Some common questions that medical assisting students ask are,
- “Should I get my CMA or RMA”
- “What is the difference between the CMA and RMA?”
- “Which is better, CMA or RMA?”
These are important questions for students to be asking as they are completing their education and planning for their careers. Afterall, to be competitive in the job market medical assistants will need credentials.
So, today we wanted to answer these questions and provide a comprehensive comparison of the two credentials, CMA – Certified Medical Assistants by the AAMA and RMA – Registered Medical Assistants by the AMT.
For those who cannot become certified due to financial or other constraints, you may want to read:
- How to become a medical assistant without certification
- How to find medical assisting jobs with no experience
The Differences Between CMA & RMA
Both the CMA and RMA are recognized as national certifications for medical assistants. However, the CMA does have slightly better recognition.
However, the CMA was the first credential offered and is more widely recognized within the industry by employers and state governments. In fact, although uncommon, states like Connecticut will only recognize the CMA by AAMA whereas most states recognize both the CMA and RMA.
While the CMA credential lasts for 5 years before renewal is required, the RMA will only last for 3 years.
Which test is harder CMA or RMA?
Another difference to consider is the national exam for CMAs is slightly longer and generally perceived as slightly more difficult than the exam for RMAs.
Although the CMA exam is not officially harder than the RMA exam, most medical assistants who take both exams report that the CMA is slightly longer, containing more word problems, and seems a bit more challenging.
Pay Difference Between CMA and RMA
It is worth noting that medical assistant salary surveys do report CMAs earning slightly more than RMAs. However, it is important to consider that more CMAs are reporting their incomes compared to RMAs thus skewing the data slightly.
Finally, the cost differences between the CMA and RMA credentials are only $5, while the CMA costs $125 to apply for and the RMA costs $120.
Which is Better?
We can’t really say that one credential is better than the other. They are both nationally recognized and should serve as your credential requirement with any employer.
However, because the CMA by the AAMA has been around the longest and is the most widely recognized it may serve you better in finding employment.
That said, it will all depend on where you apply for jobs.
If you plan to move states within the next 3-5 years, then you may be better off going for your CMA, or both your CMA and RMA, in order to be eligible and competitive in job markets across numerous states.
Should I get CMA or RMA?
We can’t really answer this definitively for everyone. The best answer will vary from person to person.
A good starting point is to begin searching for medical assisting jobs in the location where you want to work. Make a list of jobs you find and see if they require/accept CMA and/or RMA credentials from applicants.
If you find that more job opportunities require CMA or RMA then that should influence your decision in obtaining CMA or RMA credentials.
It is also worth noting that many medical assistants choose to obtain both their CMA and RMA.
This is not required but will certainly make you much more competitive in the job market.
CMA vs RMA: Comparing Credential Requirements, Process, & Fees
The table below compares the requirements to obtain your CMA or RMA beginning with a medical assistant program as well as the steps you will need to follow and fees you will pay. Additionally, our certification by state tool will help you check what state laws govern the medical assisting profession in your state.
|Meet 1 of the eligibility requirements. (CMA requires graduating a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited program, RMA also offers eligibility from military education, work experience and instructing.)||View Eligibility Details||View Eligibility Details|
|Submit required supporting documentation for exam application process.||Documents||Documents|
|Apply for exam and pay application fee.||Application, $125||Application, $120|
|Schedule your exam date.||Schedule||Schedule|
|Complete your exam. (Upon completion, the CMA exam will show whether you pass/failed immediately and RMA exams taken online will provide your actual score immediately.)||Yes||Yes|
|Wait 8-10 weeks (CMA candidates will receive official test scores at this time and RMA candidates will receive their certification.)||Yes||Yes|
|Passing CMA applicants then wait another 10 weeks after receiving scores to receive their certification and card.||Yes||No|
|You have the ability to retest if you fail for both the CMA and RMA||Retest info||Retest info|
|Continuing Education, membership fees, and recertification are required for both the CMA and RMA||Recertify info||Recertify info|
Get Your Medical Assisting Credentials
Hopefully our comparison of medical assisting credentials by the AAMA and AMT will help you make an informed decision.
Whichever you decide to go for, it is important that you become a credentialed medical assistant in order to be the most competitive in the job market.
So, what are you waiting for? With the checklist above you have a list of steps you need to take to obtain your credentials. Now it is time to take action!
Best of luck to all of you awesome medical assistants out there 🙂
More questions about CMA and RMA credentials for medical assistants? Just ask them in the comments below! 🙂