Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential

Registration vs. Certification

Q. Is registration for a medical assistant a “higher” or “better” credential than certification?

A. No. In almost every state, the CMA (AAMA) and RMA (and other medical assisting credentials) are voluntary national credentials, not mandatory state licenses or required state board examinations. In some professions, registration is “higher” than certification, but that is not the case in medical assisting.

148 thoughts on “Registration vs. Certification”

  1. Hello,

    I’ve been seriously considering going back to school for Medical Assisting. I have encountered the problem of attending one school that offers a Registered Medical Assisting program and the other school offering a Certified Medical Assisting program. I live in NC and would greatly appreciate any advice you can give on the topic. I’m unsure which to choose and have received mixed answers as to if one is better than the other. I want to participate in the program that will maximize my learning, career opportunities, and earnings potential.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Thank you for your question. I am happy to help.

      Technically, medical assisting academic programs are not “CMA (AAMA) programs” or “RMA(AMT) programs.” Allow me to explain.

      Only graduates (or graduating students) of CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assisting programs are eligible for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. In a sense, it could be said that CAAHEP and ABHES accredited medical assisting programs are “CMA (AAMA) programs” in that only graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by one of these programmatic accrediting bodies are eligible to become CMAs (AAMA).

      Here are the education eligibility pathways from the AMT website. AMT offers the RMA credential:
      Applicant shall be a recent graduate of, or be scheduled to graduate from, an accredited medical assisting program
      Additional Requirements:
      · Accredited program: Program or institution is accredited by a regional or national accreditation agency approved by the US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or otherwise approved by the AMT Board of Directors.
      · All training programs should include a minimum of 720 Program clock hours (or equivalent) in medical assisting, including a clinical externship of no less than 160 hours in duration (or required by state law).
      · Applicants must have graduated from their academic programs within the past four years. Applicants whose date of graduation is four years or more prior to the date of their application must also provide evidence of relevant work experience for at least three of the last five years.
      Thus, graduates (or graduating students) of medical assisting programs that meet these AMT requirements are eligible for the RMA(AMT) examination. In other words, graduates (or graduating students) of medical assisting programs that are not CAAHEP or ABHES accredited, but meet the above AMT requirements, are eligible for the RMA(AMT) examination.

      I hope this is helpful. I will also send some articles directly to your e-mail address.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

      [cid:image003.jpg@01CFF8F0.5DE79010] [cid:image007.jpg@01CFF8F0.5DE79010] [wordpress] [mail]

  2. Trying to recieve my RMA. Graduated 4yrs ago and have worked as an Medical Assistant off and on. I graduated from a school that is accredited by ACICS and could not be certified, but could be registered. Searched the web and found AMT, but they want 5-7yrs work experience and or recently graduated. Can not find any testing centers that would accept ACICS accreditation. Need some directions.

  3. Graduated 4yrs ago from a school that accredited by ACICS. Just found out that I can not be certified, but can be registered. I’ve worked in the Medical field off and on. Trying to register for Medical Assistant. Searched the web and found one testing center that accept ACICS accreditation. AMT they allow recent graduates and or 5-7yrs work experience in order to test. Would I have to go back to school(accredited) to be certified/registered? Are any other centers that accept ACICS credits so I can register? Need some directions.

    1. Thank you for your questions. They are a bit complicated, and require some attachments, so I will be responding to your e-mail address.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

      [cid:image003.jpg@01CFF8F0.5DE79010] [cid:image007.jpg@01CFF8F0.5DE79010] [wordpress] [mail]

  4. I need to recertify, would I go back to my Institute where I went to retake my test to regain my certification or is there an online test..I live in Texas please help! Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your question. Could you tell me what is on the certificate you received? I will know how to respond to your question once you provide me the specific language on your certificate.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

      [cid:image003.jpg@01CFF8F0.5DE79010] [cid:image007.jpg@01CFF8F0.5DE79010] [wordpress] [mail]

  5. I finished school in December of 2006 for my medical clinical laboratory assistant I received a certificate once I finish my externship I went to a school called ultimate medical academy in Clearwater Florida I got registered as a phlebotomist in 2011 with amt1 Im currently working on taking they cmla test I was wondering can I take the cma certification as well I still have my cna I been on my job 4 1\2 years I work in the emergency department as point of care tech assistant but no one offers that certification and amt want let me take the medical technician test because I don’t have a associate degree If I can avoid going back to school in just study to take these test off my medical clinical laboratory assistant certificate that’s even better for me but seems like I always run into dead end what happen to being grandfather into a position then able to take a certification test I even called the school in asked what actually do my certificate actually stands for they tell me to apply for a ccma certification that’s just medical assistant but I been out off school over 9yrs I got hired as a phlebotomist with that same certificate you go to these school pay all this money in they never have answers for you

    1. I finished school in December of 2006 for my medical clinical laboratory assistant I received a certificate once I finish my externship I went to a school called ultimate medical academy in Clearwater Florida I got registered as a phlebotomist in 2011 with amt1 Im currently working on taking they cmla test I was wondering can I take the cma certification as well I still have my cna I been on my job 4 1\2 years I work in the emergency department as point of care tech assistant but no one offers that certification and amt want let me take the medical technician test because I don’t have a associate degree If I can avoid going back to school in just study to take these test off my medical clinical laboratory assistant certificate that’s even better for me but seems like I always run into dead end what happen to being grandfather into a position then able to take a certification test I even called the school in asked what actually do my certificate actually stands for they tell me to apply for a ccma certification that’s just medical assistant but I been out off school over 9yrs I got hired as a phlebotomist with that same certificate you go to these school pay all this money in they never have answers for you

  6. I live in San Antonio, Texas and I went to school (Texas Careers) for Medical Assistant in 2002. I finished my classes and internship in 2003 but come to find out when I took the test I missed by one point. I went back to school (college) and took some classes but I just went to work . I went back to school and I am getting my BA. But I would like to see if there are any refresher course and can I retake the test to be a Certified Medical Assistant or Registered Medical Assistant? Please help me.

  7. I’m been working as a medical assistant without certification , I went to school and finished the program. The only thing I couldn’t get my medical assistant certification because I didn’t finish paying for the program so the school is holding my diploma until I finish paying for it. My question is can I take the CMA TEST?

    1. Thank you for your question. Only individuals who have successfully completed a medical assisting program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are eligible to sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. No exceptions to the eligibility requirements for the examination are granted.

      Please send me the name and location (address, city and state) of the institution where you completed your program as well as the date of your graduation. This can help us determine if you are eligible for the CMA (AAMA) examination.

      If your program was accredited, you will need to submit an official transcript with your application if you graduated 12 months ago or earlier.

  8. Please help me . There is a new opportunity for me but They are asking me for my Cma certification.

  9. I will soon be graduating in December from a accreditation CMA AAMA in Tennessee, and my husband job is moving us to Georgia will I be able to work in Georgia as a CMA.

    1. The CMA (AAMA) credential is nationally recognized and is preferred by many employers across the country. Thus, it will be recognized and accepted in Georgia also.

  10. I reside in the State of Texas. I’ve been an MA for 30 years. I was laid off from a clinic in 2009 and when I started job searching with clinics and private practices and even hospitals most places didn’t want to hire me because I didn’t have the certification. So for the mean time I worked as a security officer and I went to night classes just to obtain a certification and pursue searching for a job as a Certified Medical Assistant. I’ve had my certification since 2012 but I have to renew it every year. Plus pay $75.00 to renew. I’ve noticed my certification card says NRCMA. I didn’t realize that until now. My night classes were held supposedly in an accredited school. The MA training was for 9 months. I already have the experience. Now I wonder what is a NRCMA? Or did I even go to an accredited school.

  11. I am currently taking a CNA certification class in Indiana. I had a CNA license in Indiana before and worked in an LTC-Facility for a few years. I bought a business and let my CNA license expire. I have decided to go back to healthcare, and learned to renew my license hat I needed to retake the course. I am over 1/2 way thru the class and have completed all of the classroom hours required for state qualifications. I have taken the midterms and passed w/ a 94%. According to this particular class rules you are not allowed to miss a day under ANY circumstances for the 7-week duration of the class , which is 8hrs. a day-5days a week. Unfortunately I had to miss a day due to a child-related emergency and am told I have to retake the course. I am already scheduled to take the state exam, my question is this, since clinical hrs. are described as hours on the floor doing patient-care being supervised by a licensed nurse, can I use my previous employment hours from when I was a CNA before and use them towards my clinical requirements for state requirements and still take my already scheduled exam or must I retake the entire course?

    1. Thank you for your question. I am not familiar with the Indiana nursing assistant laws. I would suggest that you check with the Indiana state agency that overseeing nursing assistant.

      I am sorry I cannot be of more direct assistance.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

  12. I’m a little confused about the CCMA & RMA when it comes to if you move to another state. I am a CCMA (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant) I live in Connecticut, if I want to move to Texas, or California, or New Hampshire…. is my Certification good in those states or am I supposed to be an RMA???

    1. Thank you for your question. For medical assisting, registration is not a higher credential than certification. There is no legal requirement in the three states you list that medical assistants have any type of state credential.

      I hope this is helpful. Don

      Sent from my iPhone

  13. I completed a medical assisting program in high school, and went on to complete the externship hours immediately following graduation in may of 2016. I sill have the paper that the clinic director signed, but due to a awful experience in the field I never submitted the paperwork. What should my next step be in continuing on this path? I want to try and work of a clinic in St. George, cut don’t know how to go about it.

    1. Thank you for your question. Could you please inform me in what state you are located? The medical assisting laws vary somewhat from state to state.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

        1. Thank you. Utah law does not require medical assistants to have formal medical assisting education or a medical assisting credential. However, an increasing number of employers prefer or insist on medical assistants having a credential. I would recommend that you go back to your school and ask what you need to do to officially complete your medical assisting program. Once you have done that, please contact me and we can resume our discussion.

          Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
          Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
          American Association of Medical Assistants
          Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
          The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

    2. Thank you very much for your inquiry and your interest in CMA (AAMA) examination eligibility requirements.

      Only individuals who have successfully completed a medical assisting program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are eligible to sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. No exceptions to the eligibility requirements for the examination are granted.

      Individuals whose previous education does not provide eligibility for the exam may wish to contact the ABHES or CAAHEP accredited medical assisting programs in their area to learn which institutions offer advanced placement opportunities for previous educational or work experience. Completion of the entire medical assisting curriculum may not be necessary in order to graduate if advance placement is available.

      A listing of CAAHEP accredited medical assisting programs can be reviewed at http://www.caahep.org. For ABHES accredited medical assisting programs click on http://www.abhes.org. Some of these programs offer courses on-line. Look for programs that are noted to be “online” “distance education”, or a combination of “distance” and “residential” opportunities.

      Sincerely,

      Anna Johnson

      Anna Johnson, CAE
      Associate Executive Director/Director of Certification
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

  14. Dear madam/sir,
    I was medical assistant,graduated passed state licenced but testing center did not certified me ,for not sending my diploma to them ,beside I’ve been paying student loan and I’ve been frustrating for the situation
    Need your advice
    Hope to hear form your from your bussiness
    Yours truly,
    Maricel Kendall

  15. To whom it may concern:
    Just wondering if AAMA offer any scholarships to past students to help pay off their student loans ? I am the sole provider of a family of five after my husband who was a journeyman plumber lost 3 1/2 fingers in an accident. We have been denied disability three different times and although we are making it it would help tremendously to get my student loans paid off as quickly as possible and now with my income we are barely paying monthly bills. I didn’t see anything for this but I though it wouldn’t hurt to ask if this is possible available. I love being a CMA , the patient interaction , hands on doing all I can do to make my doctors day go a bit smoother, and just makes my heart smile that I am in a field were I feel I make a difference. Please let me know if this is at all available or if you know of any other scholarships out there to help pay off student loans for CMA in times of hardship. I appreciate your time, thank you ! Also I was wondering want it would take to get a associates if I have a lot of the core classes completed

  16. Does anyone know of organizations that offer loan forgiveness or scholarships for student loans?

    Also, what steps do you take to get an associates in Medical Assisting. I have already completed most core classes so very interested in what takes to get the degree

  17. My understanding that a RMA gets paid more possibly than a CCMA which is not cool. However I read somewhere that a CMA (CCMA) Certification is able to be used in another state if a person moves.

    1. Thank you for your question. The CMA (AAMA) is a national credential, not a state credential.

      May I ask in what state you are located? The medical assisting laws vary somewhat from state to state.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

  18. I am a foreing doctor and recently I obtain my Associate Degree of Nursing pending of Nursing Board. I have been working with my certification and registration of MA through a organization called SSF. But now in the hospital the did not accept this license. How can I obtein a certification of MA with you. I have to pay for that?. Can I do this online? How long it is take?Thanks so much, I appreciated your help. Greetings

    1. Thank you for your question, Doctor Perez. Could you please tell me in what state you are located? The laws vary somewhat from state to state.

      Also, do you want to work in an inpatient or outpatient department of the hospital?

      I will be happy to answer your questions once you answer the above questions, Doctor Perez.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

    1. Thank you for your question. A totally online course would not qualify an individual to sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. Click “CMA (AAMA) Exam” on the ribbon at the top of our home page and you will find information about eligibility requirements.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

    1. Hello Ms. Grzegorek,

      A total of 60 recertification points is necessary to recertify the CMA (AAMA) credential. A minimum of 10 points is required in each of the general, administrative, and clinical content areas. The remaining 30 points may be accumulated in any of the three content areas.
      – 10 administrative
      – 10 clinical
      – 10 general
      – 30 points from any combination of the above three categories

      Please note that at least 30 of the required 60 recertification points must be accumulated
      from AAMA approved continuing education units (CEUs).

      You can learn more about recertifying your CMA (AAMA) credential on our website here: https://www.aama-ntl.org/continuing-education/recertify-by-ce

      You can review recertification specifics by accessing the CMA (AAMA) Recertification by Continuing Education Application here: https://www.aama-ntl.org/docs/default-source/recertification-by-continuing-education/recert-by-ce-app.pdf?sfvrsn=22

      Thank you, and should you have any further questions about recertification, you can contact the AAMA offices at 800/228-2262.

      Best Regards,
      Katie Gottwaldt
      Director of Certification

    2. I don’t know about registered medical assistance however, I am certified through the NHA for certified electronic health record specialist (CEHRS) and certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA). I have to do 5 each. If I had only 1 of those certifications then I would have to do 10 for just the 1…

      Seeing how I have 2 certifications therefore a divide the 10 into 5 for each. Hope this helps….

  19. I have diversity staff that includes CMA’s and RMA’s. Are these credentialed professionals allowed to manually enter orders for providers?

    1. Thank you for your question. Are you asking about entering orders in general, or entering medication, laboratory, or diagnostic imaging orders into the computerized provider order entry system for meaningful use calculation purposes under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program?

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org
      The CMA (AAMA): Sets the Bar for Excellence in Medical Assisting

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