Medical assistants play a vital role in health care facilities across the country. As a result, the profession should experience an increase in job opportunities in the coming years – but that doesn’t mean there won’t be competition. What’s more, incomes for medical assistants can vary, with a $22,000 gap between the lowest and highest paid workers in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). So how can you increase your chances of landing a solid position and earning a higher salary?
Earning your medical assistant certification online is one way to set yourself apart from other job candidates. Employers often pay more for trained professionals who have demonstrated their knowledge and expertise. The following guide walks through everything you need to know to earn your medical assistant certification online, from the types of certifications available to the entire exam process from start to finish. Take the next step toward medical assistant certification.
Types of Online Medical Assistant Certification
Deciding to pursue certification can be an easy decision to make. After all, it can open the door to new job opportunities and possibly greater income potential. More difficult is knowing which certification option to pursue. Medical assistants have several choices, each offered by a different professional organization. Here’s a look at some of the available programs, their eligibility requirements, and who may benefit from them.
FAQs About the Medical Assistant Certification Exam
Since the CMA is one of the most sought after certification programs, we’re going to provide you with all the information you need to prepare for and pass its examination. The following are the most critical questions about the exam along with answers vetted by our experts.
Am I eligible for the exam?
Graduating from a medical assistant program doesn’t automatically mean you can become a CMA. Instead, you need to fall into one of the following categories:
Completing student or recent graduate – Only those who have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program are eligible for this category. That accreditation must come from either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Completing students must take the exam within 30 days of finishing their formal education and practicum while graduates have 12 months to apply.
Non-recent graduate – If you miss the 12-month window, you can still qualify to take the exam as a non-recent graduate. To be eligible in this category, your program must have been accredited by the CAAHEP or ABHES or you must have graduated with 36 months prior to the program becoming accredited.
Re-certificant – The third category of eligibility is for those who have previously passed the CMA examination and are applying for recertification.
How do I apply for the exam?
Once you’ve established that you’re eligible to take the exam, you’ll need to go through the application process. To do that, complete the following steps:
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What content does the exam cover?
To earn the CMA designation, you must have comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of medical assisting. The AAMA ensures applicants have the right level of expertise by testing three areas: General, Administration and Clinical.
Within these, dozens of topics are reviewed. In total, applicants are asked 200 multiple-choice questions, and 180 are scored. You’ll need a score of at least 430 to pass.
Here’s a breakdown of exactly what to expect in each test section:
The general section of the CMA exam covers seven subsections:
There are 50 questions in the general section, representing 28 percent of the total test score.
The next section of the CMA exam is concerned with the administrative duties of a medical assistant. Under this category, six subsections are covered.
There are 45 questions related to administrative duties on the CMA exam, and these will make up a quarter of your final grade.
The largest section of the CMA exam is related to clinical work. These are questions pertaining to direct patient care and cover nine different subsections.
There are 85 clinical questions on the CMA test, which accounts for 47 percent of the scored questions.
What’s the best way to study for the exam?
With so much covered on the CMA examination, you don’t want to go into the test without the right preparation. This is particular true if some time has passed since you completed your medical assisting program. The AAMA reports 60 percent of new applicants passed the test in 2017, and you don’t want to be part of the 40 percent to receive a failing grade.
Here are a few of the ways the AAMA recommends people study for the CMA exam.
How much does the exam cost?
For members of the AAMA, it costs $125 to take the CMA exam. Completing students and recent graduates of CAAHEP or ABHES programs also pay $125. For nonmembers and non-recent graduates, the cost is $250. If you’re applying for recertification and let your certification expire, you’ll be charged an additional $50 reactivation fee.
When can I take the certification exam?
As mentioned in the application section above, there is a 90-day testing window. Once you receive your Scheduling Permit, you can sign up for any open testing spot within those 90 days.
The exam is administered by Prometric testing centers, and these are typically open 5-6 days per week and 8-10 hours per day.
How do I know if I passed?
You’ll know immediately after completing the exam whether you’ve passed or failed. An official notification of your status will be provided at that time. Then, an official report and score will be sent within three weeks of the exam date. You can also log into your AAMA account to check for updates on your exam status and scores.
Resources for the Medical Certification Exam
If you’re looking for more exam resources for medical assistant students, try the following links:
American Association of Medical Assistants – The AAMA is the go-to resource for students planning to become a CMA.
CMA Candidate Application and Handbook – This is the official handbook and application from the AAMA for those applying to be CMAs.
CMA Testing Tutorial – While this tutorial won’t go over the content of the CMA examination, it will prepare you for how to navigate the testing software.
American Medical Technologists – If you plan to earn a RMA designation, the AMT offers free practice questions and a list of reference materials on its website.
National Healthcareer Association – Although not free, the NHA offers an online study guide and practice test for CCMA and CMAA applicants.
Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards – The FCLB offers resources on its website for those pursuing the Certified Chiropractic Clinical Assistant designation.
National Center for Competency Testing – The NCCT offers the NCMA credential and details about eligibility and exam contents can be found here.
Specialty Certified Medical Assistant – If you’re interested in becoming certified for a medical specialty, visit SCMA to learn more.
Union Test Prep – At Union Test Prep, you’ll find free practice tests, flashcards and study guides for medical assistants.
Test-Guide – This website has free practice questions for the NCMA, RMA and CMA exams. Scroll past the sponsored searches ads at the top to find the practice test links.