FAQ

CMA (AAMA) FAQs

The most common questions abuot CMA’s and certification are answered here. For more detailed info see the AAMA website

Medical assistants are the only allied health professionals specifically trained to work in ambulatory care settings, such as physician offices, clinics, and group practices. That training covers the clinical spectrum as well as the administrative, covering a multitude of medical practice needs. Top 5 in Staffing  |  Medical assistants ranked as one of the top five professionals necessary to the Patient-Centered Medical Home team, according to a 2011 survey by the Healthcare Intelligence Network. The CMA (AAMA) Advantage  |  The CMA (AAMA) sets the standard in medical assisting certification due to its strict adherence to rigorous educational accreditation, examination, recertification, and disciplinary policies.
Visit AAMA website to join or find out more. AAMA Website
The CMA (AAMA) credential designates a medical assistant who has achieved certification through the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The CMA (AAMA) has been educated and tested in a wide scope of general, clinical, and administrative responsibilities as outlined in the Occupational Analysis of the CMA (AAMA). Every day the AAMA responds to more than 100 employer requests for CMA (AAMA) certification verification—for both current and potential employees.

CMA (AAMA) Education

USDE or CHEA Recognized | The CMA (AAMA) is the only medical assisting certification that requires graduation from a postsecondary medical assisting program accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CAAHEP or ABHES Accreditation | Only graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. Graduates receive administrative and clinical training in a variety of areas, including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Human anatomy, physiology, and pathology
  • Medical terminology
  • Keyboarding and computer applications
  • Recordkeeping and accounting
  • Coding and insurance processing
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Clinical and diagnostic procedures
  • Pharmacology
  • Medication administration
  • First aid Office practices
  • Patient relations
  • Medical law and ethics
On-the-Job Training | Students also must complete a practicum (i.e., an unpaid, supervised on-site work experience in an ambulatory health care setting) as part of the program.

CMA (AAMA) Certification

The NBME | The National Board of Medical Examiners—responsible for many national examinations for physicians, including the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)—serves as test consultant for the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination. As a result, the reliability and validity of the CMA (AAMA) credential are of the highest order. The CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination is a rigorous exam that requires a thorough, broad, and current understanding of health care delivery as evidenced by the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination Content Outline. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions administered in four 40-minute segments.

CMA (AAMA) Recertification

CMA (AAMA) Status | All CMAs (AAMA) must have current status to use the credential, including for qualifying to enter orders for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. CMA (AAMA) status is a matter of public record and may be released. See Verify CMA (AAMA) Status or call the AAMA at 800/228-2262 for certification status. Recertification Requirements | The CMA (AAMA) credential must be recertified every 60 months by examination or continuing education. Continuing Education Requirements | A minimum number of points in the general, administrative, and clinical areas of medical assisting are required to recertify by continuing education.

CMAs (AAMA) in Demand

Many factors combine to create a driving force for an increased demand for medical assistants who have current CMA (AAMA) certification:
  • Legal perils
  • Managed care pressures
  • State and federal laws (e.g., OSHA and CLIA)
  • Qualification for entering orders for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program
  • Private sector bodies (e.g., Joint Commission and NCQA)
See Why More Employers Are Hiring CMAs (AAMA).
The exam may be taken throughout the year at a Prometric testing center (open eight to 10 hours per day, five to six days a week) of your choice. Each candidate is allowed a 90-day period in which to take the exam. Your 90-day testing period will be assigned based on the testing period start date you indicate on your application.
Here are the main reasons you would not be eligible:
  1. You have not met the eligibility requirements.
  2. You have not passed the exam within 60 months of graduating for those graduating on or after Jan. 1, 2010. (See eligibility requirements for details.)
  3. You have been found guilty of a felony, or pleaded guilty to a felony.
  4. You have had a professional license, registration, or certification denied, revoked, suspended, or subjected to probationary conditions by a regulatory authority or certification board.
Generally, individuals who 1) have been found guilty of a felony, or pleaded guilty to a felony, or 2) had a professional license, registration, or certification denied, revoked, suspended, or subjected to probationary conditions by a regulatory authority or certification board are not eligible for the CMA (AAMA) Exam. However, the Certifying Board may grant a waiver based upon mitigating circumstances. If you wish to request that the Certifying Board permit you to take the test, you must submit a Request for Waiver form and written evidence that demonstrates your felony conviction or plea or professional misconduct should not prevent you from taking the CMA (AAMA) Exam. See the CMA (AAMA) Disciplinary Standards for details.
To qualify for the exam, you must be in one of three enrollment categories: Category 1: Completing students and recent graduates of CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assisting programs
  • Completing students may take the exam no more than 30 days prior to completing their formal education, including a practicum.
  • Recent graduates are those who apply for the exam within 12 months of graduation.
Category 2: Nonrecent graduates of a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assisting program Nonrecent graduates are those who apply for the exam more than 12 months after graduation. Category 3: CMA (AAMA) recertificant You must have previously passed the exam and been awarded the CMA (AAMA) credential.
The following steps require that you first thoroughly read, then refer to, the Candidate Application and Handbook for the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination.

Step 1. Verify that You are Eligible for the Exam

Review Exam Eligibility Requirements for details.
Eligibility, documentation, and fees
Eligibility category Required documentation Fee (nonrefundable)
Category 1 Completing student or recent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES medical assisting programCompleting students may take the exam no more than 30 days prior to completing their formal education and practicum. No documentation required. Your program completion—including a practicum—must be verified by your program director in order for you to receive your official scores and certification. $125
Category 2 Nonrecent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES medical assisting program Official transcript $125 AAMA members$250 nonmembers
Category 3 CMA (AAMA) recertificant No documentation is necessary if you have provided your CMA (AAMA) certificate number and most recent certification or recertification date on the application. $125 AAMA members$250 nonmembers

Step 2. Gather Your Documentation

Gather the appropriate documentation for your eligibility category. (See “Required documentation” in the Handbook.)

Step 3. Review All Exam Policies and Information

When you submit your application, you are certifying that you have reviewed and accept all provisions under “Applicant agreement” and that you will abide by all the policies set forth in the Handbook, so it is important to read them thoroughly.

Step 4. Determine Start Date for 90-day Testing Period

Select the date that you wish your 90-day testing period to begin. This will determine when you should apply for the exam.Detailed timelines for online and paper applications can be found below. (See “Ninety-day testing period” and “Application timelines” in the Handbook.)

Online Application Timelines

Apply on or Between Earliest Available Testing Period Start Date
1st to 14th of any month 1st of next month
15th to end of any month 15th of next month

 Mailed Paper Application Timelines

Application is Received on or Between Earliest Available Testing Period Start Date
1st to 14th of any month 15th of next month
15th to end of any month 1st of month after next
Note: Applicants who must submit specific documentation must allow extra time for application processing:
  • Candidates requesting a waiver due to having been found guilty of a felony, or pleaded guilty to a felony, or having a professional license, registration, or certification denied, revoked, suspended, or subjected to probationary conditions by a regulatory authority or certification board
  • Disabled persons who require special provisions on exam day
  • Non-recent graduates who do not submit an official transcript with their application

Step 5. Monitor Your E-mail

Use an e-mail address that will be valid for the next year (school addresses often expire after graduation). Add CMAExam@aama-ntl.org to your approved e-mail list. Check your spam or junk e-mail folder for CMA Exam e-mails.  

Step 6. Apply for the Exam

Apply Now! Or, download the Handbook and complete the application form at the back. Verify that you have written your first, middle, and last name as they appear on the government-issued photo ID that you must bring to the test center. Submit the application and your candidate fee and include any documentation you gather in Step 2. Retain a copy of the completed application and documentation for your records. If you mail your application, do not send the Handbook with it.

Step 7. Make Name, E-mail, and Postal Address Corrections on a Timely Basis

Edit your profile online or e-mail us to update your contact information. (See “Candidate name/address specifications” and “Test center identification requirements” in the Handbook.)

Step 8. Schedule Your Exam

Schedule your exam appointment as soon as possible after printing your Scheduling Permit. (See “Appointment Scheduling Permit” and “Exam date scheduling” in the Handbook.)

Step 9. Prepare for the Exam

See “Study suggestions.” Also, thoroughly review the “Test center scheduling and policies,” so that your test session goes smoothly.

Step 10. Complete the Exam

After you have completed your exam, you will receive a pass/fail notification at the test center. You can view your exam status and scores at My Certification Information. Your official scores will display within eight weeks after your exam date.

Step 11. Watch for Your Official Score Reports

You’ll receive your official exam scores within 10 weeks of your exam date pending verification of program completion and/or fulfillment of all application requirements. (See “Post-examination information and policies” in theHandbook.)

Step 12. Watch for Your Certificate

If you pass and are allowed to receive an official score report, your certificate and wallet card should arrive approximately 10 weeks after you receive your official scores. CMAs (AAMA) may view their certification status at My Certification Information. CMA (AAMA) certification is valid for a 60-month period. (See “CMA (AAMA) recertification requirements” in theHandbook.)


Application Timelines

Apply Online on or Between Mailed Application is Received on or Between Earliest Available 90-Day Testing Period Start Date
January 1-14 December 15-31 February 1
January 15-31 January 1-14 February 15
February 1-14 January 15-31 March 1
February 15-28/29 February 1-14 March 15
March 1-14 February 15-28/29 April 1
March 15-31 March 1-14 April 15
April 1-14 March 15-31 May 1
April 15-30 April 1-14 May 15
May 1-14 April 15-30 June 1
May 15-31 May 1-14 June 15
June 1-14 May 15-31 July 1
June 15-30 June 1-14 July 15
July 1-14 June 15-30 August 1
July 15-31 July 1-14 August 15
August 1-14 July 15-31 September 1
August 15-31 August 1-14 September 15
September 1-14 August 15-31 October 1
September 15-30 September 1-14 October 15
October 1-14 September 15-30 November 1
October 15-31 October 1-14 November 15
November 1-14 October 15-31 December 1
November 15-30 November 1-14 December 15
December 1-14 November 15-30 January 1
December 15-31 December 1-14 January 15
CMA (AAMA) certification offers proof to employers that a medical assistant has achieved the highest standards of education and credentialing in the medical assisting field. Only graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. For more information, go to Exam Eligibility Requirements. Also, review the Candidate Application and Handbook for the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination.
Medical assistant compensation varies according to many factors, including location, work setting, and experience. Find out more by viewing Compensation and Benefits.
Most full-time medical assistants work a regular 40-hour week. Some work part time, evenings, or weekends.
Medical assistants work alongside physicians, mainly in outpatient or ambulatory care facilities, such as medical offices and clinics.
Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical tasks under the direct supervision of a physician. Physician assistants examine, diagnose, and treat patients under the supervision of a physician.
Medical assistants are the most versatile allied health professionals. They are cross-trained to perform clinical and administrative responsibilities.
Duties vary from office to office, depending on location, size, and specialty. Administrative duties may include the following:
  • Using computer applications
  • Answering telephones
  • Greeting patients
  • Updating and filing patient medical records
  • Coding and filling out insurance forms
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Arranging for hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Handling correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping
Clinical duties vary by state, but may include the following:
  • Taking medical histories
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients
  • Preparing patients for examination
  • Assisting the physician during the exam
  • Collecting and preparing laboratory specimens
  • Performing basic laboratory tests
  • Instructing patients about medication and special diets
  • Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
  • Authorizing prescription refills as directed
  • Drawing blood
  • Taking electrocardiograms
  • Removing sutures and changing dressings
Medical assistants work alongside physicians, mainly in outpatient or ambulatory care facilities, such as medical offices and clinics. In Demand  |  Medical assisting is one of the nation's fastest growing careers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, attributing job growth to the following:
  • Predicted surge in the number of physicians' offices and outpatient care facilities
  • Technological advancements
  • Growing number of elderly Americans who need medical treatment
Job Responsibilities  |  Medical assistants are cross-trained to perform administrative and clinical duties. Here is a quick overview (duties vary from office to office depending on location, size, specialty, and state law): Administrative Duties (may include, but not limited to):
  • Using computer applications
  • Answering telephones
  • Greeting patients
  • Updating and filing patient medical records
  • Coding and filling out insurance forms
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Arranging for hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Handling correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping
Clinical Duties (may include, but not limited to):
  • Taking medical histories
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients
  • Preparing patients for examination
  • Assisting the physician during exams
  • Collecting and preparing laboratory specimens
  • Performing basic laboratory tests
  • Instructing patients about medication and special diets
  • Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
  • Authorizing prescription refills as directed
  • Drawing blood
  • Taking electrocardiograms
  • Removing sutures and changing dressings
Patient Liaison  |  Medical assistants are instrumental in helping patients feel at ease in the physician’s office and often explain the physician's instructions. PCMH Team Member  |  Medical assistants are essential members of the Patient-Centered Medical Home team. According to a survey by the Healthcare Intelligence Network, medical assistants ranked as one of the top five professionals necessary to the PCMH team. CMA (AAMA) Certification  |  Many employers of allied health personnel prefer, or even insist, that their medical assistants are CMA (AAMA) certified. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers certification to graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
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