Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Guide: Exam, Salary, & More

Medical assisting is a great career choice if you’re interested in getting your foot in the door in the healthcare industry. 

While not every state and healthcare facility require it, earning your medical assistaant certification can help you get a job, earn more money, and advance your career. 

A Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) is a medical assistant that has earned their certification from American Medical Technologists (AMT). This certification shows that you have the knowledge to safely and effectively help care for patients and manage common administrative duties.. 

This guide will go over what a Registered Medical Assistant is, the job description of RMAs, responsibilities, salary, how to become one, and more. 

Overview of the AMT & RMA Certification

American Medical Technologists (AMT) is a certification agency that sets certification standards, creates examinations, and provides continuing education for registered medical assistants, phlebotomists, medical laboratory technicians, and other professions.

When you get your RMA certification through AMT, you show employers that you are committed to performing well in your role as a medical assistant. Having your certification will make it easier to find a job and can potentially help you earn a higher salary. 

RMAs usually work in doctor’s offices and clinics working alongside physicians to care for patients and handle administrative tasks. They help prepare patients for examinations, give injections, answer phones, schedule appointments, and deal with billing.

The RMA exam tests your knowledge on anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and other basic patient care topics. We’ll go over exactly what’s on the exam in a later section.

How to Become a Registered Medical Assistant

Becoming a registered medical assistant can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on your previous experience and what type of educational program you choose. 

You’ll have to meet a few requirements to take the RMA exam before you can schedule a time to test. If you already meet them, you can become an RMA simply by taking the exam. If you don’t, you’ll have to complete an approved training program first or gain work experience first.

Here are the steps required to become an RMA:

1) Earn Your High School Diploma or GED

Before you can start working as a medical assistant or begin a medical assisting program, you must have a high school diploma or GED. 

2) Meet the Prerequisites to Take the RMA Exam

There are several different routes you can take to become eligible for the RMA exam. 

The first is to complete an accredited medical assisting program. Your program must include 720 hours of instruction with at least 160 hours of a medical assistant externship

The second route is to complete a US Armed Forces medical assisting program. 

The third route is by having work experience. If you have at least 3 years of experience as a medical assistant in the past 7 years, you can sign up for your exam right away. 

Finally, you are also eligible if you have worked as a medical assistant instructor for 5 years, or worked as a medical assistant instructor for 1 year but have 3 years of work experience in some other healthcare job.

3) Apply for the RMA Exam

Once you have completed the eligibility requirements, you can apply for the RMA exam. 

To do so, visit the AMT website and create an account, then go to the RMA section. 

Next, find the section that covers which eligibility requirements you have met, and select “Apply Now”. 

Then, you will fill out the application and pay the $120 examination fee. 

4) Schedule Your Exam

After you apply for your exam, you will receive an email with your authorization to test. Then, you can schedule your exam. 

Pearson VUE—an online testing platform—has a few options for testing. You can either find a testing center near you or you can sign up to take your exam from home. If you choose to take your exam from home, you will be monitored via webcam by a remote proctor while you take your exam. 

5) Study Up! 

Make sure you continue to study until your test. There are many online practice tests and study guides you can use. It is especially important to study if you have not recently completed a medical assisting program.

6) Take Your Exam

Make sure you are well-rested and have a good meal before you take your exam. Avoid “cramming” study time at the last minute. Your exam will consist of 200 questions and cover things like anatomy, physiology, and basic patient care (more on that later). 

7) Wait for Your Results

You will be able to see your score immediately after taking your exam. However, you will have to wait 1-2 weeks to receive your official results in the mail. If you do not pass your exam, you will have to wait 45 days to try again. You will also need to re-apply and pay a $90 retake fee.

8) Maintain Your Certification

After you get your certificate, you will have to make sure you maintain the certification. This is done by paying your $60 annual fee and earning continuing certification points through the AMT. 

More About the Registered Medical Assistant Exam

Here’s a deeper dive into everything you need to know about the RMA exam, including what’s on it, requirements, costs, pass rate, and more:

What’s on the RMA Exam & Requirements to Pass

The RMA exam consists of 210 multiple-choice questions and you are given 2 hours to complete it.

You will not be allowed to bring any cheat sheets or calculators to use on the test. Anything you need will be provided for you. 

Topics covered on the RMA exam include: 


Topic

Number of Questions

Percentage of exam

Anatomy and Physiology

44

20.9%

Administrative Medical Assisting

56

26.7%

Clinical Procedural Tasks

39

18.6%

Clinical Patient Interactions

71

33.8%

Requirements to Pass the RMA Exam

In order to pass the RMA exam, you must complete your exam within the 2-hour time limit and achieve a passing score of at least 70%. This means you must get 147 of the 210 questions correct. 

How Much the RMA Exam Costs

The RMA exam costs $120 the first time you take it. If you need to retake the exam, you have to pay $90. Each year, you have to pay a $60 renewal fee to stay certified. 

How to Prepare for the RMA Exam

As you study for the RMA exam, it is a good idea to take a few practice tests to see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Then, using things like Quizlet or watching instructional videos online can help solidify your learning.

Make sure that you are well rested the night before the exam and that you eat a good meal before you get to your testing center. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and wear removable layers in case you get too hot or cold. 

Arrive to the testing center at least 30 minutes early. This will give you enough time to find parking, use the restroom, and get comfortable before you take your test. If you are more than 15 minutes late, you will not be allowed to take the test. 

If you need special accommodations like break periods, an audio test, oral interpreter, or extended testing time, you can submit a request to the AMT ahead of time.

RMA Exam Statistics

The RMA exam is a moderately difficult exam, with a pass rate of 73% in 2021, 77% in 2020, and 84% in 2020. 

There are over 600,000 registered medical assistants working in the United States who have passed their exam.  

How Many Times You Can Take the RMA Exam

You are allowed to take the RMA exam 4 times total and have to pay a $90 fee with each retake. If you do not pass on the fourth attempt, you can try to get a different type of medical assisting certification

What is a Registered Medical Assistant & What Do They Do?

A registered medical assistant is someone who has earned a certification in medical assisting. Medical assistants usually work in doctors offices and clinics, but can also work in hospitals, outpatient centers, and long term care centers. 

Registered medical assistants work alongside physicians to care for patients. They often perform both clinical and administrative tasks. 

Clinical Duties of a Registered Medical Assistant

Registered medical assistants will spend a lot of their day in direct patient care. Some of these clinical responsibilities include: 

  • Taking vital signs
  • Measuring height and weight
  • Giving injections
  • Removing sutures
  • Cleaning and preparing patient rooms
  • Stocking supplies

Administrative Duties of a Registered Medical Assistant

In addition to their clinical responsibilities, medical assistants help the front of the office run smoothly. Administrative duties include: 

  • Answering phones
  • Helping with prescription refills
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Contacting insurance companies
  • Handling billing and payments

Registered Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook

The average medical assistant earns about $37,190 per year which comes out to about $18 per hour. Registered medical assistants may be able to earn more than the average, since that figure also includes those who aren’t certified.

Job outlook for medical assistants is much better than the nationwide average, with an estimated growth rate of 16% through 2031.

Registered Medical Assistant FAQs

What is the difference between RMA, CMA, and CCMA? RMA, CMA, and CCMA certifications are all accepted by employers, and one is not generally preferred over the other. They do have some different eligibility requirements, exam topics, and responsibilities. CCMAs, for example, are more focused on clinical work.

Is RMA a good certification? Getting an RMA certification is a great way to further your medical assisting career. The RMA certification can help you find a job faster and earn more money. It can also improve your chances of getting promoted.

Is the RMA exam hard? The RMA exam is not extremely difficult, but you will have to study for it. Most people who study hard and take practice exams pass on their first attempt. 

How long do RMA results take? You will see your RMA results right after you finish your exam. However, you will not get your official results for 1-2 weeks after you take your test. 

What’s the best way to study for the RMA exam? The best way to study for your RMA exam is to take practice tests and review the information covering the questions you miss. 

How long does an RMA training program take? Most RMA certification programs take anywhere from 4 months to 2 years, depending if you choose to do a medical assistant certificate or degree program. There are many online certificate programs that can be completed quickly. 

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