If you have a dream of entering the healthcare industry but want to do so quickly and without the hassle of attending school for 4 to 5 years, medical assistance might be the best career for you.

Medical assistants are trained healthcare workers that provide assistance and support services to physicians and other healthcare professionals.

Their duties include clinical and administrative tasks, ranging from scheduling appointments to assisting physicians with bedside procedures.

Medical assistance is also considered a gratifying career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job growth for medical assistants is expected to increase by 16% by 2031. This is significantly higher than the average, as compared to other professions.

If you are interested in pursuing this advantageous career, you might wonder what the requirements of becoming one entail and if a license is required.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about medical assistant certification and license requirements, and what types of certificates are available, and how to become a medical assistant.

Is a License Required for Medical Assistants?

Only Washington requires medical assistants to be licensed or certified out of all other states.

New Jersey and South Dakota are the only states requiring medical assistants to be licensed to give injections.

Though no other states require certifications from medical assistants, some states ask for medical assistants to have some sort of license or certification.

Also read: Medical Assistant Scope of Practice by State

Here is a list of some such states-

  • New Jersey- 
    New Jersey does not have any certification or license requirements for medical assistants. However, only certified clinical medical assistants can give injections to patients in this state.
  • North Dakota-
    North Dakota also has no requirement for certified or licensed medical assistants. Like New Jersey, only certified medical assistants can give injections in North Dakota.
  • South Dakota-
    Medical assistants working in South Dakota must register themselves with the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners. Medical assistants are also not required to be licensed or certified.
  • Washington-
    As mentioned earlier, you will require a license or certification if you want to work as a medical assistant in Washington. You will also need to apply for a license from the Washington State Department of Health.

Also read: Registered Medical Assistant

Medical Assistant Certifications

Even though most states across the U.S. do not require medical assistants to be licensed or certified, employers highly prefer candidates that are certified, and they also tend to earn more than uncertified medical assistants.

Many types of certifications and licenses are available for medical assistants, and choosing one might sometimes get confusing.

Here is a list of the most common and accepted certifications for medical assistants-

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam is offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

The eligibility criteria for the CCMA exam are as follows:

  • Complete your high school or a GED
  • Complete your medical assistant training program
  • Gain at least one year of medical assisting experience

The duration of the CCMA exam is 3 hours. It comprises 150 scored and 30 unscored multiple-choice questions.

The topics you will need to cover for this exam are as follows-

  • Clinical patient care – 56%
  • Basic science and foundational knowledge – 10%
  • Patient care education and coordination – 10%
  • Administrative assisting – 10%
  • Customer service and communication – 8%
  • Physiology and anatomy – 5%
  • Ethics and medical law – 5%

The CCMA exam costs $155. You will have the option of attempting this exam three times within a year, with a gap of 30 days between each exam.

It is also important to note that the CCMA certification must be renewed every two years.

Also read: CMAA vs CCMA

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam is offered by the American Medical Technologists (AMT).

To become eligible to sit for the RMA exam, you will need:

  • To graduate from an accredited medical assisting program
  • Graduate from the U.S. Armed Forces medical assisting program
  • Have a minimum of 5 years of experience working as a medical assistant
  • Have worked as a medical assistant instructor for 5 years in addition to having completed a course in a healthcare discipline

The RMA exam comprises 210 multiple-choice questions. The general topics covered in this exam are general medical assistant knowledge, clinical medical assisting, and administrative medical assisting.

The cost of registering for this exam is $120. Additionally, the RMA certification typically lasts three years, after which you can maintain it by completing continuing education courses (Read more on: Medical Assistant Educational Requirements)

You can also retake the RMA exam, provided that you wait at least 45 days after giving your first attempt.

Also see: How to get Medical Assistant jobs with no experience

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam is offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

The eligibility criteria for this exam involve only one criterion-

  • You will be required to complete your medical assistant training program from an accredited institution. This institution will need to be accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.

These programs usually can be completed within 6 months.

The CMA exam lasts for 160 minutes and comprises 200 multiple-choice questions. These questions are further sub-categorized into four sections that last 40 minutes each.

The topics covered in this exam are healthcare information management, infection control, patient safety, and healthcare delivery.

The CMA certification lasts for 60 months after you take your exam, and you must continue your education to maintain your certification.

The cost of the CMA exam is $125. You will generally be given three attempts to pass your exam, failing which you will need to retake your medical assistant course.

Read more on CMA vs CNA

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