Medical Assisting: Should You Get Certified?
About the Author
Daughter of Maat is an ophthalmic technician (a type of medical assistant) and has been examining patients on a daily basis for over 19 years.
She has had rigorous training under the supervision of an ophthalmologist and specialized in the cornea, cataracts, and retina as well as how systemic disease affects the eye. She has been certified by JCAHPO as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant.
Medical assisting is one of the fastest growing fields in the nation, and it is projected to have 31 percent job growth over the next ten years.
If you are planning on making medical assisting a career, getting certified can help you stand out in this growing crowd. To a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), it’s not just a job; it’s a career, and certification shows ambition and dedication.
Certification is not required (legally or otherwise) to be a medical assistant, especially if most of your training has been on-the-job.
However, for potential employers, it represents a certain level of knowledge and expertise. Everyone who passes the test has the same qualifications because the test is standardized.
Reasons for Certification
A medical assistant who is certified has highly specialized skills that allow them to perform tasks like giving patients medication by injection, which allows the physician to focus on diagnosing and seeing more patients increasing their productivity. This benefits the entire practice.
As a Certified Medical Assistant, you will be more confident when working with patients. Knowing an assistant is certified also eases a patient’s fears. They know they are in good hands and are not being treated by someone who is not well trained. It is easier to treat a patient when they are not nervous or apprehensive.
Certification also increases your odds of advancement. Because of the guaranteed skill set, certified medical assistants with experience will be the first choice for management opportunities, which will also affect your salary.
Although salary varies widely by location and experience, a medical assistant who is certified will make considerably more than one who is not.
The difference between the two can be $4,000 to $6,000 a year. Typically, a Certified Medical Assistant with less than one year experience can make anywhere from $19,330 to $40,123, whereas an uncertified assistant with the same experience would make from $18,548 to $36,654.
Reasons Against Certification
One of the most common reasons assistants choose not to certify is the cost of the exam. If you have not taken a course accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or if you are not a member of American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the exam will cost $250.00.
Otherwise the test will cost $125.00. This can be a burden if your employer does not pay for the exam for you, or at least reimburse the cost after you pass.
Certification May Not Be Enough
If you are interested in advancement into management positions such as a medical office manager or medical assistant instructor, certification may not be enough. You may need further education, which is costly and is not for everyone. This is dependent on experience and specialty.
For example, someone, like myself, who is certified as an ophthalmic assistant with 20 years’ experience would most likely not need further education due to the highly specialized nature of the field and the amount of experience they have. The same would apply to podiatry or any other specialty. It is important to remember that certification does not replace experience.
Helpful Links for More Information on Medical Assisting
- Online Medical Assistant Programs and Certification
Online medical assistant programs help entry-level health professionals enter the field with the knowledge, skills, and certification needed to succeed.
- American Medical Technologists (AMT)
The American Medical Technologists (AMT) is a nonprofit certification agency and professional membership association representing over 60,000 individuals in allied health care.
- Medical Certifications | Pharmacy, EKG, Phlebotomy, Technicians | NHA
NHA is a leading Allied Health Medical Certification provider that is dedicated to improving health-care one worker at a time. We offer certifications for Pharmacy Technicians, EKG Technicians, Phlebotomy Technicians, and many more. Visit NHANow.com!
- American Association of Medical Assistants - AAMA
The American Association of Medical Assistants is a membership organization that promotes the professional identity and stature of the medical assisting profession through education and the CMA (AAMA)credential.
Certification Must Be Renewed
One of the major drawbacks of certification is that it has to be renewed. Medical assistants usually need to recertify every 5 years (60 months), but this will vary depending on specialty. For example, ophthalmic assistants must recertify every three years (36 months).
To renew your certification, you will need to earn continuing education (CE) credits, which can be earned through seminars, workshops, classes and sometimes self-study. Certified medical assistants typically need 60 CE credits per recertification period, but this, again, can vary by specialty.
To apply for recertification, a fee must be submitted with your CE credits and an application. If you are a member of AAMA or have completed a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited program, your cost for recertification would be $65.00. Otherwise you will pay $130.00, and all fees are nonrefundable.
CPR Certification Requirement
To keep your certification as a medical assistant, you will need to be certified in CPR (except for ophthalmic assistants for whom this is no longer a requirement).
This can be another drawback to certification because CPR courses for medical personnel are quite different from a course for an individual in both price and content. Most employers will provide CPR training for their employees.
However, some do not, and CPR courses can be expensive.
Should YOU Get Certified?
Becoming certified isn’t for everyone. Some people never get certified. Others (like myself) have years of experience and only become certified toward the end of their career.
Many assistants who are not certified know their job better than those who are certified. The most important thing to remember is that employers are looking for someone who can do the work and knows their job well.
© Copyright 2012 - 2015 by Melissa Flagg (aka Daughter of Maat) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED