As a medical assistant, obtaining certification is a critical step towards advancing your career and demonstrating your expertise in the field. But with so many options available, how do you choose the best certification for your career goals?

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It is time to dive into some of the most popular certifications for medical assistants, their requirements, benefits, and potential career opportunities to help you make an informed decision.

Top 7 Medical Assistant Certifications

1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)


To be eligible to take the certified medical assistant (CMA) exam, you will need to fall into one of the following categories:

  • Category 1: Students who have either graduated or are less than 30 days away from graduating from a medical assistant program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
  • Category 2: Students who apply for the exam more than 12 months after graduating from an accredited medical assisting program.
  • Category 3: Candidates who have passed the certified medical assistant exam in the past.

Exam Content and Format

The certified medical assistant (CMA) exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, but only 180 of these questions are scored. The exam lasts for a total of four hours, and the questions in the exam are split into three sections: clinical competency, general, and administrative.

Benefits and Career Opportunities

There are a few benefits that come with getting CMA certification. A certified medical assistant is often paid better than a medical assistant that only has on-the-job training, and you will also be able to find medical assistant jobs more easily with this certification.

Certified medical assistants can work at hospitals, doctor’s practices, dentists’ offices, and many more healthcare facilities. They can also get some jobs that a specialty-certified medical assistant can, depending on the employer.

2. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)


To take the certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA) certification exam you will need to meet at least one of these requirements:

  • Complete an approved apprenticeship program.
  • Have one year of experience as a supervised medical assistant.
  • Graduate from an accredited medical assistant training program.
  • Graduate from a medical assistant training program with the US military.

Exam Content and Format

The certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA) exam features 180 questions of which 150 are scored, and you will get three hours to complete it. The exam mainly focuses on patient care but also has sections on office administration, communication, and customer service.

Benefits and Career Opportunities

The clinical medical assistant certification is for medical assistants who want more of a hands-on role with patients, as they take on a more clinical role.

CCMAs benefit from earning more than CMAs, and can also work in a number of medical assistant specialties.

3. National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)


The national certified medical assistant (NCMA) exam provides three eligibility options for candidates. These options are:

  • Graduating from an accredited medical assistant program.
  • Having two years of full-time experience as a medical assistant.
  • Completing a medical assistant program through the US military.

Exam Content and Format

The NCMA exam is made up of 165 questions, but only 150 of them are scored. You will get two hours and ten minutes to complete the eight sections in the exam which are:

  • Pharmacology
  • Medical procedures
  • Phlebotomy
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Office procedures
  • Office management
  • Billing and insurance
  • Law and ethics

Benefits and Career Opportunities

This medical assistant certification focuses more on working directly with patients. So, if you’d prefer a more active role in healthcare delivery, you should consider it.

As an NCMA, you will generally earn more than many other medical assistants, as you’ll be able to work in a few medical assistant specialties.

4. Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)


The requirements for this medical assistant certification are a lot more simple. To take the CMAA exam, all you need to do is complete a medical assisting program that includes medical administrative assistant training.

Exam Content and Format

The CMAA exam has 130 questions, but only 110 of them are scored. It consists of seven sections, including:

  • Scheduling
  • Patient intake
  • Office logistics
  • Compliance
  • Patient education
  • General office policies and procedures
  • Basic medical terminology.

Benefits and Career Opportunities

CMAAs focus more on administrative tasks at healthcare facilities. So, if you aren’t interested in dealing with patients directly, it can be a great choice. CMAA certification will allow you to run the office of nearly any healthcare facility.

5. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)


The registered medical assistant (RMA) exam has requirements that are similar to many of the other certifications for medical assistants. You will need to meet at least one of these requirements to qualify:

  • Graduate from an accredited medical assisting program.
  • Have five years of experience as a medical assistant.
  • Graduate from a medical assistant training program with the US military.

Exam Content and Format

The registered medical assistant (RMA) certification exam is made up of 210 questions but is scored on a scale of 100. It only consists of three major sections, which are general medical knowledge, administrative knowledge, and clinical medical testing, and you will get two hours to complete it.

Some of the specific sections that will be covered include:

  • Medical law
  • Human relations
  • Sterilization
  • Bookkeeping
  • Insurance
  • Ethics
  • Medical records

Benefits and Career Opportunities

A registered medical assistant (RMA) can take on many of the same roles that a CMA can. RMAs take on both administrative and clinical tasks but tend to focus more on administration.

The benefits of becoming an RMA are also very similar, as it will be easier for you to find job opportunities, and you will earn more than uncertified medical assistants.

6. Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA)


The requirements needed to take the COA exam, are a bit different from the other medical assistant certifications. At least one of the following requirements must be met in order for you to take the exam:

  • Graduating from an accredited clinical medical assistant training program.
  • Graduating from an accredited non-clinical medical assistant program along with 500 hours of work experience with an ophthalmologist.
  • 1,000 hours worth of work experience under an ophthalmologist.

Exam Content and Format

You will be given three hours to complete the exam, which consists of 180 multiple-choice questions. The topics that will be covered in the exam include:

  • Imaging
  • Office responsibilities
  • Corrective lenses
  • Assisting with interventions and procedures
  • Assessments

Benefits and Career Opportunities

COAs are generally some of the highest-paid medical assistants around, so if you’re after a good salary, you should consider this medical assistant certification.

COAs mainly work for ophthalmologists, as this is what they have specifically been trained to do!

7. Podiatric Medical Assistant Certified (PMAC)


The requirements for PMACs are a little bit more extensive. To take the exam, you will already need to be working as a medical assistant for a podiatrist, and become a member of the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants.

Exam Content and Format

The PMAC exam actually consists of three exams, and you can choose whether to take one or all three. These exams include the administrative exam, the radiology exam, and the clinical exam.

The radiology exam consists of 135 questions, the clinical exam has 339 questions, and the administrative exam has 390 questions.

Benefits and Career Opportunities

Podiatric medical assistants earn more than many other medical assistants, as the role is a lot more advanced and requires more skill.

Podiatric MAs mainly work for podiatrists, as this is what their training and certifications are focused on.

Choosing the Best Certification for Your Career

It can be difficult to find the right medical assistant certification for you and your goals, as there are so many options to choose from. However, your choice should depend on what medical specialties you are interested in, and where you want to go with your career.

Before you make your decision, you should check if you will meet the eligibility requirements for the certification of your choice. It will also be important to consider the benefits and job opportunities for each specialization, as you’ll want to be able to find a position that you will like.

To get more guidance, it will be a good idea to speak to professionals already working in the industry. They will be able to tell you what working in the field is actually like.


What are the most popular medical assistant certifications?

The two most popular certifications for medical assistants are the CMA and RMA certifications. The reason for this is that these certification options allow medical assistants to work in a number of different roles in the industry.

How do I choose the best medical assistant certification for my career goals?

You will need to decide for yourself whether you want more of a clinical role, or if you prefer to perform more administrative tasks. This can often help narrow down your certification choice.

Can I obtain multiple certifications as a medical assistant?

Yes, you can receive as many certifications as you like. However, some of these certifications will overlap, so it will mainly be a good idea to choose both a clinical and administrative certification.