How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

Certified medical assistants (CMAs) work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, and patient care centers. They perform a variety of tasks, including administrative tasks and clinical duties. As the healthcare field grows, demand for CMAs is expected to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that opportunities for CMAs will increase by 16% by 2031, faster than the growth rate for other jobs.1 

If you enjoy working with people and are interested in the medical profession, a career as a CMA might be good for you. In many cases, you can complete training and begin working as a CMA in a little over a year. Here’s what you need to do.

Enroll in a Certified Medical Assistant Program

The first step toward a career as a CMA is to enroll in a medical assistant career certificate program. In a CMA certificate program, you’ll learn the basics of patient exams and treatments, how to perform emergency procedures and medication basics.

The program should also introduce you to medical assistant phlebotomy, or the practice of drawing blood from patients, electrocardiography, or taking images of patients’ hearts.

An externship, which provides on-the-job experience, will also be part of your training program.

Since medical assistants perform both clinical and administrative tasks on the job, your certificate program should also teach you how to perform receptionist duties, handle medical insurance claims and billing, and office management basics. 

Develop Soft Skills

A medical assistant career certificate program will teach you the hard skills you need to succeed in your new career. It’s also important to focus on developing the soft skills that the role requires. Your externship or practicum will give you the opportunity to work on developing your soft skills, such as:

  • Attention to detail: As a CMA, you’ll need to take patients’ vital signs and record their information. Being accurate and noting anything unusual is crucial for providing patients with the best care.
  • Communication: You’ll need to interact with various people in your role as a CMA, from physicians and other medical professionals to patients. Knowing how to listen to patients and report what they say to physicians and how to engage with other team members is critical for job success. 
  • Interpersonal skills: The patients you work with might be in varying levels of distress or discomfort. You’ll want to develop empathy and compassion to help provide them with the best possible care.
  • Problem-solving: Being able to think on your feet and solve problems will help you thrive as a CMA. You’ll develop this skill through your externship and as you get hands-on experience in the field.

Take the Medical Assistant Certification Exam

After you’ve completed a medical assistant career certificate program, you’re eligible to take the CMA exam from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the Registered Medical Assistant exam from American Medical Technologists (AMT). To be eligible for either exam, you need to have completed a training program first. 

Can You Work as a Medical Assistant Without Being Certified?

Certification isn’t always a requirement for medical assistants. You might be able to find a medical assistant job without earning a certification or completing a certificate program. 

But, many hospitals and physicians’ practices prefer to hire medical assistants who are certified, as they have experience and knowledge of the field, meaning they require less on-the-job training. 

Suppose you’re curious about the medical assisting profession. In that case, you might be able to get an entry-level job as a medical assistant to see how it works, then decide to enroll in a training program and earn your certification later on.

How to Find Certified Medical Assistant Jobs

Once you’ve earned your certification, you can start looking for CMA jobs. Your school can assist you in looking for work as a medical assistant. It’s a good idea to choose a school that has a high job placement rate for graduates. Orange Technical College’s Winter Garden, Florida campus had a job placement rate of 90.48% for students who graduated in 2019. 

The AAMA and AMT can also be useful resources when you’re looking for work as a medical assistant. Employers often look for qualified candidates directly from the member lists at either organization. 

Your career as a CMA can begin at Orange Technical College. Contact us today to learn more about the enrollment process. 


  1. Medical Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics,