Medical Assistant Certifications

You will need to become certified to become a medical assistant.

What a lot of people don’t know is that you can get any number of certifications because there are multiple medical assistant certifications.

We will cover the different types of medical assistant certifications and the differences between them.

Too Long, Didn’t Read: Learn about the different medical assistant certifications and which one is right for you.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

For those who are interested in becoming a CMA, they merge the administrative and clinical roles of medical assistants by working with patients (primarily through outpatient care) and keeping patient medical history up to date, including scheduling appointments and certain tests.

CMA Exam Eligibility

There are two requirements to be eligible to take the CMA exam:

  • Graduate from high school or get an equivalent degree (g., a GED)
  • Complete a one- to two-year accredited medical assistant program (through Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP))
    • Take the exam no sooner than 30 days before graduating from the accredited program (completing student)
    • Take the exam no later than 12 months after completing the program (recent graduate)
    • Graduate from a program that became accredited while you were taking it
    • Graduate from a program no later than 36 months before it became accredited

If you meet the two requirements above, you are considered eligible to take the exam and may apply for CMA certification. If you aren’t sure if you are eligible, the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) has plenty of resources to help you figure it out.

CMA Exam

Once you know that you are eligible for the CMA exam and apply to take it, you will be given a 200 multiple-choice question exam that you are asked to complete in 40 minutes. This exam will give you the certification to be a practicing CMA if you pass it.

Topics on the CMA exam include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Communication
  • Diagnostic Testing
  • Ethics
  • First Aid
  • Infection Control
  • Medical Law
  • Medical Reception
  • Medical Terminology
  • Professionalism
  • Psychology
  • Office Administration
  • Risk Management

If you want to practice for the exam, use our CMA practice test.

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

While CMAs are more commonly known, an RMA completes many of the same daily tasks and is quite similar to the role of a CMA. The main difference is how an RMA can become certified.

RMA Eligibility

There are four different ways to be eligible to take the exam to become a registered medical assistant. It is best to check with your future employer to make sure that you are going down the right path to becoming an RMA for their company.

Here are the ways to become certified as an RMA:

  • Graduate from an accredited medical assistant program offered through the Department of U.S. Education, the Council of Higher Education Accreditation, or by the American Medical Technology (AMT) board of directors
  • Graduate from medical training service given by any branch of the United States military
  • Complete five years of experience as a medical assistant
  • Hold a medical assisting certificate from another qualified organization

RMA Exam

The RMA exam is a 200- to 210-question exam that you will be given three hours to complete. The topics you will see on the RMA exam are as follows:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Ethics
  • Human Relations
  • Identifying Symptoms
  • Medical Administration
  • Medical Records
  • Medical Terminology
  • Patient Education
  • Pharmacology

If you want to practice for the exam, use our RMA practice test.

National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)

Another type of medical assistant is the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA). As an NCMA, people focus more on the clinical parts of the job and a bit less on the administrative. However, NCMAs still handle patient records and provide patients with instructions.

NCMA Eligibility

There are five ways you could qualify to apply for taking the exam. They are as follows:

  • Graduate within the last 10 years from a National Center for Competency Testing approved medical assistant program
  • Be a foreign RN or physician with documented U.S. equivalency
  • Be a medical assistant instructor with a minimum of 10 years of experience
  • Complete a medical assistant program with any branch of the U.S. military
  • Have at least 2 years of experience working as a medical assistant


Once you meet one of the requirements to be eligible to take the NCMA exam, you can apply to take this 150-question test that is administered in a three-hour block.

The NCMA test covers the following subjects:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Procedures
  • Medical Office Management
  • Medical Terminology
  • Pharmacology

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

If you are someone who wants to dig into patient care and assist a physician, the certified clinical medical assistant job is for you. They focus heavily on the clinical side of medical assisting over the administrative side.

CCMA Eligibility

There are four different ways that you can become eligible to take the CCMA exam:

  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • And one of the following:
    • Graduate from an accredited medical assistant program
    • Complete an approved apprenticeship program
    • Finish a medical assisting program with any branch of the U.S. military
    • Have at least one year of experience working as a medical assistant


Once you are eligible, you will have three hours to complete the 150-question (and 30-pretest-question) CCMA exam. The subjects covered include:

  • Administrative Assisting
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Basic Science and Foundational Knowledge
  • Clinical Patient Care
  • Communication
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Patient Care Coordination and Education

Exam Costs and Job Salaries

With each job, there is a price to take the exam and a salary that comes with the position. On top of that, you will have to renew your licensing, so here is a list of all those based on the job you may want:

Exam Cost$125 – $150$135$119$160
Certification Renewal TimeEvery 5 YearsEvery 3 YearsOnce Per YearEvery 2 Years
Renewal CostNo CostNo Cost$77$179
Average Entry Level Salary$37,694$36,663$41,560$38,295
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Authored By: Tabitha Cumpian

Tabitha Cumpian is a registered nurse with a vast clinical background gained through travel nursing throughout the United States.

She has obtained her Masters of Science in Nursing with an emphasis in Nursing Education.

Learn more about Tabitha Cumpian.

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