Medical certificates are becoming an absolute must in every field. Whether it be in patient care or administration, being certified gives you a leg up in your career.

Search Medical Assistant Programs

Get information on Medical Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Listings

In this article, we’re exploring the difference between the CCMA and CMAA certifications and which one might be the best option for you.

We’re covering everything you need to know about the exam and how the certificate can benefit you in the long run.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Certification

What is CCMA certification?

Certified clinical medical assistants have various clinical duties at healthcare facilities, including helping doctors prepare equipment, sterilizing, and administering medication.

You don’t need to take the CCMA exam to become a medical assistant, but it is highly recommended. The job market growth is massive, and with more people becoming certified as an industry standard you might get left behind.

The CCMA exam is offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Once complete you’ll get a certificate and be a certified clinical medical assistant.

Eligibility requirements for CCMA certification

There are a few things you’ll need to sit for the CCMA certification exam:

  • A complete certified clinical medical assistant training program or one year of work experience
  • A high school diploma or GED

Please note, the exam is merely theoretical knowledge. You need the hours in training or experience working as a clinical medical assistant to receive your certification.

If you have all of this ready you can sign up to take the exam on the NHA website. Once you’ve got a date and location, it’s time to hit the books.

Taking a course at this stage can be super helpful for your exam prep. Once complete you wait for your medical assistant certification and then start applying for work.

Exam details and cost

The CCMA exam consists of 150 questions, and you’ll get three hours to complete it. You’ll likely write in a test facility, but there may be an option for online testing if you prefer.

We highly recommend taking a clinical medical assistant course to get ready for the exam, which includes topics like medical terminology, sterilizing, and working with electronic medical records. There are also prep materials on the NHA website, but you’ll have to pay for them.

Exam cost: $155

Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) Certification

What is CMAA certification?

A Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) certificate provides certification to a person that can complete clerical duties in healthcare facilities. These administrators are the backbone of any health center.

A certified med administrative assistant may be responsible for the following:

  • Preparing charts
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Answering calls
  • Verifying insurance information
  • Greeting patients

The CMAA exam is offered by the NHA and covers all topics and information needed to be a successful certified medical administrative assistant.

Again, you don’t have to have certifications to enter this line of work. However, about 70% of employers expect or encourage certifications like this. It lets employers know that you are ready and able to complete the job without someone holding your hand. The medical world is fast-paced and you’ll have to keep up.

Eligibility requirements for CMAA certification

Here’s what you need before signing on to do the CMAA certification exam:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • One year of supervised work experience or completed a program for medical administrative assisting in the last year

Again, the exam tests theoretical knowledge, so you need to show your experience level is up there to comply with regulations.

The good news? Many study programs include an externship, where you can complete your training while you study.

Exam details and cost

The CMAA exam consists of 110 questions and you’ll get two hours and fifteen minutes to complete it.

You select a date and location (online is a popular option) on the NHA website. Beforehand you’ll need to prepare for the exam. A study program is the best prep, but there are also study guides on the NHA website for a fee.

Exam cost: $117

Key Differences between CCMA and CMAA certifications

The CCMA exam question categories:

  • Foundational knowledge and basic science: The focus here is on medical terminology, healthcare systems, and other baseline concepts in healthcare.
  • Anatomy and physiology: This tests your knowledge of organ systems, body structures, and pathophysiology.
  • Communication and customer service: You need to show your ability to communicate effectively with your coworkers and patients.
  • Medical law and ethics: This is one of the most important things in healthcare. The exam will test you on patient privacy, the Hippocratic Oath, and advanced directives, among other things regarding healthcare ethics.
  • Administrative assisting: Some medical assistants may need to help with certain administrative tasks, particularly in smaller facilities. The exam tests your capabilities on specific administrative tasks.
  • Clinical patient care: The largest part of the exam is about the daily duties and detailed procedures that a medical assistant performs regularly. This includes things like EKG testing, lab procedures, phlebotomy, and infection control.
  • Patient care coordination and education: You’ll need to show how you would handle speaking and interacting with family members and patients.

The CMAA exam question categories:

  • Medical practice administrative procedures and logistics: Here they’re looking for knowledge on the logistical aspects of the job and whether you know how to perform your duties.
  • Patient encounter: It’s not all about a big smile and a warm greeting. The exam tests your knowledge of reviewing intake forms, insurance, demographics, etc.
  • Scheduling: A big part of being a medical assistant is scheduling the day-to-day within the facility. The exam tests whether you can schedule appointments, tests, and procedures correctly.
  • Billing and revenue cycle: Every test, diagnosis, and procedure has codes. You’re responsible for looking at medical records and submitting those to the patient and insurance. You’ll also need knowledge of payments and billing to ensure you can handle a complete revenue cycle.
  • Medical law, ethics, and compliance: You need a basic understanding of medical laws and ethics. This can come up in a general way or given in a specific example as if you’re in the workplace.
  • Communication and professionalism: Here you show your skills that pertain to patient interactions and working with others.
  • Foundational knowledge: They test your knowledge of basic concepts that a healthcare administrative assistant should know.

This certification has to do with administrative roles and doesn’t focus very much on the medical side of things.

Differences between the exams

CCMA is much more focused on the medical and clinical aspects. However, it does touch on CMAA duties like administrative tasks and patient encounters.

In terms of job responsibility, CMAA is more about the operations of a healthcare facility. They focus on the day-to-day running of things, while CCMA is more about performing procedures and helping medical professionals when needed.

If you’re planning to work in a smaller facility, you can benefit greatly from having both certifications.

Which Certification Should You Choose?

The main things to consider are your goals. Where do you want to end up on your career path? For example, if you’ve graduated high school and you know you want to get into medical administration then the CMAA is the obvious choice.

However, if you aren’t sure where you want to go, then think about what makes you passionate about a career in healthcare. Do you want patient interaction and a fast-paced job that requires hands-on medical expertise? Then the CCMA is a better choice.

If you’ve already started in a medical assistant or medical administration role then you may even be eligible to complete the exam already. But we highly recommend a course, even if it just covers the basics in the field, to give you a recap.

The truth is, the world is changing, and getting a job straight out of high school is getting more difficult. Getting certified gives you a leg up throughout your career and could also open doors if you want to expand at a later stage. Many nurses come from a certified medical assistant background.

Final Thoughts

The biggest difference between CCMA and CMAA is the focus. CCMA is more hands-on in the medical field with knowledge of medical testing and patient care required. CMAA is more about administrative work with requirements in billing and scheduling.

Both are just as important in patient care and healthcare and the need for both is ever-increasing. If you’re wondering which certification is right for you then consider your goals and where you want your certificate to take you.


How long does CMAA and CCMA certification last?

Both certifications last for two years. So you’ll need to keep up to date with the latest in healthcare and administration throughout your career.

What are the average salaries for CCMA and CMAA?

The average annual CCMA salary is about $37,000, while the average for CMAA is $39,000.

Is a CCMA or CMAA better?

It’s all down to where your passions lie. If you love clerical work and the day-to-day running of a healthcare business then a CMAA certificate is a good choice. If you want a career in patient care then a CCMA certificate is better.