How to Become a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

In contrast to other three certifications, RMA credential is the most flexible because it certifies both recent MA program graduates as well as MAs who’ve been working professionally in the field. The RMA examination is very similar to the CMA examination given by the AAMA, and both certifications are equally acceptable.

Eligible for examination?

Graduates of accredited MA programs are eligible to sit for the RMA certification. The two agencies whose accreditation carries the most weight are:

  • CAAHEP is the largest accrediting organization in the health sciences field.
  • ABHES is the only agency permitted by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit health care training both at the institutional and programmatic level.

RMA certification is also open to candidates who have not graduated from a MA training program. If that is the case, you have to meet one of the following three eligibility requirements:

  • Graduation from a US Military medical services training program within the past four years.
  • Working experience as medical assistants for five out of the last seven years.
  • Completion of a course of instruction in a healthcare discipline related to medical assisting

AMT requires all applicants to be of good moral character. If you’re convicted of a felony you might be precluded from sitting for the certification examination.

Hint: You might get a waiver if there are mitigating circumstances to your case. Read further to get more info.

Apply for the RMA Exam

Head over to this page where you can apply online. If you are a recent graduate of an MA training program, the application should be fairly straightforward. You will need to provide:

  • Proof of high school graduation, or GED equivalent
  • Final transcript from the MA training program you attended

If your eligibility falls under one of the special exceptions noted in the first step, additional documentation will be required. Please read the documentation requirements carefully.

If you’ve ever been convicted of a felony, you will also need to fill out the felony checklist.

The application fee is $90 and is not refundable.

It will generally take between 1-2 weeks for your exam application to be processed. You can pay the fee only with your credit or debit card.

Hint: Check with your MA training program before you transfer the money. Some schools cover the cost of certification in the tuition you’ve already paid.

Schedule an exam appointment

Once the AMT has approved your exam application, you will receive an email indicating that you have been approved for the examination. Later

You will get all necessary information from AMT to contact the testing center and schedule an examination
administration.

It should be noted that AMT does not conduct its own examinations. Instead, AMT contracts with a well-known educational exam provider called Pearson Vue.

Pearson Vue has hundreds test locations in the U.S., Canada and other places around the world. For a full list of locations where the exam is given, check the Pearson Vue website.

Following videos could be helpful to get you an idea what a testing center might look like

Learn the security requirement you might experience at a testing center
Don’t get confused by the fact that the above video is geared towards engineers. Expect to go through a similar process.

You will be required to provide identification for admittance to the examination.

  • Photo ID and both must include your signature.
  • Acceptable forms of identification include passports, drivers’ licenses, state-issued identification cards and military ID cards.

You have the option to cancel or reschedule your exam appointment online up to 24 hours prior to taking the test. Check out www.pearsonvue.com/amt for more details.

Prepare for the exam

The questions on the RMA certification exam are divided into three broad areas, scored as follows:

Content area Est. percentage of total test
I. General Medical Assisting Knowledge

 

  1. Anatomy and physiology
  2. Medical terminology
  3. Medical law
  4. Medical ethics
  5. Human relations
  6. Patient education
41%
II. Administrative Medical Assisting

 

  1. Insurance
  2. Finance and bookkeeping
  3. Medical receptionist / secretarial / clerical
24%
III. Clinical Medical Assisting

 

  1. Asepsis
  2. Sterilization
  3. Instruments
  4. Vital signs and mensurations
  5. Physical examinations
  6. Clinical pharmacology
  7. Minor surgery
  8. Therapeutic modalities
  9. Laboratory procedures
  10. Electrocardiography (ECG)
  11. First aid and emergency response
35%

Take our RMA practice test, to get a better idea where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Also, visit AMT website for exam review courses if you think you need one.

Your MA training program can provide you with information about which courses are the most useful. Check out the AMT website for more information.

Taking the Exam: Computer Based Testing (CBT)

You’ll have two options for taking the RMA exam.

  • Computer Based Testing
  • Paper and pencil form

You will be allotted two hours in which to complete the computerized RMA exam. Although computerized tests are identical in format to pen and pencil tests, most students find the CBT is quicker to complete.

  • The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, each of which has four options with one correct answer.
  • The questions are in no particular order.
  • Some questions may require you to explain an illustration.
  • While others may ask you to interpret information presented as part of a case study

Some questions will require the simple recalling of a fact, while others will require analysis.

Your examination result are available immediately after completing the test. They will appear on the screen.

Taking the Exam: Paper Based Testing

Should you decide to go for a paper- and-pencil version of the test you will have 3 hours to complete it.

The exam proctor will provide you with a test booklet and an answer sheet. You will not need a calculator or scratch paper. Your examination results will be forwarded to you within 8 to 10 weeks.

Retaking the RMA certification exam

If you didn’t pass the exam, don’t despair.

  • You’re allowed to retake the exam up to three additional times
  • To retest you’ll have to wait at least 45 days
  • You will have to pay a retesting application fee of $90

Keep in mind, if you do not pass the exam on your fourth attempt, you will not be eligible for the RMA credential.

Maintain your credential

If you pass the test successfully you will receive your official Registered Medical Assistant credential, as well as your membership in the AMT, in the mail within a few weeks.

In order to maintain your RMA certification you’ll be required to show compliance every three years:

  • pay $60 renewal fee
  • meet certain requirements for continuing education

Who gets paid more CMA or RMA?

When it comes to hourly payrate, the difference between CMA and RMA is negligible, if at all. According to payscale.com, a reputable resource that helps employees understand their worth in the labor market, the average hourly rate as of today is:

  • CMA $15.38 (Salary $33,424)
  • RMA $15.18 (Salary $31,798)

As you might guess, these values might vary depending on your location, industry, level of experience, and expertise. To get a more in-depth look on how much medical assistants make, head over to our comprehensive salary guide.

How long does it take to become an RMA?

It depends what credential you’d like to pursue. If you’re looking to earn an associate’s degree in medical assisting be prepared to spend two years in school.

You‘re impatient to get the schooling over with as quickly as possible? In that case, you may enroll in a ABHES/CAAHEP accredited certificate program instead, which usually runs for 3 to 12 months, depending on the institution.

If the thought of going back to school raises your hackles, then you have the option to skip a MA course altogether, and still sit for the RMA exam, provided you were “employed as a medical assistant for a minimum of 5 of the last 7 years”.

Can an RMA work in any state?

Except for a few states, most don’t require a medical assistant to be either certified as CMA or registered as RMA.

Some may argue that a CMA/RMA is only allowed to work in the state he or she was certified in. But that is not true. Both certifications are recognized, across the nation, in all 50 states. So, there will be no nasty surprises, in case you happen to move to a different state one day.

Any difference between CMA and RMA?

Well, the obvious difference is the naming of both credentials.

  • CMA: Certified Medical Assistant
  • RMA: Registered Medical Assistant

They are issued by two different certification agencies:

  • CMA by AAMA
  • RMA by AMT

However, what it actually boils down to are the differences in (re)certification process and everything that goes with it such as renewal fees, continuing education requirements, examination etc. Because it would go beyond the scope of this article to dive into every little aspect, we encourage you to take a close look at our certification comparison table.

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