Ultimate Guide to the Registered Medical Assistant

As the healthcare industry continues to grow and expand, the demand for qualified medical professionals is on the rise. One such profession that has gained popularity in recent years is that of a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA).

In this article, we’ll explore what it takes to become an RMA, the job responsibilities, and the benefits of pursuing this career path.

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Education and Training

Accredited programs for RMA certification

To become a registered medical assistant, you can enroll in an accredited medical assistant program. Several institutions offer courses to aspiring medical assistants, including some online programs.

Some of the best online institutions to become a registered medical assistant include:

  • Herzing University
  • Penn Foster
  • Purdue University Global
  • San Francisco State University
  • Texas State University
  • U.S Career Institute

Curriculum and coursework

The certification exam focuses on particular domains of knowledge and learning. Therefore, most curriculums contain modules that correspond to the topics covered in the exam.

These topics include, but are not always limited to:

Clinical internships and externships

Clinical internships and externships for medical assistants are practical training programs. They allow individuals to gain hands-on experience in real-world medical settings. During these programs, prospective medical assistants work under the supervision of licensed healthcare providers. These professionals may include physicians, nurses, and other registered medical assistants.

An internship is a structured program offered by an accredited medical assistant institute. It provides students or graduates with practical experience and exposure. Interns are usually given specific tasks and responsibilities and need to complete a certain number of hours to meet the program requirements.

On the other hand, an externship is usually shorter. It’s a more informal program that provides students with the opportunity to observe and learn from professionals.

While completing these programs, RMAs will learn and practice various medical procedures. They may need to take vitals, administer medications, assist with medical procedures, and manage patients’ medical records.

Certification exam requirements

Graduating from an accredited MA program is the first step in your journey to becoming a registered medical assistant. However, not all programs are created equal. So, before enrolling, it’s important to check that the program has at least 720 hours of schooling and 160 hours of internship or externship.

If you haven’t taken a course to become a registered medical assistant, you can still be eligible for the registered medical assistant certification process. Still, you will need to meet one of the following criteria:

  • Three years of work experience or roughly 5,600 hours worked as a clinical medical assistant. The candidate should have experience in clinical and administrative tasks
  • Graduation from a US military medical training program within the past four years
  • Five years of teaching experience in medical assistance. This includes the completion of an instructor training course.

If you have taken an RMA course or meet the above criteria, you will be eligible to take the RMA exam. Any student who qualifies to sit the exam may potentially become an AMT registered medical assistant.

RMA Job Responsibilities

Administrative duties

Medical assistants have a range of responsibilities, encompassing both clinical and administrative tasks. On the administrative side, a certified clinical medical assistant is responsible for:

  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Answering phone calls
  • Filling out insurance forms
  • Managing medical billing and coding
  • Responding to patient correspondence
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Updating a patient’s electronic health record with medical history, vital statistics, and test results

Clinical responsibilities

A clinical medical assistant needs to be trained or experienced in clinical tasks as well as several administrative responsibilities. A medical assistant’s clinical responsibilities include:

  • Administer medications or injections as directed by physicians
  • Assist physicians during patient appointments
  • Collect important patient information like vital signs and weight
  • Conduct basic laboratory tests
  • Draw blood samples
  • Prepare patients for treatments and exams
  • Perform electrocardiograms

Professionalism and Code of Ethics

Professionalism and adherence to a strict code of ethics are essential aspects of being an RMA. RMAs need to uphold standards of conduct in their interactions with patients, colleagues, and the healthcare system.

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) that administers the RMA certification has a Code of Ethics. This code outlines principles and values. These are values that RMAs are expected to uphold.

The code emphasizes the importance of maintaining confidentiality and respecting patients’ rights and dignity. It also promotes patient safety and ensures high-quality care.

Some specific principles of the RMA Code of Ethics include:

  • Providing competent care to patients
  • Upholding patient confidentiality and protecting their personal information
  • Abiding by laws and regulations that govern medical practices
  • Maintaining professional competence. This may be by pursuing continuing education and staying up-to-date with changes in medical practices
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest

Career Opportunities and Advancement for Registered Medical Assistant

Workplace settings for RMAs

There are a variety of work opportunities for medical assistants, each with its own unique working environment. Registered medical assistants can choose to work in several facilities, depending on their preferred career path.

These environments may include:

  • A university or college medical facility
  • Hospitals, diagnostic, and research labs
  • Insurance companies
  • Dental offices
  • Outpatient care facilities, including nursing homes
  • Private medical practices

Average salaries and job outlook

On average, medical assistants earn around $38,200 per year. However, salaries may fluctuate depending on the industry in which the medical assistants work. For example, registered medical assistants that work in outpatient care facilities can earn as much as $44,680 per year.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistant jobs are estimated to increase by 16% by the end of 2031. This means that medical assistants will have more job opportunities. In turn, these professionals will have a better chance of securing employment and improved job stability.

Continuing education and professional development

Medical assistants have the opportunity to advance in their careers. They can take on more responsibilities by pursuing specialized certifications. The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification enables them to perform a range of clinical duties after working as an MA for a year.

The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification focuses on clinical tasks. It can be earned after completing an RMA training program. For students who are interested in ophthalmology, the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) certification allows them to work with eye doctors.

Lastly, the Podiatric Medical Assistant Certification (PMAC) qualifies professionals to work in a podiatrist’s clinic. Pursuing these certifications can open up new career opportunities. Plus, they enhance the skills of medical assistants.

Advancement opportunities

Registered medical assistants have several advancement opportunities to further their careers. As mentioned, they can choose to earn additional qualifications or go for specialized training and choose a specialty. They may also further their education and become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

With extra certifications, experience, and further education, RMAs can increase their job prospects and earning potential.


Pursuing a career as a registered medical assistant is a smart decision. It’s a great fit for those interested in a fulfilling and rewarding healthcare profession. With the growing demand for healthcare professionals, the need for qualified and competent MAs is rising.

With opportunities for career advancement, a competitive salary, and the satisfaction of working with patients, becoming an RMA is an excellent choice for anyone looking to enter the world of healthcare.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a medical assistant and a registered medical assistant?

There are certain differences between a certified medical assistant and an RMA.

Both professionals hold the same medical assistant credentials. Still, registered medical assistants are certified and registered with the necessary health organizations. On the other hand, certified medical assistants are those who hold a certification to work, but who aren’t registered.

Another difference is that CMAs need to take the necessary course to become certified. RMAs who have previous work experience, who are a graduate of a military training program, or who have completed an instructor course can also become certified.

How long does it take to become a registered medical assistant?

Becoming a registered medical assistant typically takes around a year or less, although some students may take up to two years. This is the time it takes to complete an accredited medical assisting program. However, it may take longer depending on when you take the certification exam. On average, most RMAs can begin applying for work as registered professionals within two years.

What are the job duties of a medical assistant?

A registered medical assistant’s responsibilities include:

  • Assisting patients during examinations
  • Maintaining records
  • Preparing exam rooms before use
  • Taking blood samples
  • Providing patients with information