“Registered” vs. “Certified”: A Question of Terminology

A common source of confusion within medical assisting is the question of whether medical assisting credentials with “registered” in the name are superior to medical assisting credentials with “certified” in the name.

The answer to this question is no. National medical assisting credentials with the word “registered” as part of the credential name are not of a higher level status than medical assisting credentials with “certified” in their name.

This confusion may be engendered by the fact that “registered” indicates licensed status for credentials in fields other than medical assisting.  For example, in professional nursing, a “registered nurse” is a nurse who has met state educational and testing requirements, and is licensed to practice professional nursing.

However, this is not the case in medical assisting.  A medical assistant with a credential that has “registered” in its title is not in a different or higher legal category than a medical assistant with a credential that has “certified” in its title.

In fact, CMA (AAMA) certification has rigorous college-level education requirements, physician-quality exam standards, and is nationally and globally accredited, unlike other certifications and registrations.

About Donald A. Balasa

Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, chief executive officer and legal counsel for the American Association of Medical Assistants, keeps his eye on what is happening in the profession.
This entry was posted in Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Professional Identity, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to “Registered” vs. “Certified”: A Question of Terminology

  1. Is it true to say that “registered” is a national certification while “certified” is specific to one state only? Or can a certified Medical Assistant credential be accepted in any state?

    • Thank you for your question. It is not correct to state, in the context of medical assisting, that “registered” is indicative of a national credential, and “certified” represents a state credential. The CMA (AAMA) is a national credential.

      I hope this is helpful.

      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®

    • Paula Purdy says:

      No, “national certification” does not trump any other credential a medical assistant might earn. All credentials are acceptable in most any state unless there is a credential requirement in the state such as WA. Not all credentials are the same either. Further the title “Certified Medical Assistant” is not universal. The AAMA owns Registration No. 2,509,034 issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the mark “Certified Medical Assistant®.” The registration is on the Principal Register, and is registered for use by persons authorized by the AAMA® to indicate that the medical assistant services performed or to be performed have been or will be performed by a person whose services are competent in the medical assistant field, such individual’s services having met certain educational standards in the medical assistant field set by the AAMA® and having passed examinations administered by the AAMA®. To meet these requirements, applicants must have graduated from a postsecondary medical assisting academic program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), and must have passed the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Examination. As someone who works in the staffing industry, I look for the CMA (AAMA) credential mainly because it’s the only credential that requires the medical assistant to have completed a post-secondary program. I look for medical assistants who understand the credential they hold and keep their credential current, and I look for candidates who are involved in their career.

      • Debra Hill, RCMA, RCS says:

        I beg the differ..I am a NRCMA since 1993 as well as a RCS. I completely understand what my credentials mean as well as have kept them both current since that time. I am very much involved with my career as well as any CMA holder. I think all this whose better than me credential debate has confused students on a ” which way should I go” with my badge of honor concept. I have worked and trained students as well as new hire who graduated from medical assisting schools. I myself graduated from a an accredited program. My point is.. if you base your potential hire on being Certified vs Registered I could only imagine how many times you probably missed a potentially great employee based on that concept alone.

    • Yolanda says:

      When they sent my licence it said National register certified medical assistant. I live in South Carolina

      • Thank you. The credential you received is not a license. It is a certification.

        Note my definition of licensure in my July-August 2010 “Public Affairs” article in CMA Today:
        Generally, licensure may be defined as a system of state (on
        rare occasions, federal) statutes and regulations that requires
        one or both of the following in order for an individual to
        practice a profession, or a certain part of a profession:
        A. A certain amount and type of professional education
        B. The attainment of a professional credential
        Additionally, licensure is a system of mandatory, not voluntary,
        credentialing.

        Licensure for medical assistants does not exist under South Carolina law.

        I hope this is helpful.

        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. Paula Purdy says:

    Don, this doesn’t happen in just correctional facilities. I hear this happening in clinics too. It’s easily corrected if employer understand credentialing.

    • Thank you for that excellent and correct comment, Paula! I am hoping that my post will clear up some of the confusion. Don

      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®

  3. Debra A BAHRET says:

    I am a registered medical assist so do I need to get certified.

    • Thank you for your question. What body issued your registered medical assistant credential, and in what state are you located?

      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®

  4. Louise Crago says:

    I am a CMA (AAMA) but now live in Alaska and am seeing NCMA here. Did I miss something? Is there another test I need to take? Any guidance would be appreciated.

    • Thank you for your question. The NCMA is not an Alaska state credential. There is no need for you to obtain the NCMA credential in order to work as a medical assistant in Alaska.

      I hope this is helpful.

      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®

      • Louise Crago says:

        They say the NCMA is nationally certified and that I should be NCMA…. it’s almost like they don’t k ow what CMA (AAMA) is. So confused.

      • The CMA (AAMA) is also a national credential, and the only medical assisting credential that requires graduation from a medical assisting academic program, and the only medical assisting credential that is accredited under ISO Standard 17024:
        On March 31, 2016, the Certifying
        Board (CB) of the American
        Association of Medical Assistants
        (AAMA) was awarded accreditation for
        Bodies Operating Certification of Persons
        (AC474) by the International Accreditation
        Service (IAS). By virtue of this accreditation,
        the CB of the AAMA demonstrated compliance
        with ISO/IEC Standard 17024:2012
        (also referred to as ISO 17024, or 17024),
        the global benchmark for personnel certification
        bodies.

        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®

      • Alisa M Fries CMA(AAMA) says:

        Good day Don, I too have seen nothing but NCMA here in AK. Everyone that I have talked to about where they went to school have said “Charter College” or “Alaska Career College”. Are these places not credentialed, either for the state or nationally? They have also stated that they have to do so many CPE’s in a year or they loose their “NCMA”. Where as I went to Everett Community College, did a 2 yr program (with an AA) and Certified with AAMA, which is a 5 yr certificate.
        Is there a difference and what would it be?
        Oh, and as Louise stated about others saying that we should also be NCMA, none of the CMA’s I work with know what the AAMA credential is and treat me as inferior. It’s frustrating.

      • Thank you for your questions, Alisa. I am copying my staff colleague Anna Johnson, who will ascertain whether the medical assisting programs at the two schools you mentioned are CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited.

        It is important to keep in mind that the CMA (AAMA) is the only credential that requires graduation from an accredited medical assisting program as a strict prerequisite. It is also significant to note that the CMA (AAMA) is the only medical assisting program that is accredited under ISO Standard 17024.

        I see you have another question. I will answer it momentarily.

        Don

        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®

  5. Alisa M Fries CMA(AAMA) says:

    I also find it interesting that NCMA is not an Alaska state credential. Does that mean they are not actually allowed to practice here?

  6. lora.foster@southernwv.edu says:

    Medical Assistants play an important role in Allied Health. My question is why do MA’s have such a low pay scale? I have been a CCMA for 30 years and just applied at a local hospital. The highest they would pay is $17.00 hr. Most in the State of WVA start out at $10.00. It is just frustrating to students who graduate and spend thousands for their education and so much at a Physician office or other facility to be paid so little. I’ve worked in hospitals, short stay surgery clinics, etc.. and had just as big of a responsibility as the RN’s, I could never understand why the AAMA does not make the Health care field recognize that MA’s deserve so much more pay than 10-17 dollars an hour.

    • Thank you for your comments and questions. The AAMA is committed to raising the awareness of the CMA (AAMA) credential and accredited medical assisting education. We are aware that CMAs (AAMA) are not being paid what they are worth. Our marketing efforts are having an impact, but we realize that this problem will not be solved quickly.

      Thank you again for your message. The AAMA volunteer and staff leaders will continue to work hard to change the situation that you describe.

      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®

    • Alisa says:

      I totally understand what your saying Lora. I was hired at $16 per hr, yet after working at my current company for awhile I found out that all the other MA’s started at $17. I felt like I was the “Ugly Stepchild” and I have been an MA years longer then any of them put together. It was pretty humiliating to say the least, as well as being treated inferior from the MA’s that didn’t go through the training that I did (I asked co-workers where they went to school as well [over time], most of them taking 10 month or 1 yr courses). It is indeed frustrating.

  7. Michael Vobora says:

    I live in Arkansas and as far as I can tell, I don’t have to have a certification. I will have a technical certificate. Am I correct?

    • Thank you for your question. Current Arkansas law does not require medical assistants to have formal medical assisting education or a medical assisting credential in order to work as a medical assistant.

      The proposed change in the rules of the Arkansas Board of Nursing are still in the discussion stage.

      I hope this is helpful.

      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®

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