Why Get Certified as a Medical Administrative Assistant

Medical assistants are becoming more in demand than ever, as more healthcare professionals and facilities are needed to keep up with the need for more healthcare services by an aging US population.

Medical administrative assistants are in particularly strong demand because new and expanding healthcare professional offices need more administrative personnel to keep these businesses running smoothly.

Workers who are interested in a career as a medical administrative assistant have an excellent career path before them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for all medical assistants is going to increase by an excellent 23% by 2024.

BLS reports that the larger number of clinics, group practices and healthcare facilities has a strong need for more administrative assistants to complete essential office duties. Most of these jobs will be available in primary care doctors’ offices.

Medical administrative assistants who earn a certification will be in particular high demand; those workers have not only graduated from a medical assistant program, they also have gone to the trouble and expense to be certified. We will outline the two major certifications available later in this article.

What Medical Administrative Assistants Do

Medical assistants who focus on administrative duties typically answer phones, schedule appointments for patients, enter patient data into medical records, complete insurance forms and code the medical information for patients.

How to Become a Medical Administrative Assistant

Most medical assistants attend a postsecondary education program. There are not any precise educational requirements to become a medical assistant for all states, but many employers will prefer that their administrative medical assistants have completed such programs.

Programs for medical assisting are very common at vocational schools and colleges. They can take up to one year to complete. However, there are some community colleges that may offer a two year program in administrative medical assisting that will result in an associate’s degree being awarded.

For example, Everest College features a medical administrative assistant program that you can take at more than 30 campuses across the US. This program is designed to help you acquire an entry level medical administrative position in many healthcare settings. Students who graduate from this one year program are trained to do the following:

  • Take vital signs from patients
  • Process insurance claims accurately and quickly
  • Maintain accurately all patient files and records
  • Prepare and process patient insurance claims; these can include HMOs, PPOs and more
  • Understand disability income insurance and the legal issues that can affect them

Required courses to complete the program at Everest include:

  • Accounting
  • Computer Applications
  • Medical Terminology
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Medical Transcription
  • Communications

These critical business, medical, communication and administrative classes will give you an excellent background to meet the complex needs of the healthcare industry today.

After you have gotten your certificate as a medical administrative assistant, you then would be wise to obtain a certification.

About Medical Assistant Certification

Medical assistants need not be certified to work in most US states. But you still will be better off to be a certified medical assistant. You will find that you will have more job openings available to you if you are certified. Also, you can expect a higher starting wage and better advancement opportunities with certification.

If you decide to get certified, you will need to have taken a medical administrative assistant program and then sit for an examination.

At this time, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, which is part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, offers two accredited certifications for medical assistants. Below is more information about each.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

The CMA certification is probably the most well-known and respected designation for medical assistants. It is the one that is most sought after by employers.

The reason is that the CMA is the only type of medical assisting certification that mandates graduating from a post-secondary medical assistant program that has been accredited by an organization that is accredited by the Department of Education, or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

The CMA credential and examination is administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants, or AAMA. It reports that it responds to at least 100 employer requests for CMA certification verification each day. This suggests just how important this certification is in the healthcare industry.

After you have completed your educational program and passed the exam, you will receive your certificate that states you are a CMA. It is valid for five years; after that time passes, you have to be either recertified or earn continuing education credits.

The CMA test features 200 multiple-choice questions, which are completed over four, 40 minute periods. Topics to expect include anatomy/physiology, medical expressions and terms, administrative and clinical procedures, laboratory procedures, and legal regulations.

According to Payscale.com, the average pay for a CMA with up to four years of work experience is nearly $30,000 per year. The average pay for a registered medical assistant – the next most common type of certification – is $26,900 per year.

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

Becoming a registered medical assistant or RMA requires you to have a minimum of five years of experience, or a degree in medical assisting.

Specifically, you must have been employed as a medical assistant for at least five of the last seven years; no more than two years of which can have been as an instructor in a medical assistant program. Work experience has include administrative and clinical duties.

The other option is to have been a recent graduate of an accredited medical assisting program. Students must have graduated from the program in the last four years. If your date of graduation is more than four years earlier than the date of application, you must show evidence that you have worked in the field for three of the last five years.

The RMA examination has 200-210 questions over three hours. Typical topics of the RMA certification exam include anatomy and physiology, medical ethics and law, medical terminology, finance, insurance and clinical topics.


A career as a certified medical administrative assistant will provide you with plenty of excellent job opportunities, a good salary, and promotion potential. Earning either the CMA or RMA certification will also provide you a boost in salary, so consider getting certified today.


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Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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