Certification & School Accreditation

It is increasingly important in this competitive job market to make sure that the school you attend will prepare you for certification as either a CMA (Certified Medical Assistant), awarded by AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants), or an RMA (Registered Medical Assistant), awarded by AMT (American Medical Technologists). The CMA certification can be obtained right when you finish your degree. The RMA certification, on the other hand, requires you to have been working as a medical assistant for at least five years.

In order to take the CMA exam, you have to attend a medical assistant program that has been accredited by ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools) or CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs). There are no exceptions to this and no ways around it. The AAMA website has an excellent page explaining the process of becoming a CMA.

Certified Medical Assistant: What Does It Mean?

Not all employers will require you to be certified, nor is it required by law of all medical assistants. However, with that said, the vast majority of medical assistants do end up pursuing one of the two certifications, and many employers will require it. The CMA certification is widely considered the most important one in the field.

The exam itself is taken on a computer and consists of 200 multiple choice questions. You find out immediately (at the end of exam) whether you passed or failed, and your official score comes in the mail six to 10 weeks later.

Accreditation of Medical Assistant Programs

Accreditation is the process of a third party accrediting agency reviewing a school, or one of its programs, to ensure that the education being provided meets a certain set of criteria for quality and completeness.

Accreditation of a school or a program is a rigorous process that can take six to 12 months, and involves the school submitting information to the accrediting agency, as well as visits to the school by representatives of the agency. The accreditation received at the end of this process is typically valid for a number of years, after which the school has to go through process to have its accreditation renewed. This ensures that the school is keeping up with the standards that are set.

There are other benefits, aside from the CMA, to attending an accredited program. Certain types of financial aid are only available to people attending accredited programs, and if you choose to transfer to another school, you are much more likely to receive credit for courses taken as part of an accredited program. These are all important things to keep in mind and consider when choosing a school and program.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and NursingAssistantGuides.com.