How to Become a National Certified Medical Assistant?
A medical assistant is an allied medical professional who performs administrative and clinical duties in a healthcare facility. Medical assistants with certifications are benefited from higher employment chances and are more credible in their field. To get certified as a National Certified Medical Assistant, the candidate must take and pass the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification exam accredited by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).
To become eligible for the NCMA exam, the candidate must acquire a high school diploma or equivalent and a degree in medical assisting, or must have work experience in the medical assisting field. Upon fulfilling the eligibility criteria, the aspirant can take the NCMA certification exam.
What is a National Certified Medical Assistant?
A national certified medical assistant is a medical assistant who has taken and successfully passed the NCMA certification exam accredited by NCCT. National certified medical assistants work in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, outpatient care centers, etc. to assist physicians. They perform administrative and clinical duties that include taking vitals, dressing wounds, drawing blood, recording patient history, providing patient care, medical billing and coding, etc.
How to Get Certified as an NCMA?
NCMA is a certification for medical assistants authorized by the NCCT. To get certified as an NCMA, the candidate must satisfy eligibility requirements to take the certification exam and then successfully pass it. Candidates must apply for the exam through NCCT by submitting required documentation and exam fees with the application.
The NCMA exam is based on medical assisting curriculum that comprises of subjects such as pharmacology, medical records, law and ethics, patient care, scheduling, etc. The candidates are allowed 3 hours to complete the examination.
Benefits of Being a National Certified Medical Assistant
Along with the increased demand for medical assistants and better job prospects, National Certified Medical Assistants are entitled to get various benefits. The following are some of the advantages of being a National Certified Medical Assistant.
- National recognition: NCMA is a certification for medical assistants that are accredited by NCCT. The certification is recognized nationally and is one of the most effective and standard certifications for medical assistants.
- Comparatively affordable: The NCMA certification is more affordable compared to other certifications such as CMA, RMA, CCMA, and CMAA. The NCMA credential exam fee is comparatively low.
- Higher employment rate: Employers tend to hire medical assistants with certifications and advanced skills. By certifying as an NCMA, the chances of getting employed will get higher.
- Job satisfaction: Being certified as an NCMA will lead to higher income. Apart from these job prospects, NCMAs will be satisfied with their jobs as they will be working to contribute their efforts to the betterment of the healthcare system.
- Flexibility: NCMAs can choose to work in different work settings based on their preferences. They can work in hospitals, clinics, or specialized medical areas such as gynecology, pediatrics, etc. They can also opt for working in shifts as per their convenience.
What are the Eligibility Requirements?
Current Student or MA Graduate:
To become certified as an NCMA, the candidate must be a high school graduate as well as passed a medical assisting training program within the past 5 years. Current students of a medical assisting program are required to submit documents within two years after the program completion. Official transcripts such as high school diploma or GED, medical assisting diploma/certificate/associate degree must be submitted to apply for the NCMA certification exam. Along with the transcripts and documents, required examination fees must be submitted.
Experienced Medical Assistants:
Medical assistants with work experience who want to be certified as an NCMA must acquire a high school diploma or equivalent. They must also have 2 years of full-time work experience (equivalent to 4,160 hours) as an MA under the supervision of an authorized physician or healthcare facility within the last 5 years. Relevant documents and appropriate exam fee must be submitted.
To get certified as an NCMA, candidates working for the US Military must be high school graduates and be able to provide a high school diploma or equivalent. They also need to submit a copy of the SMART transcript or DD214, stating the successful completion of the medical services training program of the United States Armed Forces within the past 5 years. A candidate who is a member of the US Military or a spouse, with work experience in medical assisting, is eligible for NCMA exam if he/she has 2 years of full-time work experience as an MA within the past 5 years and a high school diploma. Required transcripts and examination fees must be submitted.
National Certified Medical Assistant Exam
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam is a certification exam conducted to certify medical assistants in the USA. NCMA is accredited by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). The NCMA certification exam contains 150 scored items and 15 unscored pre-test items. The exam verifies the competency of an MA in academic disciplines such as pharmacology, medical billing and coding, medical law and ethics, phlebotomy, ECG and other diagnostic tests, etc. Candidates are expected to complete the examination in 3 hours.
Exam Application Process and Fee
In order to apply for the NCMA exam, the candidate must fulfill the eligibility criteria. After verifying eligibility, a candidate can apply for the exam. Required documents and a copy of transcripts must be submitted with the application 14 days before the candidate’s anticipated examination date. Application and payments made will be in effect for one year from the date of submission to NCCT.
- Exam fee for current and graduate students who have taken the test within 6 months of graduation is $90, and for graduate students taking the test after 6 months of graduation is $135.
- The exam fee for experienced medical assistants is also $135, whereas for the candidates who are members (active-duty, retired, veteran) of the US Military is $90.
What to Expect on Examination Day?
The NCMA test is designed to determine the competency of a medical assistant in various administrative and clinical aspects. The exam will be based on subjects that are included in a primary medical assisting curriculum. Most questions that are asked in the NCMA examination are standard multiple-choice questions. Other types of questions that are generally asked are hotspot, drag and drop, and multi-select items. The exam has 150 scored and 50 unscored pre-test items, and the duration is 3 hours.
How to Get Exam Results?
Computer-based (online) exam results are received immediately by the candidate after completing the examination. Paper-based (offline) exam result is received through the mail. A score of 70 must be obtained to pass the exam successfully.
NCCT Pass Rates
|Exam||Total Certificants||Number of Exams in 2021||Pass Rate in 2021||Mean 2021||2021 SD|
|National Certified Medical Assistant||90,335||6577||56.8%||69.54||12.27|
How to Prepare for the NCMA Exam?
To successfully pass the NCMA exam, candidates must obtain a total score of 70 or more. They can refer to sample tests that are available on the NCCT website to gain a detailed understanding of the format and the overall aspects of the certification exam. Candidates can also take practice tests or mock tests to make themselves familiar with the type of questions and subject matter.
NCMA Medical Assisting Curriculum
The NCMA exam is designed to challenge medical assistants to prove their capabilities in performing administrative and clinical duties. The NCMA exam questions will be based on the content matter covered in the medical assisting curriculum. The following are the content categories on which the NCMA exam is based:
- Category: Pharmacology
- Category: Clinical Medical Procedures
- 2.1) Infection, Exposure Control and Safety
- 2.2) Patient Care
- Category: Phlebotomy
- Category: ECG and Other Diagnostic Tests
- 4.1) Other Diagnostic Tests
- 4.2) ECG Placement Techniques
- 4.3) ECG Recording
- 4.4) ECG Troubleshooting and Maintenance
- Category: General Office Procedures
- 5.1) Communication
- 5.2) Medical Office Computer Applications
- 5.3) Scheduling
- 5.4) Medical Records
- Category: Medical Office Management
- 6.1) Medical Office General Management
- 6.2) Office Financial Management, Billing, Insurance
- Category: Law and Ethics
Other Integrated concepts that are included in the curriculum:
- Anatomy, Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Disorders
- Sterilization Techniques
- Medical History
- Venipuncture Techniques
- Patient Education
- Medical Terminology
- Infection Control
How to Verify NCMA Certification?
The verification process involves people to insert candidate details such as ‘First Name’, ‘Last Name’ and ‘User ID’ into a search engine and then obtain results regarding their respective certification status. You may visit the NCCT website and find the search engine under the Verify Certification category. After submitting the correct and required details in the search engine, you will get to verify the status of the certification.
The active status of certification implies that the aspirant must maintain the active status by fulfilling annual recertification requirements. Inactive status means that the candidate has not met annual recertification requirements but can complete CE requirements and make payments for the missed years. Invalid status implies that the applicant cannot use the NCCT credential as the certification was not recertified for 5 or more years and became invalid.
Difference Between NCMA, CMA, and RMA
|Accreditation||American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)||National Center of Competency Testing (NCCT)||American Medical Technologists (AMT)|
|Eligibility||Graduates of high school and a medical assisting program accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES||Graduates of high school and a medical assisting program within the past 5 years. Full-time work experience of 2 years at a recognized healthcare center within the last 5 years.||Graduates of high school and a medical assisting program within the past 4 years. Full-time work experience at a recognized healthcare facility within the past 5 years.|
|Renewal of Credential||Every 60 months||Annually||Annually|
|Exam Questions||200 questions||165 questions||200-210 questions|
|Estimated Average Salary||$38,819||$40,368||$39,119|
|Recertification Process||Completion of continuing education (CE) or recertification exam and payment of recertification fee||Completion of continuing education (CE) contact hours (CH) and payment of recertification fee||Completion of Certification Continuation Program (CCP) or recertification exam and payment of recertification fee|
Due to the aging baby boomer population and the rise of various diagnosed health conditions, there is an increase in demand for medical assistants and other healthcare professions in the United States. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 16% increase in the need for medical assistants from 2021 to 2031.
Medical assistants with recognized certifications such as NCMA, CMA, RMA, etc. and additional specialized skills such as EHR, CPR, etc. are expected to have more job growth and better job prospects. BLS estimated that the employment rate for allied healthcare professionals is increasing much faster than the average employment rate for all other occupations in the United States.
Source: BLS (updated on April 10, 2020)
How much do National Certified Medical Assistants Make?
Medical assistants with the NCMA certification are expected to earn an average hourly pay ranging from $15 to $16, according to the sources mentioned below. The salary of an NCMA may vary with respect to different industries, companies, and geographical locations.
The figures are as per the data updated on December 28, 2022 (Payscale), January 2,, 2022 (Indeed), and September 18, 2022 (Glassdoor).
Recertification is a process of recertifying the credential by fulfilling specific requirements. To certify the NCMA credential again, the candidate must log in to the recertification dashboard and then pay the fee and complete continuing education points. Successful payment of recertification fee may give access to the required continuing education (CE) contact hours. The recertification fee of $77 must be paid, and 14 contact hours of CE must be completed annually to recertify the NCMA credential.
Written by : Casey Gardner
Casey Gardner is both a healthcare support professional and an accomplished content creator. She has been working as a certified health care professional with marketable skills as a physician assistant, and a qualified medical assistant for last two decades. She has dedicated her nursing career to produce over hundreds of content pieces since 2001, and her work has been published both online as well as offline.