Certification for Medical Assistants
Medical assisting can be a great career choice for someone who wants to work in the medical field. If you plan on becoming a medical assistant you may want to consider becoming a certified MA in order to increase your job options.
Becoming certified as a medical assistant shows you meet a certain level of competency to work as an MA. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are several organizations which certify qualified medical assistants. The certification process usually involves completing an application to prove eligibility, passing an exam and paying the certification fee.
Certification eligibility varies by organization. Depending on the medical assistant program you complete you may be eligible for certification through one organization and not another. Keep in mind, state and federal law does not require medical assistants to become certified, but certification is recognized in all fifty states.
If your medical assisting school is accredited, it means the program has met certain standards developed by the accrediting organization.
Although there are different medical assisting certifying organizations, the most reputable and best know is the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA.) The AAMA offers a certification exam for qualified applicants. In order to qualify for the exam, you must have completed an MA program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
If your medical assisting school is accredited, it means the program has met certain standards developed by the accrediting organization. Accredited programs must meet certain criteria, such as curriculum and faculty requirements. For a school to become certified, they must submit to a lengthy process by the accrediting agency. The process involves a review of the curriculum, faculty qualifications, and an onsite visits.
Before attending a medical assistant program you should determine if it is accredited. Information on accreditation will usually be available on the institution’s website. You can also ask the admissions counselor or the medical assistant program director.
Although medical assistants may not be required to become certified in order to work in the field, certification can increase your job options. For example, medical liability is a concern when working in healthcare. Employers, such as medical practices, want to ensure they are hiring medical assistants who are competent, and earning certification shows competency. Other benefits of certification include:
The American Association of Medical Assistants conducted a salary survey in 2014. Although salaries varied based on geographical area and years of experience, certification can often mean increased pay for medical assistants. The 2014 survey found that AAMA certified medical assistants earned an average of $29,000 a year while non-certified assistants made about $27,200 annually.
Some employers will only hire medical assistants who are certified, which means you will have more employment options.
Certification often increases your marketability, and it may also enable you to advance in your career faster than someone who is not certified. Possible advancement includes office manager, medical assisting supervisor and clinical team leader.
If you are interested in teaching medical assisting, most programs will require their instructors to be certified. If you decide to further your education, such as attending physician assistant school, the classes you took through an accredited program may transfer.
If you plan to take the medical assisting certification through the AAMA, it will cost you $250 if you are not an AAMA member. If you are an AAMA member, the cost of the exam is reduced to $125. The AAMA accepts credit card payments, money orders, certified checks, and cashier’s checks (they do not accept personal checks). The exam fee must be submitted along with the application. Applications without the fee will not be processed.
In order to qualify for the exam, you must have completed an MA program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
When you submit your application you select the date you want your 90-day test period to start. At that point, you must take your exam within those 90 days. As soon as you complete your exam you will learn whether you passed or failed the test. Your scores and certification will be mailed to you several weeks later.
The exam itself is broken down into four different segments. You are allowed 40 minutes to complete each section. Although you can complete each section without stopping, you are allowed an optional 20-minute break between segments.
You must recertify every five years by either taking the certification exam again or completing 60 points or units of continuing education. Whichever method of recertification you choose, make sure you obtain recertification before you current certificate has expired. Recertification applications can be submitted three months before you current certification expiration date.
If you choose to recertify using the continuing education method, you need to complete a recertification through continuing education application. You are required to provide information including what classes you completed, how many units each class is worth, a class outline, and the name of the sponsor issuing the credit.
What is Continuing Education?
Continuing education is classes you take to fulfill your requirements for recertification. Although you can take the certification exam again to recertify, continuing education classes help you stay current in the field and may help you develop new skills.
The number of units a continuing education class is worth varies by the length of the class. Classes are available on various topics including both clinical and administrative medical assisting. Continuing education classes can be located through colleges, medical assisting associations, and the AAMA.
What if I Move to Another State?
The AAMA certification is valid in all states. If you move just let the AAMA know so information can be sent to your current address.