Can You Get Your Medical Assistant Certificate Online?

by Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
• 3 min read
Can You Get Your Medical Assistant Certificate Online?

Do you want to become a certified medical assistant, but struggle to fit classes into your schedule? An online medical assistant certification program may be just what you need to complete your education.

Thanks to their broadly applicable skill set, medical assistants are in high demand in many healthcare settings. They are not limited to working in hospitals, or performing the same tasks every day.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% job growth rate from 2019-29. Although the median annual salary of $35,850 may be below average, getting your medical assistant certification online lets you maintain an income while you study.

Read on to learn about the benefits of becoming a certified medical assistant, potential job opportunities, and online medical assistant programs.

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The Benefits of Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant

Although most states do not require certification, many employers prefer hiring medical assistants who are certified. However, there are benefits to graduating from an online medical assistant certification program besides boosting your employability:

  • Career advancement: Accredited medical assistant programs provide the necessary skills to continue your education in healthcare. Certification also demonstrates your dedication to professional excellence. Certified individuals often enjoy more career advancement opportunities.
  • Earning potential: In-person and online medical assistant certification programs increase your earning potential. Certification makes you more valuable to future employers and could help you get better starting pay.
  • Flexibility to work in any state: National certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) lets you work in any state.
  • Diverse working environments: Some healthcare professionals are limited to working in hospitals. In contrast, certified medical assistants can work at:
  • Job stability: Although working hours vary between jobs, many medical assistants enjoy predictable hours with an employer who needs your skills.
  • Room for growth: Some certified medical assistants perform a variety of duties, but others do not. If you prefer to remain a generalist with skills in several areas, you may enjoy working in a small clinic. Working in a larger facility may let you focus on specific areas and develop a specialty.

Medical Assistant Certification Requirements

While medical assistant certification programs are available in person and online, the job's hands-on nature requires online students to complete in-person practicums in their local area. There are multiple steps to earning a medical assistant certification.

Complete an Accredited Medical Assistant Program

There are three types of medical assistant certifications. You must attend an accredited program to obtain a credential. Any online certification program you choose must meet certain standards.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

This certification is offered through the AAMA and is the only medical assistant certification that uses the National Board of Medical Examiners to write its exam. Programs accredited by the AAMA must include at least two semesters of education. The CMA credential is nationally accredited and recognized.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) administers this exam, which is less rigorous than the CMA assessment.

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers this credential for individuals who complete an accredited program and hold military training, work experience, or have been a medical assistant instructor for at least five years.

While each certification examination holds advantages and disadvantages, the CMA certification is the most widely recognized for demonstrating dedication to excellence. AAMA accredited programs are available at colleges and career institutes. The AAMA maintains a searchable database of accredited schools by city and state.

Online learners' options are not limited to their geographical areas. Flexible online medical assistant certification programs are a good fit for motivated learners. To be eligible for AAMA certification, an institution must hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.

According to the AAMA, accredited schools must offer a curriculum that includes:

Pass the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam

After completing an accredited program, you must pass the AAMA's CMA certification exam. There are three ways you may be eligible to take the exam:

  • Category 1: Students who have graduated within the last 12 months from an accredited program; students who finished the program but did not complete the practicum due to the COVID-19 pandemic receive a temporary waiver until December 31, 2021
  • Category 2: Students who apply for the exam more than 12 months after graduating
  • Category 3: Students applying for recertification who have previously passed the exam at least once

The exam includes 180 multiple choice questions. Candidates receive 160 minutes in four 40-minute segments to complete the exam. Topics cover administrative, clinical, and general topics.

How To Find a Medical Assistant Program Online

According to the AAMA there are two online medical assistant certification programs with ABHES or CAAHEP accreditation:

The College of Healthcare Professions

This 48-week program includes a 180-hour, 4-credit externship in the final semester. The curriculum covers medical law and ethics, insurance billing, managing medical records, human relations, patient history and recording, phlebotomy, EKGs, and injections.

Purdue University Global

This 15-month comprehensive program requires an externship to meet AAMA requirements. The online program offers small class sizes and a professional team of dedicated student advisors, admission advisors, and career specialists.

Resources for Medical Assistants

  • The AAMA offers CMA certification, continuing education resources, medical news and blogs, and hosts an annual conference. Member benefits include practice rights protection, job listings, insurance, and networking and volunteer opportunities. Students can join at a significantly discounted rate and enjoy benefits like student groups and a career center.
  • An association of allied health professionals, AMT offers medical assistant and other certifications. Member benefits include exam prep, a career center, volunteer opportunities, and networking through local chapters and online communities. Certification confers membership, which also includes access to AMT's annual meeting and industry publications.
  • NHA offers medical assistant certification, along with credentials in other areas, such as billing and coding specialist and electronic healthcare records specialist. NHA also advocates for frontline healthcare workers, hosts a job board and career blog, and publishes research, publications, and case studies. Membership is not required to access online resources.

Featured Image: Courtney Hale / E+ / Getty Images is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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