Medical assistants are specially trained healthcare professionals who perform a variety of duties in an ambulatory care setting, including patient care, laboratory skills and office duties. Medical assistants can earn credentials after graduating from a medical assisting program. The certified medical assistant (CMA) credential is offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and is a widely recognized credential for this profession.
Benefits of the Exam
Completing a medical assisting program may seem like enough; however, certification adds credibility to your profession. The American Association of Medical Assistants states that medical assisting is one of the fastest growing allied health care careers.
- Earning certification shows that you have a thorough understanding of medical assisting practice and have a vested personal interest in your career.
- Certification marks a medical assistant as a professional.
- Employers are increasingly demanding that medical assistants be certified; certified medical assistants are paid more and have better career advancement opportunities.
Certification is a national credential, meaning it is not government or state issued. The CMA credential is recognized in every state and does not require reciprocity between states to be valid. However, you must still follow any laws governing medical assisting practice in the state where you work.
Eligibility and Applying
Before applying to take the CMA exam, you must first ensure that you are eligible to sit for the test. Students graduating from a medical assisting program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are eligible to take the CMA exam. You have sixty months after graduating from an accredited medical assisting program to take the CMA exam. You may not be eligible to take the exam if the medical assisting program you completed is not accredited by either the CAAHEP or ABHES; contact the AAMA for information about non-accreditation issues. If you are still a student, you may apply to take the exam thirty days before completing the medical assisting program.
- You must register to take the CMA exam and schedule a testing date through the AAMA and pay an application fee.
- Proof of successful completion of a medical assisting program and a background check are required, as well.
- A testing permit will be mailed to you once your application has been approved by the AAMA and you must take the CMA exam within ninety days of receiving your permit. Application deadlines, testing dates and locations may be found on the AAMA website.
Preparing for the Exam
The AAMA recommends good study habits to prepare for the CMA exam. Your school may have a study group arranged to help you prepare for the CMA exam. An outline of the exam may be found on the AAMA website which will help you determine what areas to study. Review your classroom notes if possible; re-read topics in your text books if you need to strengthen your knowledge in certain areas. Consider using flashcards for topics like anatomy and physiology and pharmacology. Consider setting aside study time every day until you take the exam so the material stays fresh in your mind.
Taking the Exam
- The certification exam is composed of multiple topics related to medical assisting, including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, office practices, laboratory skills, first aid and emergencies and clinical skills like patient preparation, medication administration and pharmacology.
- The exam is computerized and consists of two-hundred multiple choice questions broken into four segments. Each segment allows forty minutes for completion. The computer closes each segment once time runs out, no matter if you have answered all of the questions or not.
- When completed, your score is calculated based on the number of correct responses to all exam questions. You have the option to take a fifteen minute tutorial before the exam begins, which will help you understand how the computerized exam works.
Getting Your Results
You will find out immediately upon completing the exam whether or not you passed. The testing center hosting your exam will provide you with an unofficial pass or fail notification based on the correct number of responses to exam questions. An official copy of your results will be mailed to you.
If you fail the CMA exam, you can retest in ninety days. You must re-register and pay the exam fee if you choose to retest. The AAMA allows you three attempts at passing the exam.
Once you’ve passed the CMA exam, you must keep your credential current. The AAMA requires that you recertify every sixty months. You may recertify by taking, and passing, the CMA exam again or by accumulating continuing education credits. Credits may be earned by taking classes, attending seminars or other healthcare-related functions. A total of sixty credits must be earned before your recertification deadline if you choose to recertify this way. Continuing education credits must be AAMA approved to be valid so check with the organization for sources of allowed credits.
American Association of Medical Assistants: http://www.aama-ntl.org/