Scope of Practice

North Carolina Medical Assistants in Inpatient Settings

I recently received the following question from a manager at a health care system in North Carolina: 

We are looking at ways to assist nurses in the hospital setting due to the nursing shortage. Can medical assistants practice in a hospital setting without a nursing assistant certification? 

Medical assistants are permitted to meet the requirements and register with the state as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and medication aides. Short of this, medical assistants are considered unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) when working under nurse supervision in inpatient settings. 

The North Carolina Board of Nursing has issued some detailed and helpful position statements on what nurses are permitted to delegate to UAP. See the following documents for additional details: 

On the Job

CMA (AAMA) Certification Outside the United States

I received the following question about whether CMA (AAMA)® certification can be used by medical assistants who are interested in working outside the United States:

I am a medical assistant who is certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants®, and I understand that this certification is usable anywhere in the United States. Since I am interested in possibly volunteering outside of the United States as a medical missionary, is my certification usable outside of the United States? If not, what action could I take to remedy this situation?

In addition to CMA (AAMA) certification being usable throughout the United States, the CMA (AAMA) certification program is accredited under ISO 17024—an international standard of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO standards are recognized throughout the world.

Consequently, CMA (AAMA) certification should be usable in nations other than the United States.

Learn more about ISO 17024 and its significance in the CMA Today July/August 2016 Public Affairs article.


USDE Regulations on Institutional Information

Regulations of the United States Department of Education (USDE) that address the recognition of accrediting agencies (and other matters) went into effect July 1, 2020. The regulations apply to institutions and schools accredited by USDE-recognized accrediting bodies. A school must comply with USDE regulations to be eligible for federal funding, including financial assistance for students under Title IV of the Higher Education Act.

The provisions of the regulations relevant to the medical assisting education community are about education in fields that require completion of a program as a prerequisite for employment. Note the following from the regulations:

(v) If an educational program is designed to meet educational requirements for a specific professional license or certification that is required for employment [emphasis added] in an occupation, or is advertised as meeting such requirements, information regarding whether completion of that program would be sufficient to meet licensure requirements in a State for that occupation [must be provided].

Currently, the following U.S. states require the completion of some sort of medical assisting education program to work as a medical assistant or to be delegated certain tasks while working as a medical assistant:

  • Arizona
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Washington

Medical assisting program directors and educators who have questions about the impact of the USDE regulations on their programs and schools should email me at

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential

Who Can Take the CMA (AAMA)® Exam?

Q. Who is eligible to take the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam?

A. The only individuals eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam and become CMAs (AAMA) are graduates or graduating students of medical assisting programs that fall within one of the following categories:

  • Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Meets the criteria for the time-limited Certification Exam Eligibility Pilot Program

The Certification Exam Eligibility Pilot Program is a three-year pilot program, begun August 2019, that allows graduates of postsecondary (college-level) medical assisting programs to take the CMA (AAMA) Exam if the program meets certain requirements, including the program being part of an institution accredited by an accrediting body recognized by either the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Hopeful exam candidates can gather all required documentation and submit their documentation for review—to see if they are eligible under the pilot program—for free online via the AAMA website.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Professional Identity

No Application Deadline for Qualifying CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam Applicants

Although the following is not a legal question, it is one that I and other AAMA staff are asked frequently by graduates of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES):

I graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting program seven years ago and have been working as a medical assistant since that time. However, I have never taken the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam. Am I too late to do so?

Anyone in this position is not too late to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. An individual who graduated from a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting program is permitted to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam regardless of when the individual graduated. Please click on “CMA (AAMA) Exam” from any webpage on the AAMA website as well as the Exam Eligibility Requirements webpage for information about eligibility requirements for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam.