Registered or Certified? Terms Hold Equal Importance in Medical Assisting

Medical assisting credentials may use various terms in their initialisms, with two common words being registered and certified. When choosing a credential, medical assisting professionals may have concerns about the significance of those words and whether they affect the weight of their achievement.

In some fields, registered indicates licensed status for credentials. For example, in professional nursing, a registered nurse is a nurse who has met state educational and testing requirements and is licensed to practice professional nursing.

However, this distinction is not true in medical assisting. National medical assisting credentials with the word registered as part of the credential name are not of a higher-level status than medical assisting credentials with certified in their name.

Further, the Certified Medical Assistant® (AAMA) credential—or the CMA (AAMA)®—has rigorous college-level education requirements and is nationally accredited. It is also globally accredited under ISO 17024, unlike other certifications and registrations.

Thus, medical assistants should focus on what the credential represents, with the understanding that registered and certified carry the same significance.

Learn more about why the CMA (AAMA) is a preferred credential in the Public Affairs article “CMA (AAMA) Certification: Why It Is the Premier Credential” and on the AAMA website.

Ready to Certify? It’s Never Too Late to Take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam

All graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) qualify to take the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam. Still, many have questions about the lifespan of their eligibility. In other words, are they still eligible to take the exam, even years after their graduation?

Qualifying CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam applicants have no application deadline. An individual who meets the qualifications for one of the eligibility categories can take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam regardless of when they graduated—whether they graduated in the past year or decades ago.

Candidates must meet the criteria for one of the following eligibility categories:

  • Category 1: Completing student or recent graduate of a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting program
  • Category 2: Nonrecent graduate of a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting program
  • Category 3: CMA (AAMA) recertificant
  • Certification Exam Eligibility Pilot Program*: Graduate of a qualified medical assisting program who submitted their documentation for review to the AAMA Certification Department to confirm their eligibility

Note that applicants who graduated CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting programs more than 12 months ago may qualify for the exam as a Category 2 applicant.

Learn more about the eligibility requirements for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam on the “Exam Eligibility Requirements” webpage of the AAMA website.

*During the time-limited eligibility pilot program that began August 2019, a new education pathway is available for medical assistants to be eligible to sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. Learn more on the “Eligibility Pilot Program Requirements for the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam” webpage.

Badge of Honor: Publicize Your Credential with Digital Badging

At the beginning of June 2021, the American Association of Medical Assistants® welcomed a new, cutting-edge technology for their members: digital badging.

What Are Digital Badges?

BadgeCert digital badges are third-party verifiable icons that are packed with information or metadata about the issuing organization, when and how the credential was earned, and when it will expire.


With a digital badge, CMAs (AAMA)® can securely—and quickly—share their credential across the web, on résumés, in email signatures, and via social media outlets to celebrate and validate their achievement. Digital badging offers earners of CMA (AAMA) certification 24/7 access to their cloud-based portfolio and allows CMAs (AAMA) to share and celebrate the achievement their badge represents. A digital badge is shareable via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

How It Affects You

If you certify or recertify on or after June 1, 2021, you will receive a digital badge instead of a paper certificate. After you receive an email confirming your BadgeCert account, you can access and share your badge:

  • Access your BadgeCert account by logging in using the instructions provided via email. The email will be sent out once AAMA staff process your certification status update when you certify or recertify on or after June 1, 2021.
  • View your badges by clicking “My Badge Portfolio” in the left-side navigation menu. Find the badge URL and metadata by hovering your mouse over the badge image and clicking the “View Badge” icon, which is the eye graphic.
  • Share your CMA (AAMA) certification badge by clicking on the badge and the “Share” icon. This will open a new window that allows you to share the badge via email or social media.

Learn More

Visit the AAMA “Digital Badges” webpage or the BadgeCert “FAQs & User Guides” to find answers to frequently asked questions and additional details about using digital badges.
Still have questions? Need to update your name or email address? Contact the AAMA Certification Department via email at or call 800/228-2262.

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.