test and How to Prepare for It?
Last Updated on February 10, 2023
Are you considering a career as a medical assistant? If helping people and adding value to your community seem appealing, it’s a great way to earn a living while giving back. Medical assistants are invaluable to the healthcare industry.
They handle several vital tasks, such as assisting doctors with examinations, monitoring vital signs, scheduling appointments, and recording patient histories.
Medical assistants specialize in healthcare subfields or administration, depending on where they want to take their careers. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this industry will grow by over 18% from 2020 to 2030. So, there are plenty of job opportunities for new entrants into the market.
So, how do you qualify as a medical assistant? You’ll need certification to operate in the industry and find employment. This post unpacks everything you need to know about applying for your medical assistant certification test online and resources to help you understand this field.
Career Advancement For Medical Assistants – Medical Assistant Schools and Programs
Medical assistants have the option to pursue several certifications throughout their careers. Counselors and supervisors assist candidates with choosing the best certification for their career goals. We curated the following list of recognized certifications for medical assistants to give you an idea of what to expect from the range of certifications available.
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
Certifying Authority – American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
The AAMA presents the CMA credential to medical assistant graduates who obtain specific program accreditation. Candidates can take their exam within 12 months of graduating. The AAMA charges a $125 exam fee for its members $150 fee for nonmembers.
The exam is 160 minutes long, with the AAMA providing content outlines to assist candidates with preparing for their exams. CMAs renew certification every five years through a professional development class.
Current CMA certification has several professional advantages, including the potential for a higher salary. Over 95% of CMAs report receiving a raise or enjoying financial benefits from their certification.
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
Certifying Authority – American Medical Technologists (AMT)
The eligibility requirement for the RMA certification includes the completion of approved programs with externships. To qualify for the accreditation, the candidate should hold a minimum of five years of relevant work experience and a leadership role in healthcare.
The exam features 210 questions covering administration, medical assistance, patient interaction, and anatomy. Students pay a $120 exam fee and an annual fee for their professional development.
RMAs must earn a minimum of 30 continuing education points over three years to maintain their accreditation. The AMT offers certified medical assistants access to its job board, professional publications, and networking opportunities.
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
Certifying Authority – National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
The NCCT offers NCMA accreditation to recognize experienced professionals and top students. The organization provides several routes to NCMA eligibility, with requirements being experience, education, or military training.
Candidates pay a $90-$135 fee to undertake the 165-question exam, with topics covering medical office work applications for computerized systems, pharmacology, and medical office management. As with other certifications, the NCMA requires candidates to maintain their professional development for annual renewal.
Medical assistants in the field of nursing typically pursue this certification. The NCCT partners with the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (APRN) in supporting the career transitions of medical students.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
Certifying Authority – National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
The CCMA accreditation certifies professionals for many career opportunities in healthcare. Candidates need a high school diploma or GED and completion of an approved medical assistant program. Professionals graduating more than five years before pursuing their certification require a minimum of one year of work experience.
The exam covers anatomy and physiology, basic science, and clinical patient care topics. Candidates must pay a $155 exam fee and renew their certification every other year. Renewal requires a payment alongside professional development credits. Certified professionals have access to the NHA jobs board and help center.
Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
Certifying Authority – National Health career Association (NHA)
The NHA provides the CMAA accreditation for medical assistants in healthcare administrative roles. Candidates must have the same eligibility requirements as those seeking CCMA accreditation.
Applicants undertake the 130-question certification exam covering patient intake, scheduling, office logistics, and compliance. There’s a $117 exam fee, and CMAAs apply transferable skill sets to work environments, making them appealing candidates for demanding jobs with higher salaries.
The CCMA offers accredited individuals access to career development classes through the organization.
What Are The Specialty Certifications For Medical Assistants?
Professional medical assistants need more than their standard certification to experience advancement in their careers. Obtaining specialty certification demonstrates the individual’s expertise in their medical subfield.
The following three certifications offer the professional the pathway to receiving better benefits and a higher salary. By consulting their supervisor, medical assistants select a specialty certification in line with their career goals.
1. Certified Paraoptometric (CPO)
The Health Professions Network (HPN) requires candidates to have a minimum of a high school diploma and six months of work experience in eye care or optometry to qualify for the accreditation exam. Candidates pay a $285 application fee to undergo a 120-question, 90-minute exam.
2. Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOA)
To receive the CPOA certification, medical assistants must have six months of work experience as a CPO after graduating from an optometric program. Candidates without this required education level must have a minimum of three years of work experience.
HPN candidates pay a $305 application fee to take a 150-minute exam covering 120 questions. The American Optometric Association offers professional development classes for CPOAs and CPOs, with the credential assisting professionals with obtaining promotions and raises.
3. Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified (PMAC)
The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants accredits candidates with the PMAC certification after undertaking a radiology or clinical exam with an exam fee of $400. Candidates must achieve a minimum score of 70% to pass. The PMAC credential demonstrates competence and professionalism in recording medical histories and conducting X-ray exams.
Steps To Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant
If you want to become a medical assistant, you’ll need to undertake the following process online to earn your qualification and position yourself for accreditation to further your career.
Step 1 – Attend Accredited Medical Assisting Program
Aspiring medical assistants must attend an accredited educational institution. Their chosen program must include field-specific accreditation from outside agencies. Learners may pursue an associate’s degree or college certificate to qualify. Those students working toward online medical assistant certification must complete in-person clinical rotations and labs.
Step 2 – Confirm Eligibility for Exam Certification
Medical assistant certification agencies utilize various eligibility criteria for examinations. Some may require applicants to obtain experience alongside their education. A certified career advisor or medical assistant program director may provide additional student information.
Step 3 – Submit Your Application and Choose Your Test Date
Most candidates submit their applications and select an exam date after finishing their certified medical assistant program. Candidates choose from approved testing sites, including dedicated testing centers and local community colleges. Some testing sites offer evening and weekend test dates to assist students working in the field. Candidates must pay an exam fee when registering.
Step 4 – Study for the Exam
Most certification authorities provide low-cost or free exam prep materials, and some may offer virtual online classes. Individuals preparing for their exams must create study schedules and take practice exams to improve their chances of passing.
Step 5 – Keep up with Your Recertification
Medical assistants achieving certification must maintain their credentials by earning education units. Professionals must take continuing education classes, and publishing research or leading a class may also count toward points for continuing education requirements. Members will submit their continuing education documentation with their renewal forms.
How To Prepare For The Medical Assistant Certification?
There are several online resources for medical assistants studying toward their certification requirements. We recommend the following to prepare for your exam.
- Job Test Prep – This independent platform is the ultimate online resource for preparing for any medical assistant certification. You get the most comprehensive and in-depth preparation tools to ensure you pass any exam.
- AAMA CMA Exam Study Resources – The AAMA provides students with free online exams and practice questions to assist with preparation. Candidates sign up for review classes through their local AAMA chapter.
- CCMA Exam Content Outline – The NHA offers candidates a test plan covering foundational knowledge requirements on clinical patient care, anatomy and physiology, and infection control.
- CMA Exam Content Outline – The AAMA offers candidates detailed content outlines for the certified medical assistant exam. The outline includes the number of questions in each exam category, including general information, clinical competencies, and administrative capabilities.
- NCMA Detailed Test Plan – The NCCT provides candidates with in-depth test planning covering subject matter on clinical medical procedures, pharmacology, and phlebotomy.
Certifying Agencies for Medical Assistants
American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) – The AAMA provides resources and study guides for aspiring medical assistants. Candidates must hold a degree or certificate from approved programs run by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
American Medical Technologists (AMT) – The AMT awards certification to medical assistant candidates who complete a minimum of 720 hours as a classroom instructor and 160 hours in an externship. Other eligibility requirements include a minimum of five years of related work experience.
National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP) – The NAHP offers aspiring medical assistants certification. NAHP provides online candidate handbooks and exam outlines for candidates. NAHP also offers accredited members continuing education.
National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) – The NCCT awards certifications for medical assistants, providing extensive exam-prep materials and resources for certification renewal.
Professional And Accreditation Organizations
Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP) – CAAHEP awards accreditation to medical assistant programs. Candidates use the CAAHEP website when researching certified medical assistant programs. The site also offers information on the importance of the requested accreditation.
Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) – ABHES offers a list of schools offering degrees in healthcare. Candidates explore programs through the online directory. ABHES publishes articles on obtaining credit transfers and healthcare careers.
American Registry of Medical Assistants (ARMA) – ARMA assists employers with verifying employers’ and applicants’ certification status. The organization helps medical assistants earn their certification and maintains a job board with open positions.
American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants (ASPMA) – Medical assistants specializing in podiatry may apply to join the ASPMA. Membership benefits include professional publications, access to professional networking events, and discounts for liability insurance. New members must pay a $120 registration and renewal fee.
The Career Path For Certified Medical Assistants
A career as a medical assistant is rewarding and a stepping stone to other career paths in the medical community. Medical assistants may further their career prospects by specializing in other medical areas such as pediatrics, cardiology, or emergency care.
Medical assistants who continue their education may become registered nurses (RNs) or move into educational institutions’ business, managerial, or teaching positions. Earning your certification as a medical assistant can boost your salary, increase your competitiveness in the jobs market and enhance your skill set.
Most employers look for certified candidates because it shows proof of their skill set, knowledge base, and experience. By undertaking your accreditation process, you position yourself for career advancement as a medical assistant in many healthcare roles.
Medical Assistant Certification Test Online – FAQ
Q: What is the best strategy for students to prepare for their certification exams with an accredited institution?
A: We recommend paying close attention to learning materials and online learning sources, such as virtual classes. This strategy pays dividends in study opportunities. Reviewing class notes and clinical experience helps candidates gain the information that assists them in their theory-based learning for certification exams.
Most certification organizations provide resources that candidates can leverage to prepare for the exam, and independent sites like Job Test Prep offer excellent online resources.
Q: How does a medical assistant or student choose the right certification for their career?
A: History shows candidates decide on the right certification based on specific post-graduation interests. They often rely on their externship experience to determine the best solution. Most candidates go with the NCMA, providing a broader spectrum of career growth opportunities. Candidates should select the area of interest that intrigues and drives them in their careers.
Q: Which areas do medical assistants and students struggle with when preparing for their certification exam?
A: Many candidates battle with theory-based questions on the accreditation exam. It’s important to allocate a specific time to each question and avoid hanging up on a particular question, reducing available time for the rest of the exam. If you’re having trouble with a specific question, move on to the next one and return to it at the end of the exam.
Q: What advice should students adhere to when studying for their medical assistant exams and earning certification online?
A: The best strategy is for medical assistant students to thoroughly understand medical terminology and reflect on the empathy and compassion required to succeed in the healthcare environment. You’ll master the rest of the requirements during your certification program and career.
Q: Which medical assistant certification is the right choice for you?
A: There are plenty of options to receive certification as a medical assistant. It might seem overwhelming to pick one from the many available to you. We recommend researching the options online and speaking to your career counselor to decide the right one for you.
5 Reasons Medical Assistants Need Certification
Why do medical assistants need certification? These professionals typically pursue accreditation for several reasons, from placing themselves in a better position to obtaining a higher salary to qualify for a new job. Let’s look at five reasons why certification is important in this field.
A medical assistants may pursue certification to continue their personal and professional development in their field. Professional development classes allow medical assistants to network with other industry professionals and colleagues and learn the latest technology in their field and best practices for their specialty.
New Career Opportunities
Certified medal assistants have better job opportunities available to them to advance their career prospects. Employers prefer candidates with professional expertise and more in-depth work experience. Undergoing certification demonstrates the assistant’s dedication to their job and their possession of advanced skills.
Typically, states requiring medical assistant certification offer higher base and median salaries. The higher hourly wage or salary usually compensates for the higher cost of living in these urban centers. However, certification paces the assistant in a better place for a potential pay raise, allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life.
Earning certification as a medical assistant leads to increased respect from colleagues and supervisors. Additionally, certified assistants carry more weight in their decisions and opinions in the eyes of other industry professionals.
Meeting Your Certification Requirements
Some states require medical assistants to receive certification to operate. It’s a mandatory qualification in entry-level positions. In these cases, career advisors will assist students with determining the proper certification aligning with their career goals.