Medical assistants play an important role in hospitals and clinics across the country. As a result, job opportunities in this profession are expected to increase by 16% by 2031.
However, that doesn't mean there won't be competition. There are a few ways you can improve your chances of landing a job and earning a good salary, but the best is by earning a medical assistant certification.
Employers give preference to certified medical assistants who have proven their knowledge and expertise. There are multiple medical assistant certification options to consider and many online programs that can help you earn one.
For example, our Online Medical Assistant Program here at Stepful prepares you to take your Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam and start working.
Some medical assistant certification exams like the CCMA can be taken online with a live proctor.
This guide goes over everything you need to know to earn your medical assistant certification online, including the steps required, how to choose which is best for you, and more.
Steps to Getting Your Medical Assistant Certification Online
Online medical assistant certification programs are a great way to get started on your medical assistant career. They provide you with everything you need in order to pass your certification exam.
Here are the steps for getting your medical assistant certification online:
1) Research online medical assistant certification programs
There are two main types of online medical assistant certification programs: certificate and associate degree.
Certificate programs tend to be shorter and cheaper. They typically take anywhere from 4 months to 9 months to complete. In contrast, medical assistant associate degree programs are longer and will cost more. They can take up to 2 years to complete.
Despite these differences, both types of programs usually lead to the same job outcomes. Make sure to take a good look at each program’s curriculum and resources to see what aligns best with your goals.
Some important things to look for are whether or not the program is accredited and the certification exam pass rate. These are good indicators of the program’s quality.
It is also important to know if there are in-person components, such as skills laboratories or medical assistant externships.
2) Apply for the program
Once you have found a program that suits you, the next step is to apply for it. Before applying, be sure you meet the requirements to take the certification exam.
The program’s website will usually have a link to enroll. Although some online programs are asynchronous (meaning that you complete it at your own pace), there may still be deadlines to enroll.
To enroll, usually all you need to do is pay the required fees and provide any relevant documents.
3) Complete the program
Online medical assistant certificate programs take anywhere from 4 to 9 months to complete. Online associate degree programs will take longer, sometimes taking up to 2 years at most to complete.
4) Submit your application to take the exam & choose a test date
Once you complete your program, you can apply to take your certification exam of choice (more on that later). You will need to go to the certifying organization’s website, register, pay the exam fee, and schedule a test date.
5) Study up & take your exam
After you select your exam date, it is time to start studying! Take advantage of the variety of study resources available such as content outlines and practice tests.
Some medical assistant certification exams, like the NHA's CCMA, can be completed online with a live proctor.
6) Check your results
Depending on the certification exam, you may receive a preliminary score report after you take your exam. If not, then usually it takes around 24 hours to receive your results.
If you pass, then congratulations, you have earned your medical assistant certification! If not, you can usually retake the exam, sometimes for a smaller fee.
Medical Assistant Certification Options: CCMA, CMA, & RMA
There are several medical assistant certifications, such as Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), and Registered Medical Assistant (RMA). Each one is offered by a different organization.
The CCMA certification is awarded by the National Healthcareer Association, the RMA certification is awarded by the American Medical Technologists, and the CMA certification is awarded by the American Association of Medical Assistants.
To earn a medical assistant certification, you need to first be eligible to take one of the certification exams. Eligibility requirements for each certification exam vary slightly. However, most of them require that you complete an accredited medical assistant training program or have a certain amount of experience working as a medical assistant.
Although all of the certifications are well-regarded by employers, there are some important distinctions. For example, the CCMA certification is best suited for medical assistants who are more interested in clinical work as opposed to administrative work.
You can learn all about the different kinds of medical assistant certifications by checking out our full CCMA vs CMA vs RMA Guide.
How You Can Get Your Medical Assistant Certification Online Without Going Through Training
Most states do not require medical assistants to hold a certification to work. The only exception to this is Washington.
With that being said, there are many reasons why you might want to become a certified medical assistant. For example, applicants with a certification have an advantage when looking for jobs.
But, what if you have not completed a training program, but still want to become eligible to take a certification exam? Fortunately, there are alternative ways to become eligible.
For the CCMA and RMA exams, you can use work experience in lieu of passing an accredited program. For the CMA exam, you must pass a program.
For the CCMA exam, you can become eligible if you have had at least 1 year of supervised medical assistant working experience within the past 3 years. You will also need a high school diploma or equivalent.
For the RMA exam, you can become eligible if you have had at least 3 years of medical assistant working experience within the last 7 years. In addition, your previous medical assistant job must have included administrative and clinical responsibilities. You will also need a high school diploma or equivalent.
For the CMA exam, you need to have been either a recent graduate or non-recent graduate of an accredited medical assistant training program. You will not be able to use work experience to bypass this requirement.
One important thing to note is that the minimum requirement to work as a medical assistant in most states is to have a high school diploma or equivalent. So, it is possible to become a medical assistant without completing a training program.
One way to do this is by searching for medical assistant positions that offer on-the-job training.
How Stepful Can Help You Become a Medical Assistant in Just 4 Months
Here at Stepful, we offer an excellent 4-month online medical assistant training program that prepares you to get your CCMA certification. Our flexible online curriculum covers everything you need to know to become a great medical assistant.
In addition, we provide you with a variety of resources to help you get your career started, such as an in-person externship and job search help. In fact, we have a 100% job placement guarantee that will refund your tuition if you don’t find a job within 6 months of certification.
The program only costs $1,999. If you are looking for an efficient and effective way to become a medical assistant, Stepful offers the most bang for your buck.
Learn more about Stepful's Medical Assistant Training Programs in our full guides:
- Online Medical Assistant Program
- Atlanta Medical Assistant Program
- California Medical Assistant Program
- Chicago Medical Assistant Program
- Florida Medical Assistant Program
- Georgia Medical Assistant Program
- Illinois Medical Assistant Program
- New York & NYC Medical Assistant Program
- North Carolina Medical Assistant Program
- Ohio Medical Assistant Program
- Pennsylvania Medical Assistant Program
- Philadelphia Medical Assistant Program
- Texas Medical Assistant Program
FAQs of Getting Your Medical Assistant Certification Online
Is it possible to get my medical assistant certification online for free?
It's typically not possible to get your medical assistant certification online for free as training programs and the certification exams themselves have fees. With that being said, many medical assistant programs are affordable and exam fees are $135 or less.
Can I take my medical assistant certification exam online?
How long does it take to get your medical assistant certification online?
It will depend on the length of the online program you choose. They typically take around 4 to 9 months to complete. Then you will need to allow some time to take one of the certification exams. If you are eligible to take the exam based on alternative criteria (such as work experience), then getting your certification will only take the time needed to register, study for, and pass the exam.
Is it possible to become a medical assistant in 6 weeks?
There are some programs that advertise a short program length like 6 weeks. Many of these programs are self-paced and asynchronous, which means that it will require significant effort to complete it in such a short timeframe.
Check out our full How to Become a Medical Assistant in 6 Weeks Guide for more information on how this can be done. An alternative way is to look for medical assistant positions that offer on-the-job training.
Are the medical assistant certification exams hard?
As with any healthcare field, the content on the medical assistant certification exams can seem overwhelming and technical at first glance. However, the exams are not generally considered too difficult. Getting a passing score is within reach if you prepare well and study.
What topics do the medical assistant certification exams cover?
In general, the certification exams cover a variety of topics including clinical medicine, administrative assisting, medical billing, and more. Check the websites for the respective certification exams to see a detailed breakdown of the test content.
Do online medical assistant certification programs include clinical experience?
This will depend on the program. For example, Stepful’s online medical assistant training program helps place you in an externship so that you can get valuable clinical experience.
What is better: CMA, RMA, or CCMA?
All of the certifications are well-regarded by employers. In the end, the best certification is the one that fits your goals. For example, CCMA certification is best suited for medical assistants who have a passion for clinical work.