Allied Health Profession

Certified Medical Assistants

Who are Certified Medical Assistants and what do they do?
Certified Medical Assistants are multiskilled practitioners who assume a wide range of roles in physicians' offices and other health care settings, and are viewed by physicians as vital partners in increasing medical office productivity. In small practices, CMAs are usually "generalists," handling both administrative and clinical duties and reporting directly to an office manager, physician, or other health practitioner. Those in large practices tend to specialize in a particular area under the supervision of department administrators. The following are typical duties that CMAs perform (clinical duties may vary according to state law):



How do CMAs keep their credential current?
The designation CMA indicates that the individual is a graduate of a medical assisting program accredited by either CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools); has passed the CMA Certification Examination of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA); and maintains currency of the CMA credential.

How do medical assistants become educated for the profession?
Medical assisting programs leading to eligibility for certification are offered in almost 500 programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and 65 programs accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Accredited programs comply with a set of standards that are designed to ensure graduates preparation to enter the medical assisting profession. A list of the CAAHEP accredited programs and the Standards and Guidelines for an Accredited Educational Program for the Medical Assistant can be found at

What is the AAMA CMA Certification Examination?
The AAMA CMA Certification Examination is a comprehensive test of the knowledge actually needed in today's medical office. The exam is given by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the premier organization dedicated to serving the interests of Certified Medical Assistants. The content is drawn from an in-depth analysis of the numerous general, clinical, and administrative tasks medical assistants perform on a daily basis. The exam tests knowledge in three major areas:

To be eligible for the CMA Examination, an applicant must be a graduate of a medical assisting program accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES. The AAMA administers the examination each January and June at over 200 test sites nationwide. To help applicants prepare for the exam, AAMA offers A Candidate's Guide to the AAMA CMA Certification/Recertification Examination.

How do CMAs keep their credential current?
CMAs are required to recertify every 5 years to keep the CMA credential current. All Certified Medical Assistants employed or seeking employment must have current status in order to use the CMA credential in connection with employment. Certification status is a matter of public record and may be verified by calling the AAMA.

The requirement can be met in either of two ways:

Certified Medical Assistants who elect the continuing education route can choose from hundreds of CEU courses sponsored by local, state and national AAMA groups. Or, they can take advantage of self-study courses available through AAMA's Continuing Education Department.

What is the job outlook for medical assistants?
Employment of medical assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2010 due the increase in the number of group practices, clinics, and other health care facilities that need a high proportion of support personnel, particularly the flexible medical assistant.

How much money can medical assistants earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the earnings of medical assistants vary, depending on experience, skill level, and location. Median annual earnings of medical assistants were $23,000 in 2000. The middle 50% earned between $19,460 and $27,460 a year. The lowest 10% earned less than $16,700, and the highest 10% earned more than $32,850 a year.

Excerpted from Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-03 edition. US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For more information, contact:
American Association of Medical Assistants
20 N. Wacker Dr., Ste. 1575
Chicago, IL 60606
Phone: 800/228-2262
Fax: 312/899-1259

Last updated: May 2003