If you are considering a career as a medical assistant, you are likely also considering earning a certification. First, you should know that the choice you are making, certification or not, is a fantastic choice for your future. The field is growing at a very fast pace (31% growth through 2020) and the income expectations are on the rise. Currently, indeed.com reports that the average medical assistant will earn $43,000 a year. This article will cover the “whys” and the “how” in regards to the certification exam as a medical assistant.
Certification brings a number of benefits to those willing to put in the extra work. A certified medical assistant is expected to earn an average income of $52,000 a year as of this writing. In addition, job prospects are going to be much better for those with a certification than for those without. You will want to find specific programs that ensure you are prepared for the exam before you enroll in a school of your choice. This is an important step as some school will not focus any training on preparation for the certification. If you have any inkling to take and pass the exam, it is a good idea to pursue a program that spends some time on the materials you will need to know.
How to Certify.
To start, you should become very familiar with the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) website. In addition to certification and continued education, you will find plenty of resources that will make your life as a medical assistant just a little easier. The certified medical assistant (CMA AAMA) exam is going to be your main focus for now.
The exam is a rigorous one that requires a broad, thorough and current understanding of health care delivery. It provides an overview of the wide scope of knowledge that is required in general, clinical and administrative categories. To most students’ relief, this is a multiple-choice exam that consists of 200 questions and is administered in four 40-minute segments. The AAMA is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and complies with the standards set forth. This exam also offers a recertification which must be taken every 60 months (5 years).
There is a Candidate Application and Handbook for the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination that you need to review as the first step towards sitting for the exam. You should not wait until you graduate to start reviewing this information as much of it will be helpful as you start to move towards your time to take the exam. You will need to ensure that you are eligible to sit for the exam which requires one of the following:
- You are a completing student or recent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES medical assisting program ($125 nonrefundable fee).
- You are a non-recent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES medical assisting program and can provide an official transcript ($125 for AAMA members, $250 for non-members).
- You are taking the exam as a recertification (CMA (AAMA) Recertificant) ($125 for AAMA members, $250 for non-members).
Once you meet one of these requirements you will need to prepare and provide the documentation needed for your particular eligibility requirement. Next you need to review all exam policies and information and accept all of the provisions under the “Applicant Agreement”. You will need to find the start date of your 90-day testing period, which can be found on this chart. Watch your email for acceptance and then apply for the exam. Schedule your exam and start preparing as soon as possible to ensure you don’t find yourself behind, or cramming, as the dates come up. Upon completion of your exam, you simply need to watch for your official score, which is provided within 10 weeks, and keep an eye out for your certificate. Once you reach this point, you should experience more job opportunities, a higher income and plenty of room to grow in your profession. It may sound like a great deal of work right now, but the results are worth every minute.