The CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam Eligibility Pilot Program: Do You Qualify?

In August 2019, the Certifying Board (CB) of the AAMA approved the launch of a three-year eligibility pilot program, which temporarily opens a new education pathway for medical assistants to become eligible to sit for the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam.

Applicants first submit their documentation for review—free of charge—to determine their eligibility to apply for the exam.

Am I Eligible?

To be eligible for this pathway to CMA (AAMA) certification, candidates must have graduated from a postsecondary (college-level) medical assisting program that meets the following criteria:

  • Is the equivalent of two semesters and includes a minimum of 560 academic contact hours (not including practicum/externship)
  • Includes a minimum of a 160-hour practicum/externship (or 1,000 hours of medical assisting experience following program completion) in an ambulatory setting
  • Awards a diploma, certificate, or associate degree
  • Is offered by an institution accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • Has a required curriculum that includes the following:
    • Basic anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, infection control, and applied mathematics
    • Theory and techniques of intramuscular, intradermal, and subcutaneous injection administration
    • Theory and techniques of phlebotomy

The full criteria and submission requirements for the review are outlined on the Eligibility Pilot Program webpage of the AAMA website.

Why Launch This Pilot Program?

Before implementing the program, the CB took into account several policy priorities, including but not limited to the following:

  • Maintaining global and national accreditation standards
  • Protecting patients from substandard practice
  • Heeding a recommendation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies
  • Needing to collect and evaluate empirical evidence on examination performance by candidates who are not graduates of accredited medical assisting programs

Examine all the CB’s considerations and rationale in detail by reading the November/December 2019 Public Affairs article, “The CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam Eligibility Pilot Program: Criteria and Rationale for the Three-Year Pilot Study.”

Seven Insider Reasons to Earn—and Keep—Your CMA (AAMA)® Certification

Achieving CMA (AAMA)® certification is a great way to boost your career in medical assisting! Check out these reasons CMA (AAMA) certification is right for you:

1. Nationally and Globally Accredited
1. Nationally and Globally Accredited

The Certified Medical Assistant® (AAMA)—or CMA (AAMA)—credential represents a medical assistant who has been credentialed through the Certifying Board (CB) of the AAMA.

The CB of the AAMA has been awarded accreditation by the International Accreditation Service (IAS) under ISO 17024, the global benchmark for personnel certification bodies, thus ensuring the CMA (AAMA) represents a world-class certification.

The CMA (AAMA) Certification Program remains accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)—an accrediting arm of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE).

Consequently, the CB and its CMA (AAMA) Certification Program are the only medical assisting certifying body and certification program (respectively) that hold accreditation under both ISO 17024 and the NCCA Standards.

2. College-Level Medical Assisting Education Required
2. College-Level Medical Assisting Education Required

The CMA (AAMA) is the only medical assisting certification that requires postsecondary education. This requirement serves as the foundation by which CMAs (AAMA) prove that they stand apart from the crowd and set the bar for excellence in medical assisting.

3. Extensive Knowledge Confirmed
3. Extensive Knowledge Confirmed

Certification offers employers proof that you have achieved the highest standards of education and credentialing in the medical assistant field. The rigorous standards of the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam testify that CMAs (AAMA) have thorough, broad, and current understanding of their health care delivery responsibilities as detailed in the Content Outline for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam.

Even more, CMAs (AAMA) must recertify their credential every five years by retaking the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam or by completing continuing education requirements. This dedication to learning throughout their careers helps medical assistants stay at the top of their field and demonstrates a commitment to providing safe and quality patient care.

4. Certification Is In Demand
4. Certification Is In Demand

Many factors combine to create a driving force for an increased demand for medical assistants who have current CMA (AAMA) certification:

  • Legal perils
  • Managed care pressures
  • State and federal laws
  • Qualification for entering orders for the Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program
5. Certification Pays Off
5. Certification Pays Off

Medical assistants who are certified often receive better compensation than non-certified medical assistants. Learn more about CMA (AAMA) pay and benefits in the CMA (AAMA) Compensation and Benefits Report.

6. The AAMA Backs You Up
6. The AAMA Backs You Up

With the AAMA, employers can easily verify CMA (AAMA) certification status through the website or by contacting AAMA staff. Every day, the AAMA receives more than 100 employer requests for verification for both current and potential employees.

7. CMAs (AAMA) Earn Digital Badges
7. CMAs (AAMA) Earn Digital Badges

The Certifying Board of the AAMA offers digital badging to its CMAs (AAMA) as a secure and versatile way to promote—and confirm—their excellence in medical assisting. Digital badges can be added to email signatures, social media profiles, and more. CMAs (AAMA) who certify or recertify on or after June 1, 2021, will receive a digital badge. More info coming soon.

Who Can Take the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam?

Only the following individuals are eligible to sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam:

  • Completing students or graduates of a medical assisting program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Nonrecent graduates of a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting program
  • CMA (AAMA) recertificants
  • Graduates of a qualified postsecondary medical assisting program (for a limited time; see note)

Visit the Eligibility Requirements for the CMA (AAMA)® Exam for more details on requirements or contact the AAMA Certification Department via email ( or phone (800/228-2262) to speak with someone who can assist in determining your eligibility.

Note: During the three-year eligibility pilot program that began August 2019, a new education pathway is available for medical assistants to become eligible to sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. Learn more on the Eligibility Pilot Program Requirements for the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam webpage.

Welcome to the CMA (AAMA) In Sight Blog

Medical assistants are some of the most versatile allied health professionals, cross-trained in both clinical and administrative responsibilities. So, it’s no surprise medical assisting is experiencing faster than average growth (compared with all occupations) in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more, medical assisting is growing faster than other health care support occupations.

How can you stand out? By earning and maintaining your CMA (AAMA)® certification! Not only do CMAs (AAMA) set the bar for excellence in medical assisting, they show a commitment to achieving the highest standards of education and credentialing in the medical assisting field.

Thus, the American Association of Medical Assistants® is pleased to welcome you to its second blog, CMA (AAMA) In Sight: For Medical Assistants with an Eye for Excellence! We aim to provide pertinent information on certification to help you achieve your goals. Subscribe to the blog for discussion of certification topics (e.g., reasons for certification) and answers to common questions (e.g., who can take the certification exam?).

Let us know what topics interest you in the comments. We look forward to making your certification a success!