Once you graduate as a medical assistant, it is time to consider taking the certification exam to become a CMA (AAMA). The certification exam has multiple steps that must be taken before you are eligible to sit for the exam. If you have not started your education yet you should seek a program that is well-versed in the requirements of earning your certification. If you have already earned your degree and are on your way to taking your certification exam as the next step in your career, speak with your educator or employer to see what assistance they offer. One of the steps that is often required for the examination is a letter of recommendation from the head of your department or your employer (generally a doctor).
Information About the Examination
The certification examination consists of 200 multiple-choice questions which are taken in four 40 minutes segments. The fact that the exam is multiple-choice does not mean that it is easy. You will need to be well prepared and well-versed in what is required of you on the job. It is a rigorous exam that requires thorough, current, and broad understanding of everything required in the medical assisting field. Most of the information should have been covered, or will be covered, in your education. In addition, the American Association of Medical Assistants has plenty of assistance throughout their website.
The exam is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) which is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. These agencies were created to ensure that certification programs adhere to the standards and practices for the certification industry. In essence, this means that any employer will look at your certification and know that you are knowledgeable in what is required in your job. This leads to many benefits which will be discussed next.
Benefits of Certification
A medical assistant will generally earn around $43,000 a year. While the growth in the industry is far above the average, those without a certification will still have to spend time looking for work. Once you earn your certification, you will not only find it easier to find work, but you also find upward mobility much easier. Certified medical assistants earn an average of $10,000 more a year depending on experience, education, and location. As of the time of this writing, the most current average income is $51,000 a year.
Certification versus Registration
Many medical assistants wonder about the differences in certification and registration. First and foremost, employers generally do not care which you hold. With that said, it would be wise to check with local employers to see if they have a preference as to the type of designation which you hold. The income expectations are generally the same between certification and registration and you job prospects should increase equally.
In most areas it is more common to see certified medical assistants as it is the most popular designation for schools to assist with. Do not let the difference between the two slow you down from taking either, just keep in mind that starting the process now will ensure that you enter the industry with your certification much sooner than you expect.
Requirements Upon Completion
Once you earn your certification you will find yourself in a much better position within the medical assisting career field. Holding a certification does bring additional responsibilities throughout your career. Every five years you will need to be recertified and continuing education will be required, though none of this should require a great deal of additional work. There is a small financial investment that is required but as you have already read the payoff can be significant. Start learning about the steps that you need to take through the American Association of Medical Assistants website. Your school choice should have, or will, help you meet all of the requirements. Do not wait any longer to get started as the results will lead to higher income, more job opportunities, and more rewarding career.