What to Expect During School & Licensing

Supplies for Medical Assistant School

back-to-schoolAfter getting accepted into to certified medical assisting school, you will likely have several things to do in order to prepare for the program. For example, most certified medical assisting programs will require students to obtain certain immunizations prior to starting the program, such as tetanus, MMR, and chicken pox. In addition, you may need to get a TB test and possibly a flu shot.

Before you start your first day of school, you may have an orientation or receive a student handbook which provides you with information on books and supplies you need throughout your program. Some typical supplies you may need include the following:

Scrub Uniform

Schools have different policies on what type of scrubs you need. Most likely you will need to purchase at least one set of scrubs including a top and bottom. Refer to you student handbook to determine if you have to wear a certain color of scrubs. Scrub costs vary, but you can usually purchase a set for about $30-50.00 at any medical uniform shop or online.


You will use a stethoscope frequently when working as a medical assistant so make sure you select one that provides good acoustics. Most medical uniform or medical supply shops sell stethoscopes. Prices usually range from about $50 to $150 for entry level units, all the way to $300 for more professional specialized units.

Blood Pressure Cuff

Many medical assistant schools require students to purchase a blood pressure cuff. The device consists of an inflatable cuff, bulb and a manometer. Blood pressure cuffs can be found at most drug stores. The cost ranges from $20 to about $40.

Required Textbooks:

Before you start your program you should be provided with information on what textbooks you need. In many cases you can buy used books to save money.

Note Taking Supplies

Some people prefer to take notes on a laptop, others prefer the old fashioned way of note taking with paper and pencils.

White Nursing Shoes/Athletic Shoes:

Refer to your student handbook to determine if certain colored shoes are required. Be sure to buy something comfortable since you will be spending a lot of time on your feet.

Medical Assistant Courses

Although the program curriculum may vary, some typical classes in a certified medical assisting program include:


This course will cover the organs, bones, tissues, and systems in the body.

Medical Terminology

You will learn common medical terms and their definition.


This course covers common classifications of medication, what they are used for and how they work.

Medical Office Management

In this class you will learn skills needed to run a medical office, such as billing, patient scheduling, HIPAA compliance and the use of electronic medical records.

Principals of Infection Control:

Medical assistants learn how to prevent the spread of bacteria and infections.

Clinical Medical Assisting:

This class covers skills, such as taking vital signs, assisting the doctor with procedures, taking a medical history, and preparing the exam room.

Preparing for Classes

Review and organize your supply list to make sure you have everything you need. Take care of various practical matters before classes start. Familiarize yourself with the campus you plan to attend. Obtain your student identification and parking pass if needed.

Studying for Tests

Whether tests make you sweat, or you breeze through them, it is important to prepare to do your best work. Try to avoid waiting until the last minute to study for a test. Instead, study a little each night to prevent falling behind. Use your time in class wisely. Pay attention and ask questions if needed. Consider making flashcards to help you study or form a study group.


Many medical assistant programs include an externship as part of their program. An externship involves working as a medical assistant in a clinic, doctor’s office, or other location for a set period. Externships provide an excellent opportunity to develop your skills and put to use what you learned in the classroom. Your school will arrange your externship. Treat the externship as a job. Work hard, arrive on time, be helpful, and learn as much as possible.

Working While Going to School

work-life-balanceIf you are considering working during medical assisting school you should consider how many hours you need to be in school each week. If you have to work during school, you may want to consider a part-time CMA program. Many medical assistant programs offer flexible schedules, which work well for working students. The length of medical assisting programs vary, but part-time programs take longer to complete. Another option is to consider jobs which offer a flexible schedule, such as working as a caregiver.

Waiting While Getting Certified

The CMA exam can be taken at any Prometric testing center. Centers are located throughout the United States. If you passed the exam, you could expect your official certification to arrive in about 10 weeks. The good news is you do not have to wait for your certification to apply for a job. Some medical facilities may hire you if your certification is pending.

About AAMA Exam

The American Association of Medical Assistants offers a certified medical assisting exam. Although not all medical assisting jobs require the certification, it is becoming the standard for employment. You can apply for the exam 30 days before you complete your medical assisting program. The test includes 200 multiple-choice questions, which cover all aspects of medical assisting. There are four sections, which are administered in 40-minute segments. The test covers areas including the following:


Expect content on human behavior, development and death, and dying.


In this section you may answer questions related to effective communication with diverse populations, such as the visually impaired, age-specific patients, and non-English speaking patients.


Prepare to answer questions related to responding to criticism, working well as a team, and portraying a professional image.

Medical Law and Ethics

Questions on legal and ethical considerations will be covered, such as living wills, privacy laws, confidentiality, and occupational safety.

Medical Terminology

Medical terminology questions may involve definitions and word parts, such as prefixes and suffixes.

Administrative Assisting

Administrative questions related to running an office, such as working with insurance, medical business practices and charting systems may be covered.

Clinical Assisting:

Expect to answer questions covering anatomy, infection control, patient intake, preparation and procedures.

Test Day

test-dayWhen you apply to take the CMA exam, you must also submit the exam fee. Currently, the cost of the CMA assistant exam is $250 for those who are not members of the AAMA. Once your application is accepted, you will receive a scheduling permit and instructions regarding the exam. On test day, bring the scheduling permit and a government issued identification card, such as a driver’s license.

The test starts with an optional 15-minute tutorial. After the tutorial, you will complete four 40-minute segments. You are allowed to take optional breaks between segments not exceeding 20 minutes total. The maximum time allowed for the exam is 195 minutes.

Getting Your Results

As soon as you complete the test you will receive a pass/fail notification. Your official scores will be sent to you about four weeks after the testing date. If you wish to have your test rescored you must notify the AAMA within 30 days of your test date. The cost for rescoring your test is $75

What Happens if I Fail?

If you do not pass the exam the first time around you can reapply to take the exam as soon as you want. It may be a good idea to review your scores and determine what areas you need to study. You are allowed three attempts to pass the exam before you are no longer eligible for the CMA credential.

Getting a Job

Once you complete a medical assisting program, it is time to start your job search. Your school may offer job placement assistance. In addition, watch for job ads online or call local medical practices and clinics and inquire about employment. It is helpful to have a resume ready in case a potential employer asks for one. In most instances, you have to interview with your potential employer before you are hired. Although a job search can be daunting, staying focused on your goal can help you remain motivated while find the right job.