California Medical Assistant Certification Exam

In California, work as an medical assistant may only be performed under the supervision of a licensed surgeon and physician, physician assistant, podiatrist, nurse midwife or nurse practitioner in a clinic or medical office setting while the supervisor is on the premises.  The medical assistant cannot perform non-invasive technical support services unless their supervisor is on the premises. Medical assistants working in the state of California do not need to be licensed or certified, and there are no requirements for obtaining work.
 
Although it is not a requirement for working as a medical assistant, the medical assistant’s employer and/or their supervising podiatrist’s or physician’s malpractice insurance carrier might require the medical assistant to be certified by an approved private or national association, either to work as an medical assistant or to train other medical assistants. See Title 16 CCR 1366.3 for information on medical assistants training new MA’s.

You can obtain certification as a medical assistant from either the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the American Medical Technologists (AMT).  To get the credential in most circumstances, you will have to attend a school that is accredited in medical assisting.  The courses at these schools will qualify you to take either the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam or the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam.  Obtaining the CMA or RMA crediential will provide employers with proof of having obtained skills at the nationally accepted standard level.
 
There is also a state certification available through the California Medical Assistants Association. This certification can only be claimed within the state of California. It is not a national certification as the accredited CMA is from the AAMA.
 
In California, the profession of medical assisting is overseen by the California Society of Medical Assistants.  You can find more information on working as a medical assistant in Californai at the AAMA website or at the CSMA website. The California Society of Medical Assistants is a state-level affiliate for the AAMA that serves as a networking group and an information source for California medical assistants.
 
How to Apply to become Certified or Registered as a Medical Assistant

You can apply online to become a CMA through the AAMA.  You can also apply online to become an RMA through the AMT.

The Qualifications to become Certified or Registered in Medical Assisting
 
CMA
To qualify to become a certified medical assistant through the AAMA, a candidate must complete the following:
  • an accredited educational program in medical assisting; and
  • clinical training (supervised, unpaid on-site work experience in an ambulatory health care setting) in the following areas:
    • Human anatomy, physiology, and pathology
    • Medical law and ethics
    • Medical terminology
    • Patient relations
    • Keyboarding and computer applications
    • Office practices
    • Record keeping and accounting
    • First aid
    • Coding and insurance processing
    • Medication administration
    • Laboratory techniques
    • Pharmacology
    • Clinical and diagnostic procedures
You must complete and pass the exam for certification within 60 months of completing the program or you will need to repeat the course.

RMA
There are a number of ways to qualify to become an RMA through the AMTSome of the routes to certification are as follows:
  • Graduate from an accredited medical assisiting school
  • Graduate from a military medical service training program
  • Have 5 years (out of the last 7) experience working as a medical assistant
  • Have had 1-5 years of experience as an instructor of a medical assisting program
Test Content

CMA Exam
The CMA exam has the following parameters:
  • The CMA exam is a rigorous 200 question exam. Only 180 of the questions are graded with 20 random ungraded questions.
  • It is administered in four 40 minute segments, broken up by a brief tutorial and a few breaks. Plan for a total of about 3 hours to take the test.
  • You will need a minimum score of 425 to pass. You could score as high as 800. The questions are scored according to their difficulty. Easier questions are not worth as many points. The test will start you out with easier questions and as you pass them successfully, you will move on to more difficult questions.
  • Test content areas are:
    • Psychology
    • Communication
    • Professionalism
    • Medical Law and Regulatory Guidelines
    • Medical Ethics
    • Risk Management, Quality Assurance and Safety
    • Medical Terminology
    • Medical Reception
    • Patient Navigator/Advocate
    • Medical Business Practices
    • Establish Patient Medical Record
    • Scheduling Appointments
    • Practice Finances
    • Anatomy and Physiology
    • Infection Control
    • Patient Intake and Documentation of Care
    • Patient Preparation and Assisting the Provider
    • Nutrition
    • Collecting and Processing Specimens
    • Diagnostic Testing
    • Pharmacology
    • Emergency Management/Basic First Aid
RMA Exam
The RMA exam has the following parameters:
  • The test is 210 questions in length.
  • You have a full two hours to complete it.
  • You need to get 70% of the questions (147 questions) correct in order to pass.
  • Test content consists of:
    • General Medical Assisting Knowledge
    • Administrative Medical Assisting Skills
    • Clinical Medical Assisting Skills.
Find full detailed content for each of these three main areas here.

Certification Renewal Requirements

You may recertify your CMA credential by retaking the exam within 60 months of passing or with continuing education.  Continuing education to maintain or recertify your CMA includes 60 credit hours, 30 of which is the minimum amount required to be taken through the AAMA.

To recertify as an RMA, you will have to comply with a  Certification Continuation Program (CCP) every three years and abide by the AMT Standards of Practice.

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