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Types of Medical Assistants

types of medical assistants

Medical assistants that are certified or registered have demonstrated a broad range of knowledge regarding the clinical and administrative aspects of medical assisting. As a result, these types of medical assistants may be more attractive to potential employers. They also may be eligible for more advanced or specialized job opportunities because of their credentials.

Some types of medical assistants are certified in clinical duties, while others concentrate primarily on administrative responsibilities. By becoming a certified clinical medical assistant or certified medical administrative assistant, you may be more likely to succeed in finding positions that emphasize the specific tasks that you prefer.

Certified Medical Assistant

One of the most common types of medical assistants is a certified medical assistant (CMA). A CMA is cross-trained to perform both clinical and administrative tasks.

To become a certified medical assistant, you must:

  • Graduate from a post secondary medical assisting program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Participate in a practicum or externship in which you gain on-site work experience in an ambulatory health care setting during your training
  • Pass the multiple-choice certification examination administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) within three attempts
  • Maintain re-certification every five years by participating in either continuing education or taking the re-certification exam

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant

Some types of medical assistants prove that they have mastered their skills by becoming a certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA). A CCMA is educated in both clinical and administrative coursework.

These types of medical assistants may assist a physician in patient care by measuring and recording a patient’s vital signs, interviewing and educating patients, administering injections, or collecting and preparing laboratory specimens.

To earn the credentials of a certified clinical medical assistant, you must follow these steps:

  • Graduate from high school or have proof of having passed a high school equivalency exam, such as the General Education Development (GED) test
  • Complete a training program in medical assisting offered by an accredited or state-recognized institution or provider, or any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Have at least one year of supervised work experience in medical assisting if graduation from the training program is five years or earlier from the date of your CCMA exam application
  • Pass the CCMA exam, a multiple-choice exam which covers topics primarily related to clinical procedures, with some testing on related topics, administered by the National Healthcareer Association
  • Keep CCMA credentials current by fulfilling continuing education requirements every two years

Certified Medical Administrative Assistant

Other types of medical assistants prove their abilities by becoming a certified medical administrative assistant (CMAA). A certified medical administrative assistant, like all medical assistants, is educated in both administrative and clinical coursework.

Jobs for these types of medical assistants may emphasize the daily, general office duties required to allow a physician’s office or healthcare facility to run smoothly. Your responsibilities may include: answering phones, scheduling patient appointments, and operating computer systems related to insurance and billing.

To earn the credentials of a certified medical administrative assistant, you must achieve the following:

  • Graduate from high school or have proof of having passed a high school equivalency exam, such as the General Education Development (GED) test
  • Complete a training program in medical assisting offered by an accredited or state-recognized institution or provider, or any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Have at least one year of supervised work experience in medical assisting if graduation from the training program is five years or earlier from the date of your CMAA exam application
  • Pass the CMAA exam, a multiple-choice exam which covers topics related to administrative procedures, medical workplace guidelines, and patients’ rights, administered by the National Healthcareer Association
  • Keep CCMA credentials current by fulfilling continuing education requirements every two years

Registered Medical Assistant

Some types of medical assistants earn credentials as a registered medical assistant (RMA). Registered medical assistants are educated in both administrative and clerical skills. These types of medical assistants perform tasks that range from supporting physicians during patient exams to performing patient scheduling and billing.

To become a registered medical assistant, you must follow these steps:

  • Graduate from high school or have proof of having passed a high school equivalency exam, such as the General Education Development (GED) test

Complete any of the following:

  • A medical program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP)
  • A medical assistant program housed in an accredited institution provided that program includes a minimum of 720 clock-hours, or the equivalent, including 160 hours of clinical externship
  • A medical assisting program administered by any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Apply to take the examination within four years of graduation from an accredited program, or if graduation is longer than four years before the date of the examination, have relevant work experience for at least three of the previous five years
  • Pass the Registered Medical Assistant examination administered by American Medical Technologies (AMT)
  • Maintain certification by complying with the AMT Continuing Certification Program every three years

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