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Jessica Neddersen

What are the Different MA Certifications?

There are several types of certifications MAs can pursue based on their educational experience and career aspirations.

Medical assisting is one of the fastest-growing careers in the healthcare industry. Medical assistants (MAs) are allied healthcare professionals who can work in clinics, private practices, nursing homes, hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment for MAs will grow 28% from 2022-2032.*

Becoming a MA requires educational training and, in some cases, a certification.[1]

What is MA certification?

MA certification is a way to show employers and healthcare organizations that you are equipped with the necessary skills to be a successful MA based on national requirements. It also shows employers that you are dedicated to your career and are willing to go the extra mile since certification is not always needed to begin a career as a MA.

What types of MA certifications are there?

There are several types of certifications MAs can pursue based on their educational experience and career aspirations.

  • The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) focuses on the individual skills needed to work as a medical assistant in an ambulatory and patient care healthcare setting. Examinees have three hours to answer the 150 questions on the exam. MAs taking the CCMA are tested on foundational knowledge, clinical patient care and medical law and ethics. The CCMA needs to be recertified every two years after the payment of a fee and proof of continuing education.
  • The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)  covers material such as Anatomy and Physiology, medical terminology, administrative and clinical skills, although the requirements are slightly broader. Although the certification exam does not need to be retaken to maintain certification, MAs need to earn Certification Continuation (CCP) points by engaging in enrichment and learning opportunities. The three-hour and 200 question exams include topics like medical terminology, ethics and medical administration and clinical skills.
  • The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) shows that the person has the clinical and administrative skills needed to work as a well-rounded medical assistant. The certification needs to be renewed every 5 years. The exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions including topics such as psychology, medical law, anatomy and physiology, and is 160 minutes long.
  • The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) differs from the RMA and CMA certifications since it focuses more on assisting physicians with patients rather than office administration. Topics that are covered in the 3-hour certification exam include 150 questions on topics related to pharmacology, medical treatment and medical procedures. While the certification exam does not need to be retaken, there is an annual fee and proof of continuing education.
  • Other Specialty Certifications- The primary certifications for MAs can be applied to many different medical offices and environments, but some may want to pursue a specific specialization.

While this is the most up-to-date information at the time of posting, exam specifications are subject to change. For exact details, you should reference the respective organization’s website for the most up-to-date information.

How do you get your MA certification? 

For some certifications, like the CMA and NCMA, you will need to complete a programmatically accredited Medical Assisting program and graduate from the program. After completing the program, you will have to sign up for these exams.

At Herzing University, our medical assisting curriculum includes certification preparation, and we pay for your first attempt upon completing one of our programs:

Do I need a medical assistant license to start my career?

Earning your certification can give you an advantage in a job search over medical assistants who may not be certified. Some major entities prefer MAs to be credentialled. Since the certifications are offered nationally, they are an accurate gauge for employers to assess potential employees’ skills.

What certification should I get?

Deciding which certification to pursue may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be! Before you sign up for a specific certification exam, you should evaluate what your career aspiration is and choose the degree that best aligns with your goals. DMA takes CCMA and ASMAS takes RMA. Assess your qualifications and check the requirements not only for your state but also for the employers in your area before making a final decision.

However, no matter what certification you decide to pursue, medical assisting is a very rewarding career. Take your time and remember that you are making a positive difference!

[1] Certification in this program is not a state requirement.

Learn More About Our Medical Assisting Program


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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