California Medical Assistant Guide

Career Description

Medical assistants in California work with other healthcare professionals to efficiently treat and effectively care for patients.  They assist doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants and others.  Medical assistants perform a variety of tasks.

Medical assistants’ administrative tasks include:

  • Billing patients
  • Making reminder calls about upcoming appointments
  • Updating patients’ records
  • Filling out insurance forms

Medical assistants’ clinical responsibilities include:

  • Sterilizing and caring for medical equipment
  • Drawing blood
  • Taking and recording vital signs
  • Writing down patients’ medical histories

Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant in California

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Programs:

  • Clinical and Administrative Medical Assistant
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There are several national entities that provide medical assistant or similar certification:

The above are all national certifying bodies, which provide training certification programs that are transferable throughout the United States.  However, the State of California has its own certifying body, the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants (CCBMA).

Here is the process to become a CMA in with the CCBMA.

Complete an Accredited Training Program

Applicants who wish to become a CMA must first take an accredited medical assisting training program.  Although the CCBMA does not offer specific courses, they recognize courses that are accredited by a state’s Board of Education.

In addition to this course, which can be taking in California, another state or online, people seeking clinical certification must prove they have had injection or venipuncture training.  This requirement only applies to CMA-C and CMA-AC applicants.  (Specialization is discussed under the exam heading).

Apply for CMA Exam and Send in Fee

After meeting the prerequisites, people can apply to take the CMA exam with the CCBMA.  The exam application can be found here.  An initial exam costs $115, and retaking a failed portion is either $60 or $75, depending on which section must be retaken.

Schedule the Exam

The exam is offered all year, so applicants do not have to wait long to take it.  All exams are administered online, but prospective CMAs must go to a testing center to take the exam.  Testing centers can be found at Pearson Vue, which administers the computer-based test.

Prepare for the Exam

After completing their training course, applicants must continue to review the curriculum and study for the test.  The primary study guide people should use is published online by the CCBMA.  It can be downloaded here.  Also, all training programs should make review materials available and have practice exams for students.  Additional materials, if needed, can usually be obtained from one’s CMA chapter (mentioned below).

Pass the Exam and Be Certified

After passing the exam, applicants are officially certified by the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants.  California, however, is different from most states.  In California, CMAs must have at least one of two specialties.  The certification is determined by what portions of the exam were taken and passed

  • CMA-As specialize in administrative tasks.  They must pass the basic questions and administrative section.
  • CMA-Cs specialize in clinical tasks.  They must pass the basic questions and clinical portion.
  • CMA-ACs have passed all three sections: the basic, administrative and clinical.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor sponsors CareerOneStop.org, where people can look up the projected job outlook for various occupations.  According to the site, the expected increase in demand for CMAs is 31 percent in California and nationally.  With California’s population, this means there will be more than 3,000 open positions for CMAs each year.

State and National Trends

United States

Employment

Percent 
Change

Job Openings 1

2010

2020

Medical Assistants

527,600

690,400

+31%

24,380

California

Employment

Percent 
Change

Job Openings 1

2008

2018

Medical Assistants

76,100

99,400

+31%

3,180

1Job Openings refers to the average annual job openings due to growth and net replacement.

Salaries Projections for CMAs in California

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) data, the average wage for a CMA in California is slightly above $15.50/hr.  More than half of all the CMAs in California earn over $32,000 a year.

Career One Stop has slightly lower numbers for CMAs in 2010, but they are still promising.  According to CarreerOneStop.org, CMAs earned a median hourly wage of $14.45 and annual salary of $30,100 that year.

The BLS also has some city-specific salary information.  These are the median wages of CMAs in the following cities.

  • San Diego: $31,770 / $15.27
  • Sacramento: $32,720 / $15.73
  • Santa Barbara: $31,940 / $15.36
  • Chico: $28,370 / $13.74

Transferring Certification and Recertifying

Since CMAs in California are overseen by the CCBMA, California’s certification is not transferable.  CMAs moving from another state to California must take the exam administered by California, but they are exempt from the training program requirement.  People who are CMAs in California and want to transfer their credentials to another state should become certified with a national agency, such as the AAMA.  The AAMA’s site has information on certification with them.

Both the CCBMA and AAMA require recertification every five years.  Recertification with CCBMA consists of taking a 45- or 60-question exam.

Local Chapters of the AAMA

People looking for more assistance might want to contact a local chapter of the AAMA.  California’s AAMA has a state-wide site and two chapters:

  • Centinela Valley
  • Glendale

Sources and Helpful Resources: