What Is a Certified Medical Assistant?

Certified medical assistants (CMAs) perform clinical and clerical tasks in hospitals, surgical centers and the offices of physicians and other medical professionals. Keep reading to learn more about what CMAs do, what education they need and how much money they can earn. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

Certified medical assistants (CMAs) work in offices of physicians, podiatrists and chiropractors, and at other medical facilities, where they assist with clerical and clinical tasks. The jobs entrusted to these professionals depend on individual state laws, as well as the size of the medical facility where they work. Some common duties of a CMA include:

  • Greeting patients
  • Billing and bookkeeping
  • Performing clerical duties, such as answering telephones and scheduling appointments
  • Preparing patients for examinations
  • Assisting physicians during examinations
  • Giving injections
  • Performing blood draws
  • Sterilizing instruments for procedures
  • Doing medical coding

Important Facts About Certified Medical Assistants

Job Outlook (2016-2026)29% (much faster than average)
Continuing EducationExam or continuing education required every five years
Key SkillsTechnical skills, analysis, interpersonal skills
Similar OccupationsDental hygienist, nursing assistant, pharmacy technician

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training

CMAs are certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants www.aama-ntl.org). In order to take the CMA Certification/Recertification Examination, one must be 18 or older and complete an accredited medical assistant training program, including a medical assistant externship. Training programs are available as diplomas and certificates, although some may choose to earn an associate's degree. In addition to studying medical terminology and anatomy, students gain some lab experience.

The CMA exam includes three sections and a total of 200 questions. Some topics covered include medical terminology, psychology, anatomy and physiology, communication, professionalism, legal requirements, office administration, nutrition, first aid and infection control.

Earnings Potential

As of June 2019, CMAs earned a median hourly rate of $14.83, according to Payscale.com. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical assistants in general earned a median hourly wage of $16.16 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Those who worked in junior colleges had the highest earning potential of $21.00 an hour on average. Physicians' offices were the top employer and paid medical assistants $15.02 an hour on average, while general hospitals paid them a slightly higher average wage of $16.50 per hour. Offices of other health practitioners offered an hourly mean wage of $15.22.

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