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Top Professional Organizations for Certified Medical Assistants
What are the Best Organizations to Join if you are a Certified Medical Assistant?
Becoming a certified medical assistant makes for an exciting career opportunity. You have the opportunity to work alongside leading medical professionals in a variety of specialty fields. As a certified medical assistant, you’ll work to provide patients with top quality care in any number of different exciting and engaging environments. Depending on your preferences, you could work in a general practitioner’s office, a specialty clinic (where you might work alongside a pulmonologist, cardiologist, obstetrician, or a variety of other specialist doctors), or even in a hospital setting.
When you first start out as a medical assistant, you likely will have very little in the way of industry contacts. As with any other job, networking is the key to your long-term success. If you want the ability to change jobs, relocate, shift your focus, or advance within your career, the connections you make with other professionals in the health and medical field will be an integral part of making that happen.
Over time, you’ll likely develop connections within your field simply as a result of your work environment. This is particularly the case for medical assistants working in larger and more diverse practices, or in a hospital setting. If you take a passive approach to networking, though, it could be many years before you feel confident that you’ve built up a network of professionals within your field to whom you could turn if needed.
Rather than taking this roundabout approach to building a network, one of the most effective ways to grow your circle of contacts as quickly as possible is through an affiliation with a professional organization. Which professional organization you decide to join is ultimately up to you, and each offers its own advantages and disadvantages.
When it comes to determining which organization you want to join as a certified medical assistant, part of what you’ll need to take into consideration is the type of certification you opted to receive when first entering the profession. If you haven’t yet take your exam and received a specific credential, it’s worth considering how this credential may or may not contribute to your ability to enroll as a member in a specific professional organization further down the road.
In order to provide you with as detailed of an overview of the available options as possible, we’ll start with a recap of the four different organizations offering certification to medical assistants via a national standardized test:
- The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), which administers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam
- The American Medical Technologists (AMT) organization, which administers the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam
- The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), which administers the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam
- The National Healthcareer Association (NHA), which administers the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam
Once we’ve taken the time to review the requirements associated with these exams, we’ll look at the top three professional organizations for medical assistants:
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
Certified Medical Assistant Testing Organizations
Some professional organizations for certified medical assistants require a specific type of testing certification as a prerequisite for membership. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to review the relative certification and recertification requirements for each of the four nationally accepted accreditation exams. Once you’ve refreshed your memory on these exams’ requirements, you can make an informed decision about which one is realistic for you in terms of obtaining certification. From there, we can look at the top 4 national professional organizations, two of which correspond to specific tests offered at the national level.
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Exam
One of the most commonly taken exams for medical assistants seeking national certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam, offered by the National Association of Medical Assistants.
The AAMA is a not-for-profit organization and is entirely focused on providing certification to medical assistants. This differentiates the AAMA from other testing organizations, some of which provide certification to a variety of professionals within the allied health field.
Your eligibility to take the CMA exam is dependent upon whether or not you graduated from an approved medical assistant program. Approved programs are those that have been accredited by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education programs (CAAHEP). In addition to this requirement, you’ll need to have completed a minimum of 160 hours of practicum during your time in school.
In order to be recertified by the AAMA as a certified medical assistant, you’ll have to reapply once every 5 years. When reapplying, you’ll need to provide proof that you have completed 60 or more continuing education units, of which 10 must have been in a clinical subject, 10 in an administrative subject, and 10 in a general subject. Alternatively, you can simply retake the exam in order to renew your certification. The test consists of 180 multiple-choice questions and is timed (with a time limit of 160 minutes).
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Exam
Similar to the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential provided by the AAMA, the American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers a national accreditation test known as the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam. Much like the AAMA, the AMT is a not-for-profit national organization. However, they’re not strictly focused on medical assistants. Unlike the AAMA, the AMT provides certification and testing services for a number of other allied health professions as well.
Qualifying for eligibility to sit for the RMA exam is also somewhat easier than the CMA exam, in the sense that there are a larger number of potential qualification options available to you as a medical assistant. If you’ve graduated from a program that’s either ABHES or CAAHEP certified — the same requirement set forth by the AAMA — then you’ll be eligible to sit for the RMA exam. However, you also qualify to take the exam if you’ve completed a medical assistant program at any college or university that’s approved by the United States Department of Education. And if you haven’t had any formal education, you’re also allowed to sit for the RMA after having worked for five or more years as a medical assistant.
Obtaining recertification is dependent upon complying with AMT’s Certification Continuation Program, something that must be done triennially. The RMA exam contains 210 total questions, with 160 minutes allotted to take the test.
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Exam
Unlike the CMA or RMA tests, the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam is administered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), a for-profit organization. Much like the CMA and RMA, taking the NCMA involves having first completed an approved medical assisting program. Alternatively, you may take the exam if you’ve worked as a medical assistant for at least two years. Recertification involves obtaining a minimum of 14 continuing education units each year. The NCMA exam contains 150 questions and lasts for a total of 180 minutes.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Exam
Similar to the NCMA test, the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam is administered by the National Healthcareer Association, a for-profit company. In order to sit for the CCMA exam, you must have either graduated from an accredited program in medical assisting or worked as a medical assistant for at least one year. Recertification involves completing a minimum of 10 continuing education units every two years. The CCMA test includes 150 questions and lasts for 180 minutes total.
Now that you’ve seen what’s required by each of the four national testing authorities in order to become a medical assistant, we can take a look at some of the largest professional organizations.
American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
As with any other medical profession, membership in a national professional organization is a great way to give your career a boost. As arguably the largest national organization for medical assistants in the United States, the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is a great choice for new and beginning certified medical assistants.
If you’d like to join the AAMA, you can do so one of several ways. First, you can visit their website and join online. Alternatively, you can visit their downloads page, download a copy of their membership form, and mail in your membership request. Lastly, you can enroll over the phone with a credit card by calling 800-228-2262.
Annual membership dues with the AAMA are due at the end of each year (by December 31st), Membership dues vary from state to state, with the total ranging from $77 in some states for non-students to as much as $102 in others. Student rates are available in all states as well, and these are typically much lower: anywhere from $25 for first year students in some states to as much as $75 for second year students in other states.
The membership benefits associated with joining the AAMA are considerable. Firstly, becoming a member means that you’re contributing to the perpetuation of the AAMA as an organization. The AAMA works to actively litigate in the interests of certified medical assistants, staying on top of changes to both state and national laws on behalf of its members. As a member of the AAMA, you also have a way to verify for your employer that you have obtained the necessary certifications required for practice.
Additionally, membership in the AAMA is an excellent thing to include on your resume. It makes it clear to employers that you take your line of work seriously and have invested both time and money in contributing to the occupation at the local and national level. Members also receive a subscription to CMA Today, a magazine designed for medical assistants. As a member, you’re also able to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam at a significantly discounted rate: members only pay $125 rather than $250 to take the exam.
AAMA members also have access to both online continuing education courses and self-study continuing education courses via the AAMA. Members are encouraged to attend the AAMA national conference, too, along with local- and state-level chapter meetings and continuing education events. Lastly, members of the AAMA have access to reduced cost insurance policies for both life as well as accidental death and dismemberment.
American Medical Technologists (AMT)
After sitting for the American Medical Technologists’ (AMT) Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam, you have the option of becoming a member of the organization.
Much like the AAMA, the AMT includes a number of state societies. Once you become a member of the AMT at the national level, you’re also a member of your state-level organization. As a member, the AAMA encourages you to attend your state society educational and business meetings, keep up with the AMT’s national newsletter, and even consider holding office within your state society.
As a member of the AMT, you’ll receive a variety of benefits. For one thing, the AMT uses its resources to continually advocate for a variety of allied health professions, including medical assisting. You’re encouraged to attend the AMT annual convention to keep up with changes in the profession. The AMT also provides online continuing education courses, along with on-demand continuing education options.
If you’re looking to move up in your career as a medical assistant, the AMT offers online career services. With AMT’s online career services page, you have the ability to upload your resume and apply to medical assistant jobs around the country. Additionally, the AMT offers its members access to various state and national awards and scholarships each year, making the potential for personal advancement available to even more certified medical assistants.
Join a Professional Medical Assistant Organization
Now that you have a better sense of the relative advantages of the AAMA and AMT, we encourage you to join one of these professional organizations. Of course, you’ll need to pass the exam first! If you’re looking to study for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam, ScopeNotes™ is here to help. We offer affordable practice testing and study options, starting as low as $39. To learn more, click here.