Registration and certification are optional credentials that you may obtain after completing a medical assistant schooling program. Though not currently required by the government in the US, many states and employers have their own regulations for employment. Both CMA and RMA perform similar duties; however, the accrediting organizations and exams differ slightly. Knowing the similarities and differences between these two positions can help you decide which certification to get when you’re ready to become a medical assistant.
Job Duties of Medical Assistants
CMAs and RMAs both perform a variety of duties in a medical setting under the supervision of a physician. Clinical responsibilities include:
• Answering phones
• Taking patient histories
• Updating medical records
• Filling out insurance forms and handling bills
• Scheduling appointments and lab tests
• Arranging for hospital admittance
• Communicating with pharmacies and handling drug refills
Medical aspects include:
• Checking patients’ vital signs
• Preparing patients for exams and procedures
• Drawing blood
• Collecting and preparing lab specimens
• Administering medication when necessary
• Cleanup and disposal of medical waste
• Instructing patients about medications, procedures and care
• Communicating between physicians and patients
Differences Between Registered Medical Assistant and Certified Medical Assistant
The main differences between CMA and RMA credentials are the certifying organizations and exams. CMAs are licensed by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and must renew their certification every five years. This ensures that CMAs stay up to date on the latest skills and knowledge necessary to perform their duties.
Before taking the CMA exam, you should be familiar with a wide range of topics relating to the duties you’ll be expected to perform as a medical assistant. The exam typically covers such categories as administrative and clinical procedures, anatomy and physiology, legal guidelines and regulations, medical terminology and lab procedures. A fee is required to take the exam and differs depending on whether or not you’re a member of one of the accrediting organizations. Renewal of CMA certification is based on a combination of experience and continuing education credits that show you’re building your skills and are committed to performing your job to the best of your abilities.
Credentials for the Registered Medical Assistant come from a nonprofit agency called the American Medical Technologists (AMT). The exam covers similar categories as the one for CMA, including anatomy and physiology, medical laws and ethics, insurance and finance and clinical medical assisting. You must have at least five years of experience working as a medical assistant before taking the exam. This test also requires participants to pay a fee and may include a membership charge.
Though some states and institutions are more familiar with the CMA and consider it more prestigious than the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), most employers will recognize either credential when hiring. Be sure to check the regulations in your state and any specific rules with the institutions you wish to apply to before deciding between registration and certification.
Becoming a Medical Assistant
Before taking a CMA or RMA exam, you must attend and graduate from a medical assistant training school accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). An equivalent training program that provides the same experience may also grant you eligibility for credentialing exams. There are currently hundreds of accredited programs in the US, all evaluated based on educational standards as well as the amount of time students spend in the classroom and lab.
You have a few options when it comes to choosing a medical assistant program. To receive a diploma or certificate, expect to spend between nine months and a year studying for your new career. Going for an Associate’s degree takes closer to two years. Whichever type of program you attend, your next step is to take and pass a CMA or RMA exam. This prepares you for employment as a medical assistant in a variety of institutions including hospitals, urgent care facilities and clinics.
When considering beginning a study program, it’s important to be sure that you’re ready for what a position as a medical assistant involves. You’ll be working with people every day and required to perform medical tasks that may seem uncomfortable at first. Training and certification will prepare you for the academic aspects of this career, but only on the job experience will give you a clear picture of what’s involved on a daily basis.
If you’re passionate about helping people and feel that you can handle the demanding pace of today’s medical field, becoming a medical assistant may be the right fit for you. Exams for both CMA and Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification are given at specific times of the year, so you can choose the date that works best for you. Allow yourself plenty of time to study, and you’ll be able to approach your new career with confidence.