Medical assistants are allied health care professionals who perform a wide range of duties in the medical office. If you’re currently enrolled in a medical assisting program or are thinking about making medical assisting a career, consider becoming a registered medical assistant. Medical assisting is a professional career which demands a high amount of skill and attention to detail. Registry as a medical assistant helps prove competency in your field and is a highly desirable credential in the profession. Most physicians now require registry, or another form of credentialing, for medical assistants in their office.
Registry vs. Certification
Medical assistants may choose to obtain either the registered medical assistant credential, RMA, or the certified medical assistant credential, CMA. Different organizations offer either the RMA or CMA designation and each has their own standard for testing and proving competency in the medical assisting field. It is not necessarily better to have one credential over the other as both must be earned by proving knowledge and skills.
The medical assisting school you graduated from may have a preference for helping you obtain either the registered medical assistant credential or the CMA credential. If not, take the time to investigate both credentials to see which one resonates better with you. Employers are not often picky over whether you’re registered or certified. They simply want proof that you are competent in your field.
Routes to Registry
There are two organizations which offer the registered medical assistant credential:
- American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- The American Registry of Medical Assistants (ARMA)
Both organizations offer national registry, meaning that your registered medical assistant credential is recognized in all fifty states. Both the AMT and ARMA work to enhance and improve the medical assisting profession and have their own standards for earning the registered medical assistant title.
American Medical Technologists offer a written examination to earn the registered medical assistant credential. To be eligible you must have:
- Graduated from a medical assisting program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), or
- Received formal training while active in the United States military, or
- Had five or more years of hands-on, documented work experience as a medical assistant
The AMT may have other eligibility requirements for sitting for the registered medical assistant exam; checking their website or calling for more information may be helpful in determining if you are eligible.
The American Registry of Medical Assistants requires proof of high school graduation, a letter of recommendation from a physician employer or documented proof of employment as a medical assistant, proof of graduation from a school of medical assisting or equivalent military training. ARMA may have other eligibility requirements, as well. A pre-qualification worksheet is available on their website to help you determine if you are eligible for the ARMA registered medical assistant credential.
You will be required to take a written examination to earn registry through AMT. The AMT registry exam consists of multiple-choice questions in the areas of general medical assisting, clinical medical assisting and administrative medical assisting. You must fill out an application and pay a fee to register for the examination. If you are a medical assisting student, your school may proctor AMT testing, or the exam may be held at an approved testing site in your area. Once you’ve been notified by AMT that your application to take the exam has been approved, you will be notified of a date, time and location in which to take the test.
You may take the AMT exam on a computer program or a standard paper booklet exam, depending on the testing location. You are allowed three hours to complete the examination and must achieve a passing score to earn the registered medical assistant credential from AMT. A study guide and resource materials for preparing for the AMT registry exam may be found on the AMT website.
The American Registry of Medical Assistants doesn’t require a written examination. Rather, they approve or deny applications for registry based on demonstrated education and work experience. Letters of recommendation for registered medical assistant credentials may also be required. The ARMA website offers information on applying for the registered medical assistant credential.
Both organizations offering registered medical assistant credentials require you obtain continuing education credits each year in order to remain registered. Continuing education credits may be obtained by attending conferences or lectures, by taking college classes in your field or reading professional publications. These activities help promote continued learning and competency as a medical assistant and are valuable assets to your professional growth. Each organization has individual requirements for obtaining continuing education credits.
American Medical Technologists
The American Registry of Medical Assistants