Can You Get Your Medical Assistant Certificate Online?

Maura Deering, J.D.
Updated April 19, 2024
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You can become a certified medical assistant online. A medical assistant certificate and certification can lead to a healthcare career with employment and salary growth potential.
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Young female medical assistant walking through a hospital hallway, holding a patient's file in her hand.Credit: Courtney Hale / E+ / Getty Images
  • You can study to become a certified medical assistant online.
  • Graduates of medical assistant programs can earn an optional industry certification.
  • Medical assistant certification can lead to more employment opportunities and higher pay.

If you have a high school diploma or equivalent and an interest in an entry-level healthcare position, consider becoming a certified medical assistant. You can earn your medical assistant certificate online in nine months and launch a career with plenty of growth potential. Obtaining certification as a medical assistant post-graduation can open up even more job opportunities.

This guide details the different medical assistant certifications, accredited online medical assistant certificate programs, and educational and professional resources.

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Medical Assistant Certificate Requirements

While medical assistant certificate 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 certificate.

Complete an Accredited Medical Assistant Program

There are three types of medical assistant certificates. You must attend an accredited program to obtain a credential, and any online certificate program you choose must meet certain standards.

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA): This certification is offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and is the only one 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, have military training or work experience, or have been a medical assistant instructor for at least five years.

While each certificate 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.

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:

  • Human anatomy, physiology, and pathology
  • Medical terminology
  • Keyboarding and computer applications
  • Record keeping and accounting
  • Coding and insurance processing
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Clinical and diagnostic procedures
  • Pharmacology
  • Medication administration
  • First aid
  • Office practices
  • Patient relations
  • Medical law and ethics

Pass the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam

After completing an accredited program, you must pass the AAMA’s CMA certification exam. There are three categories of eligibility for the exam:

  • Category 1: Students who have graduated within the last 12 months (or are 30 days from completion) from an accredited program
  • 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.

Online Medical Assistant Certificate Requirements

Accredited online medical assistant certificate programs typically require 35-60 credits, with 15 credits devoted to hands-on, experiential learning.

Students gain clinical experience through 60-hour competency simulations and 50-60 hours of supervised skill-based learning at a program-approved medical facility or lab. Learners also complete 160-180 hours of supervised clinical and administrative experience during an externship in a healthcare setting.

Online programs include courses in cultural competence and communication, insurance and medical records, medical law and bioethics, and medical terminology. Students can finish their programs in 40-60 weeks.

Admission generally requires a high school diploma or equivalent and a passing score on the scholastic level exam.

The Benefits of Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant

Once you have completed a medical assistant online program and obtained your certificate, you qualify to take the certified medical assistant (CMA) exam and earn certification.

The AAMA’s CMA exam is administered by PSI Services LLC. Test-takers complete the technology-based exam at a testing center. NHA’s CCMA exam and AMT’s RMA exam offer remote proctoring options.

Although most states do not require medical assistant certification, many employers prefer hiring certified medical assistants. However, there are benefits to becoming a certified medical assistant besides boosting your employability:

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    Career advancement

    Accredited medical assistant programs provide the necessary skills to continue your education in healthcare, such as transitioning from a medical assistant to a nurse. Certification also demonstrates your dedication to professional excellence. Certified individuals often enjoy more career advancement opportunities.

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    Earning potential

    Certification makes you more valuable to future employers and could help you get better starting pay as a medical assistant.

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    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:

    • Outpatient clinics
    • Chiropractic offices
    • Physicians’ offices
    • Community clinics
    • Colleges and universities
    • Diagnostic laboratories
    • Nursing facilities
    • Insurance companies
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    Job stability

    Although working hours vary between jobs, many medical assistants enjoy predictable hours with an employer who needs their skills.

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    Room for growth

    Some certified medical assistants perform various duties, but others do not. You may enjoy working in a small clinic if you prefer to remain a generalist with skills in several areas. Working in a larger facility may let you focus on specific areas and develop a specialty.

How to Find a Medical Assistant Program Online

According to the AAMA, there are two online medical assistant certificate programs with Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accreditation:

  • The College of Healthcare Professions: This 48-week program includes a 150-hour, three-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 comprehensive program requires an externship to meet AAMA requirements. Learners enjoy small classes and a professional team of dedicated student advisors, admissions advisors, and career specialists. Completion time varies by schedule. However, full-time students can complete the program in six, 10-week terms, with scheduled holidays and breaks.

Resources for Medical Assistants

  • American Association of Medical Assistants

    The AAMA offers CMA certification, continuing education resources, medical news, blogs, and an annual conference. Member benefits include practice rights protection, job listings, insurance, networking, and volunteer opportunities. Students can join at a significantly discounted rate and enjoy benefits, such as student groups and a career center.

  • American Medical Technologists

    An association of allied health professionals, AMT offers medical assistant certifications. Member benefits include exam prep, a career center, volunteer opportunities, and networking through local chapters and online communities. Certification confers membership, including access to AMT’s annual meeting and industry publications.

  • National Healthcareer Association

    NHA offers medical assistant certification and 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.

Page last reviewed on April 17, 2024

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