Medical assistants play a very valuable role, but they are NOT nurses !
Medical assistants play a very valuable
role, but they are NOT nurses !

Is it Possible to Work as an MA without Certification?

In recent years, medical assisting has become one of the most attractive healthcare careers to specialize in. Despite this shiny new popularity, medical assisting has been around for decades. Medical assistants have historically been trained on-the-job, without formal training and practiced under a physician’s direct supervision.

What is MA Certification?

Medical assisting certification is a universal way of proving competency in the profession. MA certification has helped medical assistants gain credibility among other healthcare professions. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers medical assisting certification. When passed, you may use the credentials CMA, or certified medical assistant.

Before certification was offered, there wasn’t a good way for a medical assistant to prove that she had the knowledge and skills needed to work as a qualified MA. Now, the certification exam is one way to show that you know your stuff. To earn the CMA credential, you must take and pass a written exam that covers topics like:

  • Clinical procedures
  • Anatomy, Physiology and Disease
  • Administrative Procedures
  • Laboratory Procedures
  • Medication administration

Because medical assistants in the past could be hired without formal training, and had no accountability requirements, the profession wasn’t always taken seriously by other health care professionals. Certification has helped change that.

Do Employers Require Certification?

AAMA certification is not a state or federal requirement for working as a medical assistant. However, many employers do require that their medical assistants be certified. Medical liability is an ongoing issue in healthcare. Physicians want reassurance that the medical assistants they hire are competent and have the skills to safely treat patients. Some insurance agencies that insure physicians and healthcare centers may also require that medical assistants be certified to keep medical liability risks down.

It is possible to work as a medical assistant without certification. If you are a new graduate, you may be hired to work as an uncertified medical assistant; however, your employer may ask that you earn certification in a certain amount of time after hire. If you are a medical assistant who never received formal training, you may also find employment without certification based on your years of work experience.

Benefits to Being Certified

There are many benefits to earning your certified medical assistant credential:


  • Better overall job opportunities
  • Better pay
  • Opportunity for advancement

Certified medical assistants are often paid more than their non-certified counterparts. You may be offered a more attractive starting pay, or better yearly pay increases if you hold MA certification.

Working without Certification

If you’re currently not certified or choose not to become certified, there are things you can do to boost your credibility as a medical assistant. First, speak to your employer about in-house trainings or educational opportunities that they may offer. These can help you stay up-to-date with medical changes and advancements. Additionally,

  • Consider taking classes. You may want to learn new skills that enhance your medical assistant knowledge, such as earning a certificate in phlebotomy, taking advanced anatomy and physiology or biology classes or classes in caring for the elderly. Remember to keep a record of classes that you take for your employer, or to add to your resume.
  • Read professional journals and complete the included continuing education units. Most professional medical journals offer a learning unit and competency test each time the magazine comes out. These learning opportunities are called CEUs, or continuing education units. Certified medical assistants are required to complete a certain number of CEUs each year. However, even if you’re not certified, these CEUs are wonderful opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills.
  • Attend conferences. Medical assisting conferences are another way to gain insightful knowledge and new skills. Attending conference sessions looks good on a resume and proves to your employer that you care about your profession and professional abilities.

Article Written by Elizabeth Otto

Elizabeth Otto is a freelance writer specializing in medical and health articles. Otto has worked as a certified medical assistant in specialty practice since 1994 and is also a nationally registered emergency medical technician.


15 Responses to “Is it Possible to Work as an MA without Certification?”
  1. SMACK says:

    I am an LPN in Florida and Georgia. I am also practiced in venipuncture and clinic settings thanks to experience as a correctional nurse. Lately I find myself in need of a position close to home that is strictly days. The only positions available are that of the MA. Though the pay is less, I am more than willing to take the pay cut in order to be closer to home and only work days. The question is, I continue to be turned down because I am not “certified” as a medical assistant. I have been working as a nurse for several years. How can I word my resume to obtain a position as a medical assistant?

  2. Daniel Sontchi says:

    I have been working as a CMA since 1994. I graduated from Concorde Career institute in Tampa,Fla. At that time the was not accredited thru the AAMA. I called and they will not let me take the test. So my question is who, where, and what do I have to get my certification. I am not able to get a job without it. Everybody I have interviewed with is requiring it. I dont want to have to go back thru school again for the same thing I paid for already. I live in Knoxville,Tn.

    • Martha says:

      When you figure it out let me know, I am also in Knoxville . I have worked as a MA for 22 years and I find now I can’t get a job unless I go back through school .. That’s crazy

    • Ty Flanagan says:

      I am also in the same boat in Jackson, MS. Been working as a MA for the past 23 years and now EVERYONE wants you to be certified. I contacted a couple of community colleges that offer night classes (fast trak-10 months) at $19,000. Yeah, can’t afford that!!! AAMA also can not find the school I attended in Mesa, AZ either. This has gotten so frustrating, just let us prove our worth!

      • Jacque says:

        I attend Rasmussen College, and their program is one year. They are credited by the AAMA, they pay for you to take the exam when you graduate, and it costs about $9,000. If you need to go back to school you may want to look into it.

  3. Kathy says:

    I have been a medical assistant for over 20 years. I graduated from Concorde Career Institute 1992. I never did take CMA. I have Bachelor’s of Health Science now. I graduated from South University Tampa Florida September 9,2011. Can you please tell me how I can get my CMA. I am also a Certified Nurse Assistant. I have been working without being certified. I grateful for the information. Thank you.

  4. Sharon says:

    I graduated from Salter School, Massachusetts in November of 2013. I plan on moving to Florida in 2016. I have been asking around to find out if it is possible to obtain a position as a Medical Assistant without being certified. I have not yet received an answer to my question. Can someone please let me know what I should do?

    • Laura says:

      I am currently in a tech school in Green Bay, WI, which is affiliated with the AAMA. So we will sit for the national test in December, right after graduation. I have a close friend who goes to school with me. She is moving to Florida in Jan of 2016 also. There are many jobs there for CMA’s, which makes her happy. Have you tried calling the AAMA about taking the test or what you need to do for it. I cannot imagine them not allowing tests for MA’s, as all it is is money for them and a certification for us. The test is 225.00.

    • Angela says:

      I read your post and i to have been working as an MA for 7 years not certified but from an accredited school. I haven’t been able to find a job with 7 yrs experience because im not certified. I find it simply stupid to have a cut off date of this test not being available to people who’ve been to school with experience. I was writing cause i was wondering if you had gotten an answer to your post

  5. lana says:

    can some one still graduate with college with out passing the cma and take the cma again after they graduate?

  6. gail says:

    How can you become registered if you have been working in the field for 11 years but have not taken classes? On the job training..

  7. amy says:

    I am in the same situation as gail, working for years without certification, on the job training.. what can you do if the knowledge is there and really do not want to go to school for something i already know?

  8. Susan DeBaise says:

    I graduated thirty years ago from a medical assistant program. Passed the national registry exam. Was also a certified phlebotomist. The company I work for now requires I take the certification exam. I have worked for this company for eleven years. Does anyone know who I can contact about taking the certification exam? I did get a copy of my credentials from the schools I attended. I also have my diploma from The national registry exam.

  9. nucole says:

    NCCT offers certification based on work experience

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