In this article, we’re going to explain a question that’s confusing and worrying a lot of prospective (and maybe even current) medical assistants today: Can I become a medical assistant without first holding any certification?
Well, before we answer that, let’s clear up something right now. We are specifically talking about certification—not a certificate. In other words, certification is something you acquire from one of four sponsoring certification organizations after you have passed a certification examination.
A certificate, on the other hand, is simply something you earn following graduation of a post-secondary school or college program.
With that out of the way, let’s begin to answer the main question on everyone’s mind.
Do I Need Certification to Become a Medical Assistant?
The short answer is no. The long answer is still no, with a healthy dose of maybe.
First, why is the short answer no? Simply put (as of now), you do not need to be certified to become a medical assistant. You can go to school, earn a certificate or a degree, apply for a job and land that job without having to prove that you also hold any certification from the AAMA or AMT or NCCT or NHA.
In fact, when you search on a job board and see that an employer is seeking medical assistant applicants, a lot of these job descriptions will simply seek the following:
-Applicants that have graduated high school and possess a medical assistant certificate.
Some employers will want those that have prior experience working as a MA (medical assistant) as well.
So What Is the Long Answer to the Question?
Like a lot of things in life, situations are not black and white and can be somewhat misleading. So here’s why we say that, ultimately, you might need to be certified.
Yes, as mentioned before, the truth is that you do not need to be certified to acquire a medical assisting job. But, there’s a big difference between truth and reality, even though they do sound the same.
The reality is this: even if you personally aren’t a Certified Medical Assistant (meaning you have passed the CMA exam provided to you by AAMA), the fact is that those applying to the same job as you probably have.
Therefore, if an employer sees your resume pop up for a job opening, and you’re simply a Medical Assistant, and this employer also sees someone a Certified Medical Assistant’s resume (with relatively the same skill and education as you) apply for the same job, who do you think will get hired?
The person who is credentialed, of course.
Now, this isn’t always the case necessarily. For instance, if you have a lot of great working experience but aren’t certified, and the other applicant is certified but has no prior working experience, it’s very possible that an employer may prioritize the person with experience over the person who passed the CMA examination.
But, if the two resumes are similar, as well as the education and working experience, then there’s an extremely high likihood that the medical assistant that’s certified will get hired.
Remember, too, that it’s not just about an employer wanting to hire someone that has met a certain “standard” simply by passing an exam. It’s much more than that.
For example, no hospital or medical office wants to be put in a potentially contentious or threatening position by a patient due to malpractice. Because of that, employers want to be very proactive in making sure they hire employees that are the best of the best.
If you pass an examination and receive certification, you are proving to your potential employer that you’re the best of the best. That you have more knowledge of the medical field and understanding of how to implement the training you received (at least as it pertains to your job or your daily duties) than an applicant who has received the same training and education but never to the certification test.
I’m Not Certified, So What Are My Options?
So let’s say that, after reading this article, you’ve come to an understanding that while you may not need certification to get a job, you know that it will likely help you land one and ultimately give you a leg up when searching for a job.
So what are your options?
Well, the first is this: If you want to be credentialed by the AAMA—which is the only certifying body that solely certifies medical assistants—then there’s only one way to get that credential: You must have graduated from a post-secondary school or college that’s accredited by either the CAAHEP or the ABHES.
If you know that you’ve either never graduated from an accredited medical assisting school, or you plan to attend a medical assistant school that’s not accredited, there are a few other options out there for you.
The AMT (American Medical Technologists) have five different pathways towards eligibility. And while one is certainly having graduated from an accredited program, if you don’t meet that criteria, there are other options (like having graduated from a training program of the United States Armed Forces, for example, or having been employed as a medical assistant for a minimum of five years).
Then, there are for-profit organizations like the NHA and NCCT, which allow those to acquire certification too. Their pathways offer less options but are also a bit less demanding. For example, the NHA requires that you successfully complete an allied health training program within the last year or hold one year of employment as a medical assistant.
The NCCT will ask applicants to have graduated from an NCCT accredited program within the last decade, or to have two years of full time employment as a medical assistant within the past decade.
As you can see, each organization offers something different in the way of requirements. Choosing which one you opt to go with can depend on where you currently stand in terms of your education or work experience.
Hopefully this article has helped you better understand whether or not certification is truly needed to become a medical assistant. While we admit that, at the end of the day, you really don’t need certification from an organization to become a working medical assistant, hopefully this article has helped shed some light for why you may want to strongly consider becoming certified so that it can open more doors for you down the line.
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