National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Guide: Exam, Salary, & More

A National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) is a medical assistant who has met eligibility requirements and passed an exam to earn a certification from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCTT). 

While getting a certification is not required for most medical assistants, getting a certification proves that you are competent to work in healthcare and helps you get a good job, earn more money, and be eligible for more advancement opportunities.

This guide will go over what’s on the NCMA exam, how much it costs, the responsibilities of NCMAs, average salaries, how to become one, and more. 

Overview of the NCTT & NCMA Certification

The National Center for Competency Testing is a credentialing organization that works with multiple national organizations to help healthcare professionals earn certifications in medical assisting, phlebotomy, surgical technology, and other allied healthcare professions. 

Getting your NCMA certification shows potential employers that you have the knowledge necessary for working as a medical assistant. Getting any medical assistant certification, including NCMA, often leads to better employment opportunities, higher pay, and more confidence. 

Compared to other medical assistant certifications, the NCMA is less popular. While it’s still a valid certification, CMA, CCMA, and RMA certifications are more commonplace.

NCMAs often work in doctors offices, clinics, outpatient centers, long-term care centers, and hospitals. They may work in a clinical setting or focus on front-office administrative work.

The NCMA exam can be taken after certain requirements are met. It is a multiple-choice test that has to be taken in a designated testing center or with an online proctor.

How to Become a National Certified Medical Assistant

Before you can become a National Certified Medical Assistant, you must meet the requirements to take the NCMA exam, study, and, of course, pass the test. 

While becoming a National Certified Medical Assistant requires some work, it is an achievable goal. Here’s how to do it:

1. Earn your high school diploma or GED. Before you can get any experience or enroll in a medical assisting program, you must have a high school diploma or GED. 

2. Meet the prerequisites to take the NCMA exam.  There are several routes to becoming eligible for the NCMA exam. Eligibility routes include:

  • Complete an NCCT-authorized medical assisting program. Students who have completed a medical assisting program within the last five years are eligible to take the exam. 
  • Gain two years of full-time experience within 5 years of registering to take the exam. You can learn more about taking the medical assistant exam without going to school here.
  • Complete a medical assistant training course or its equivalent during military service in the United States. 

3. Apply for the NCMA exam. To apply for the NCMA exam, first create an account with NCCT. Then, you must fill out and submit all required paperwork including proof of program completion or work experience at least 14 days before your planned test date. Once everything is submitted, you’ll pay the exam fee and complete your registration.

4. Schedule your exam. Exams can be taken in a testing center or online through an online proctoring service. To test online, you must have a reliable internet connection and a webcam.

5. Study up! The NCMA exam is not one that you’ll be able to pass without committing some time to study. There are many free resources online you can use to prepare for your exam. 

6. Take your exam. Your exam will cover clinical and administrative medical assisting topics, as well as things like medical ethics and law. Take a deep breath, and stay relaxed as you sit for your exam. 

7. Wait for your results. You will receive a pass/fail score immediately after you complete your exam. For those who fail the exam, the computer program will provide insight into your strengths and weaknesses. 

8. Maintain your certification. Each year, you have to complete 14 hours of continuing education courses in order to maintain your certification. In addition, you’ll have to pay a $77 fee to renew each year.

More About the National Certified Medical Assistant Exam

The National Certified Medical Assistant exam is administered by the National Center for Competency Testing. Passing the exam shows that someone has the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to work as a medical assistant. 

What’s on the NCMA Exam & Requirements to Pass

The NCMA exam is similar to other medical assisting certification exams and is designed to test knowledge and competencies related to a variety of medical assisting topics. 

Topics covered on the NCMA exam include the following:

Topic Information Covered # Questions
Clinical Procedures EKG, phlebotomy, infection control, patient care 72
Law and Ethics Scope of practice, medical law, HIPAA 20
General Medical Knowledge Anatomy, physiology, pharmacology 18
Administrative Duties Communication, medical records, billing, and insurance 15

Here is some other important information about the NCMA exam:

  • Length of the exam. The NCMA exam consists of 150 scored questions and 15 unscored practice test questions. 
  • Format. Most of the exam consists of standard four-option multiple-choice questions. About 10 questions will be drag-and-drop, multi-select, or hotspot questions. Questions are pulled from a large test question bank, meaning that each candidate will take a slightly different test.
  • What you’re allowed to use. Students taking the NCMA exam are not allowed to use scratch paper, study notes, or calculators during the exam. 
  • Exam time limit. Candidates have 3 hours to complete their exam. 

Requirements to Pass the NCMA Exam

Each of the 150 questions on the NCMA exam is given a different value of points based on difficulty. More difficult questions are weighted more heavily than easier questions.

You must score at least 70 on a sliding scale to pass your exam. 

How Much the NCMA Exam Costs

The NCMA exam fee is $119. You can also purchase an NCMA review course for $70. It costs $77 each year to renew your certification.

Keep in mind that there are also costs associated with medical assistant training programs. Certification programs can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

How to Prepare for the NCMA Exam

The NCCT offers several review systems for purchase through its website. The most expensive review system includes flashcards, case scenarios, and interactive review questions. 

There are many medical assistant exam books available for purchase online. A test prep book does not have to be specific to the NCMA to be helpful. Reviewing general medical assisting content is an effective way to study.

In addition, you can review notes from medical assisting courses, take free practice exams online, or watch YouTube videos with medical assisting exam content. 

The day before your exam, make sure to get plenty of rest and try not to cram in a lot of last-minute studying. Get to the testing center early to make sure you have enough time to find parking, use the restroom, and find your way to the exam room. 

NCMA Exam Statistics

IN 2021, 6,577 people took the NCCT exam. Of these candidates, 56.8% passed their test.  This exam passing rate includes both first-time attempts and repeat attempts.

How Many Times You Can Take the NCMA Exam

If you do not pass your exam on your first or second try, you must wait 30 days to try again. If you fail the test for a third time, there is a mandatory one-year wait before you will be allowed to take your fourth attempt.

A person is only allowed to attempt the NCMA exam four times in total. If you do not pass your NCMA exam on the fourth attempt, you can try to get a different type of medical assisting certification.

Keep in mind that the 150 questions on your exam are pulled from a larger bank of questions. This means that while you may get some repeat questions, the test will be different each time you take it.

What is a National Certified Medical Assistant & What Do They Do?

A National Certified Medical Assistant is someone who has completed training and passed their certification exam for medical assisting. Medical assistants are healthcare workers who typically work in doctors offices, clinics, and outpatient centers. 

Medical assistants work closely with physicians to provide high-quality healthcare for every patient they work with. They help healthcare facilities run smoothly by taking care of both administrative and clinical responsibilities

Clinical Duties of a National Certified Medical Assistant

Clinical duties of a medical assistant include: 

Administrative Duties of a National Certified Medical Assistant

Administrative duties include front office, work, organizational tasks, and management of logistics like finances and scheduling. Some examples include:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Contacting insurance companies
  • Keeping accurate medical records 
  • Organizing paperwork 
  • Ordering supplies 
  • Answering phones 
  • Assisting with prescription refill requests

National Certified Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook

Medical assistants earn $37,190 per year, on average, or about $17.88 per hour. Having your certification can help you earn up to 10% more than your uncertified colleagues. 

In addition to earning a decent salary, medical assistants have a great job outlook. Between 2021 and 2031, medical assisting jobs are expected to increase by 16%. 

National Certified Medical Assistant FAQs

What is the difference between NCMA, RMA, CMA, and CCMa? 

The biggest difference between NCMA, RMA, CMA, and CCMA is the credentialing agency. While most healthcare facilities prefer to hire medical assistants with certifications, it is rare for them to be picky about the exact type of medical assisting certification. 

Is NCMA a good certification?

The NCMA certification is comparable to other types of medical assisting certifications. 

Is the NCMA exam hard?

The NCMA exam is difficult, with less than a 60% first-time pass rate. However, students who attend a high-quality medical assisting program and spend a reasonable amount of time studying often pass on the first try.

How long do NCMA results take?

You will receive a pass/fail score immediately after the completion of your exam. 

What’s the best way to study for the NCMA exam?

The best way to study for the NCMA exam is to attend a high-quality medical assisting program and take plenty of practice exams. Practice exams help you identify your weaknesses and strengths, and find out what topics you need to spend the most time on. 

How long does an NCMA training program take? 

Completing a medical assisting program to become eligible to sit for the NCMA exam can take anywhere from four months to two years. 

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