A certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA) is a medical assistant who has earned a CCMA certification from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). By becoming a CCMA, medical assistants demonstrate that they met the highest standards for success in their field.
While not all states and healthcare facilities require medical assistants to have a certification, it is worthwhile to get a certification because it can make you a stronger candidate for jobs. It also ensures that you can deliver a safe experience for patients and be successful in your job.
This guide goes over everything you need to know about certified clinical medical assistants, including what they do, how to become one, where they work, their average salary, and much more.
Overview of the NHA & CCMA Certification
The National Healthcareer Association is an organization that provides qualified medical assistants with a CCMA certification. For over three decades, they have helped healthcare workers succeed in their careers and expand their horizons.
Benefits of Earning Your CCMA Certification
Having a CCMA certification comes with several benefits. During the hiring process, employers typically favor medical assistants with a certification. A certification also allows medical assistants to perform more advanced tasks, such as entering orders into the electronic health record.
You may also be able to get college credit from passing your CCMA exam if you decide to go back to school.
Earning a CCMA certification requires passing the certification exam, which assesses whether a medical assistant has the knowledge and competency to perform their job at the highest level. The exam takes 3 hours and covers topics ranging from clinical patient care to administrative assisting.
Where CCMAs Work
Medical assistants work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, physician private practices, and outpatient clinics. They can also work in offices that specialize in fields such as ophthalmology and chiropractic.
Although the duties of a certified medical assistant may vary slightly with location, they generally perform tasks grouped into two categories: clinical and administrative.
In other words, CCMAs assist other healthcare professionals with a variety of duties such as patient care, scheduling, and billing.
How to Become a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
At first glance, the process for becoming a certified clinical medical assistant can seem a little confusing. This section breaks down the key steps needed to become a CCMA.
1. Earn your high school diploma or GED. This is the minimum requirement to work as a medical assistant.
- Complete a medical assistant training or education program. These programs are offered at community colleges and other postsecondary institutions. There are also great medical assistant training programs available online. For example, Stepful’s Medical Assistant Training Program is specifically designed to prepare you to succeed on the NHA’s CCMA exam. No matter which program you choose, it must have been completed within the last 5 years.
- Complete at least 1 year of supervised medical assistant work. You are also eligible to take the exam if you have done supervised work as a medical assistant for at least a year within the last 3 years.
3. Apply to take the exam. Once you are eligible, you can register online to take the exam on the NHA website. You will need to create an account to get started.
4. Schedule the exam. After you register, you can select a date to take your exam. The exam is offered in-person at approved testing locations, such as testing centers or NHA-affiliated schools. It can also be administered online using remote proctoring.
5. Start Studying! It is essential to have a study plan in place. To enhance your studying, there are many resources available such as the CCMA exam content outline, practice tests, and study guides.
6. Take the exam. The exam is 3 hours long. It consists of 150 scored and 30 unscored multiple-choice questions.
7. Wait for the results. Depending on where you take your exam, you may receive a preliminary test report after you finish. Most of the time, you will be able to view your results through your NHA account within two days of taking the exam.
If you do not pass the exam during your first two tries, you will have to wait at least 30 days until you can retake it. If you do not pass your third attempt, you will have to wait 1 year between each following attempt.
The CCMA exam fee is $160 for every attempt.
More About the CCMA Exam
The CCMA exam assesses whether a medical assistant meets the highest standards for competency. It tests a wide range of topics that medical assistants should be proficient in to succeed in their careers.
What’s on the CCMA Exam?
The time limit for the exam is 3 hours. It consists of 150 scored and 30 unscored multiple-choice questions. Each question has four possible answer choices, where you must choose the best answer.
Slightly more than half of the questions focus on clinical patient care. The topic breakdown is as follows:
The exam is taken on a computer at an authorized testing center or NHA-affiliated school. It may also be taken online using a live proctor. Items such as calculators, cheat sheets, study guides, or electronic devices are not allowed in the testing room.
Requirements to Pass the CCMA Exam
The exam is graded using a scaled score to ensure consistency and fairness between different versions of the exam. The scaled score ranges from 200 to 500, with a passing score of 390 or better.
After your exam, you receive a score report that includes a breakdown for each content category. Your performance on each topic is compared with the passing standard and is marked as above, near, or below. This can help you identify what areas you need improvement in.
How Much the CCMA Exam Costs
The CCMA exam costs $160. You will need to renew your certification every two years, which will cost $179.
How to Prepare for the CCMA Exam
There are several resources available for free and for purchase on the NHA website. These include a set of 3 practice exams ($44) and an online study guide ($62). There is a value package available for $83 that includes both the practice exams and study guide.
Stepful’s Medical Assistant Training Program is also an excellent way to prepare. It provides program participants with all the tools, knowledge, and support they need to succeed on the CCMA exam.
CCMA Exam Statistics
In 2021, 44,588 CCMA exams were administered. The pass rate was 77%, with slightly over three-quarter of the exams being graded with a passing score.
Renewing Your CCMA Certification
Once you earn your CCMA certification, you will need to renew it every two years. To do this, you need to complete two things:
- Finish 10 continuing education credits (CE)
- Pay the $179 renewal fee
If your certification has been expired for over a year, you will have to take the CCMA exam again.
What is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant & What Do They Do?
A certified clinical medical assistant is a medical assistant who has passed the NHA CCMA certification exam. The CCMA certification is one of the four main types of medical assistant certifications. CCMAs have a high school diploma or GED and have typically completed a medical assistant training program at a postsecondary institution.
During a typical workday, certified clinical medical assistants perform a variety of tasks that are essential to keeping the healthcare system running smoothly.
Their duties can be divided into two categories: clinical and administrative. Though CCMAs typically have many more clinical duties, some may also do some administrative tasks.
Clinical Duties of a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
CCMAs assist physicians with various aspects of patient care. Some examples of their clinical duties of medical assistants are:
- Taking patient vitals (such as blood pressure, heart rate, body weight)
- Recording patient information into the electronic health record
- Assisting physicians with medical procedures
- Getting patients ready for medical procedures
- Collecting specimens for laboratory testing such as drawing blood
- Reviewing patients’ health history
Administrative Duties of a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
CCMAs also perform tasks that assist with the administrative aspect of the healthcare system. Some examples of their duties include:
- Working with insurance and billing
- Maintaining accurate patient records
- Directing patients in the waiting room and exam rooms
- Making and answering phone calls
- Scheduling patient appointments
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook
The 2021 median annual salary for medical assistants in the U.S. was $37,190, which comes out to $17.88 per hour.
The top 10% of medical assistants were compensated with an annual salary of $48,170. On the other hand, the bottom 10% of medical assistants earned an annual salary of $29,070 or less.
One important thing to keep in mind is that certified clinical medical assistants have an easier time getting hired, compared to non-certified medical assistants. According to NHA’s 2020 Industry Outlook report, 88% of employers wanted their medical assistants to have a certification.
While the BLS does not provide separate data for CMAs, you can get a general idea of certified medical assistants salaries in our full guide.
Certified clinical medical assistants have a greater chance of getting hired at competitive workplaces that offer higher salaries. There are also salary differences by location. For example, medical assistants in New York make $41,200 per year, on average, which is higher than the national average.
The job outlook for medical assistants, in general, is positive. The BLS reports that over the next 10 years, medical assistant jobs are projected to grow by 18%. So, there should be plenty of open positions available for certified clinical medical assistants in the next decade.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant FAQs
What is the difference between CCMA and CMA?
Both are certifications for medical assistants. The difference is that they are given by different certification bodies. A CCMA certification is awarded to medical assistants who pass the exam given by the NHA. A CMA certification is awarded to medical assistants who pass the exam given by the American Association of Medical Assistants. You can learn more about CCMA vs. CMA vs. RMA here.
Is CCMA a good certification?
Yes, it is proof that a medical assistant has the knowledge and competence needed to do their jobs effectively. A CCMA certification is respected and valued by employers.
How difficult is the exam?
The exam covers a wide range of topics, many of which are complex and clinical. In other words, it can be challenging. However, the results show that the exam is still manageable. It has a fairly high pass rate of 77%. Most people that sufficiently prepare for the exam end up performing well.
How long should I study for the exam?
As with any exam, the earlier you start studying, the better. It is best to give yourself a couple of months to prepare for the CCMA exam. This will give you plenty of time to review all the topics and identify what areas you need to work on more.
How long does it take to complete a medical assistant program?
The length of the program will vary depending on where you take it. Medical assistant programs offered at postsecondary institutions such as community colleges or vocational schools can take anywhere from 9 months to 2 years to complete. Online medical assistant certification programs are generally shorter and take a few months to finish.