How Long Does A Medical Assistant Certification Take?

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If you want to work as a medical assistant, it is best if you get certified. Certification proves that you have the knowledge and skills needed to assist in treating patients. Here’s how to receive medical assistant certification.


Many employers require medical assistant certification before they will consider job applicants.

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential is offered through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and is a national certification.

So how do you receive your CMA, medical assistant certification and how long does it take?

Certified Medical Assistant Training

To become certified as a medical assistant, you must first receive training from an accredited program like the one offered at Southern Careers Institute.

Students can complete the program in only 36 weeks with full-time enrollment.

Here, training in medical office techniques and laboratory procedures gives students the opportunity to then participate in a 160-hour externship in a doctor’s office, hospital, clinic, or laboratory.

This hands-on experience is required for those who want to receive medical assistant certification and one of many available jobs in the CMA career field.

The following are the courses required in the medical assistant training program:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • Clinical Skills I & II
  • Electronic Health Records I & II
  • Phlebotomy and Lab Procedures I & II
  • EKG I & II
  • Medical Billing I
  • Diseases of the Human Body
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Communication
  • Medical Terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical Practice Management
  • Customer Service
  • Word Processing
  • Medical Assistant Externship
  • Career Readiness

New graduates are encouraged to take medical assistant certification exams within 30 days after completing their training so that they can apply the knowledge gained.

Apply for Medical Assistant Certification

Most healthcare facilities require medical assistants to prove what they know by being certified.

Additionally, medical assistants who are certified earn higher pay than those who are not.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, certified medical assistants earn an average of $33,610.

And in the state of Texas, the average pay for certified medical assistants is $31,580 yearly.


To apply for the CMA exam, qualified candidates should do the following:

  1. Read the Candidate Application and Handbook for the CMA Certification/Recertification Examination. This will help you determine eligibility and what documentation you need to present. Review all exam policies and information.
  2. Gather any needed documentation. If you are a recent graduate, no documentation is needed. Your training will be verified by your program director. If more than a year has passed since graduation, official transcripts are required.
  3. Select a testing date. If you apply before the 15th of any month, the earliest you can take the exam is the 1st of the following month. If you apply on or after the 15th of any month, you can take the exam starting on the 15th of the following month. 
  4. Apply for and schedule the exam. Applications can be submitted online or by mail. You have a 90-day testing period from when your application is received and approved.
  5. Prepare for the exam. The AAMA  Computer-based Testing Tutorial helps you familiarize yourself with the software interface and practice taking the test.
  6. Take the exam. 

 It is also important to note that official scores post within eight weeks after the exam. 

 CMA Exam Format

The CMA examination is a rigorous test that requires a thorough understanding of healthcare delivery.

It consists of 200 multiple choice questions given in four 40-minute time slots.

Candidates receive testing on the following topics:

  • Psychology
  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Medical law
  • Regulatory guidelines
  • Medical ethics
  • Risk management
  • Safety
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical reception
  • Patient navigation
  • Medical business practices
  • Medical record handling
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Practice finance
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Infection control
  • Patient documentation
  • Patient preparation
  • Assisting providers
  • Nutrition
  • Collecting and processing specimens
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Pharmacology
  • Emergency management
  • First aid

Exams are taken at a testing site and an online tutorial is available for practice. Each candidate has three chances to pass the test with no waiting period between attempts.

However, a new application and testing fee is required for each attempt. And if three attempts are failed, the candidate is no longer eligible for certification.

Furthermore, medical assistant certification is good for 60 months. Medical assistants also need to re-certify their credentials through testing or continuing education on or before the expiration date.  

How Long Does it Take to Get Medical Assistant Certification?

If you attend school full-time, you can complete the medical assistant training program in as little as nine months.

It is also important to note that applying to take the certification exam immediately after graduation gives you three months to take the exam.

So essentially, from the time you begin your education, it takes about one year to become certified. 

Other Certifications Available

Additional certifications available to trained medical assistants include:

  • CCMA (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant) – administered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) for medical assistants who are not involved in administrative duties
  • CMAA (Certified Medical Administrative Assistant) – the NHA certification for those who perform healthcare administrative duties
  • CPT (Certified Phlebotomy Technician) – phlebotomists draw blood from patients and donors
  • CET (Certified EKG Technician) – EKG technicians set up and administer electrocardiograms (EKG) to patients in order to test the activity of the heart
  • CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) – CPR certification is good for two years
  • EHRS (Electronic Health Records Specialist) – Electronic health records are the digital version of patients’ paper charts
  • Microsoft Word Certified 

CMA Training For a New Career

The Medical Assistant training program at Southern Careers Institute is offered online and at the Austin, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Pharr, and San Antonio North and South campuses.

Students receive hands-on experience and the ability to sit for a variety of certification examinations.

Our career services team can help you launch your new career with resume building, interviewing techniques, and job readiness training.

Additionally, potential employers have the chance to look at your credentials and experience even before you meet for an interview.

So what are you waiting for? The sooner you apply, the sooner you can start fresh in a new career path!




Blog Disclaimer: Information stated in this blog is for general information purposes only. does not assume or guarantee income earning potential or salary expectations based on the programs offered at Southern Careers Institute. Career and program information stated in this blog does not guarantee that programs and specifics are offered at Southern Careers Institute.

This article was published on: 04/6/20 10:53 AM

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