Three Types of Medical Assistant Certificates

Certification can help medical assistants advance their careers or work in a specialty.
Certification can help medical assistants advance their careers or work in a specialty. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Medical assistants work in private physician practices, health clinics and hospitals to assist doctors with patient care, office administrative staff and insurance billing information. There are two major certifications for medical assistants: the Certified Medical Assistant and the Registered Medical Assistant certifications. There are also specialty certifications for various branches of medicine, such as optometry, ophthalmology and podiatry.

Certified Medical Assistant and Registered Medical Assistant

The Certified Medical Assistant certification is conferred by the American Association of Medical Assistants. Those aspiring to the certification must graduate from a medical assisting program accredited by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Applicants must also pass a certification exam. The Registered Medical Assistant certification also accepts graduates of programs accredited by those organizations, but also accepts graduates of United States military training programs and regionally accredited medical assisting programs.

Podiatry Certification

Medical assistants can also become certified in the field of podiatric medicine. The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants requires an individual be employed in a podiatric medical office and become a member of the society before sitting for the certification exam. To receive the certification, an individual must have a total score of 70 percent, not scoring less than 60 percent in any one of the seven exam categories. Individuals must have 20 continuing medical education credits per year and be re-certified annually.


The American Optometric Association offers three levels of certification to paraoptometric assistants: the Certified Paraoptometric, the Certified Paraoptometric Assistant, and the Certified Paraoptometric Technician. The Certified Paraoptometric certification requires a high school diploma and six months in the eyecare field. The Certified Paraoptometric Assistant certification requires six months experience in the eyecare field and attainment of the CPO certification. Students in their last semester of study in an accredited optemetric program may bypass the eligibility requirements and sit for the exam. The Certified Paraoptometric Technician certification requires five years experience and the Certified Paraoptometric Assistant title, or for the candidate to be enrolled in the last semester of a certified paraoptemetric technician program.


The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology administers three levels of certification for ophthalmic assistants: the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant, the Certified Ophthalmic Technician, and the Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist. The Certified Ophthalmic Assistant is the base certification for ophthalmic assistants, and requires completion of a basic study course and passing the examination. The Certified Ophthalmic Technician requires that ophthalmic assistants have worked as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant for at least one year, or have graduated from an accredited ophthalmic technician program. The Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist certification requires one of three tracks before applicants are eligibile to sit for the exam. The first track is graduation from an accredited training program and two years of college. The second eligibility track is graduation from an accredited training program, less than two years of college, and 4,000 hours job experience. The final track requires attainment of the Certified Ophthalmic Technician certification as well as 6,000 hours job experience.

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