NHA CCMA vs. AMCA CMAC: What’s the Difference?
Medical assisting is one of the most popular health science classes in the country, and almost every one of those classes ends with a certification exam.
Two of the most common choices are the NHA CCMA certification and the AMCA CMAC certification.
But figuring out which one to use isn’t easy. The certifications have many commonalities and differences, and one may be a better fit for your program than the other.
So how do you decide?
In this post, we’ll go over four key points you need to consider:
- Eligibility requirements
- The cost of the exam
- The structure of the exam
- The study materials available
Before we get into the details of the exam, it’s important to know some background on the certification providers -- NHA and AMCA.
What Are the NHA and AMCA?
The NHA and AMCA are similar certification providers, but they have a few important differences.
In general, some teachers like the long-time track record of the NHA, while others like the wide variety of options available from the AMCA.
But there’s more to these organizations than this one difference.
First, we’ll look at NHA.
What Is the NHA?
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is a well-known provider of industry-recognized health science certifications.
NHA’s mission is “empowering people to access a better future,” which involves improving the quality of patient care and providing better opportunities for students to become healthcare professionals.
To meet this goal, the NHA provides eight specific health science certifications:
- Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
- Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
- Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS)
- EKG Technician (CET)
- Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
- Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A)
- Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
- Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)
Overall, the NHA has awarded more than 750,000 certifications since its founding in 1989.
With that in mind, how is the NHA different from AMCA?
What Is the AMCA?
The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) is another health science certification provider that’s used across the country.
The AMCA’s vision is to “enhance the allied healthcare industry by providing national certification exams that validate the knowledge and expertise of professionals in this field.”
Compared to the NHA, the AMCA has a much more expansive list of certifications that include two categories -- clinical certifications and administrative certifications.
In total, the AMCA provides 13 clinical certification options:
- Clinical Medical Assistant (CMAC)
- Clinical Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAAC)
- Medical Assistant (MAC)
- Phlebotomy Technician (PTC)
- EKG Technician (ETC)
- Phlebotomy / EKG Technician (PTC/ETC)
- Clinical Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy/EKG Technician (CMAC & PTC/ETC)
- Patient Care Technician (PCTC)
- Physical Therapy Aide (PTAC)
- Nursing Assistant (NAC)
- Mental Health Technician (MHTC)
- Dental Support Technician (DSTC)
- Trichology Practitioner (TPC)
The AMCA also offers 6 administrative certifications:
- Medical Administrative Assistant (MAAC)
- Billing & Coding Specialist (BCSC)
- Electronic Health Record (EHRC)
- Medical Administrative Assistant with Billing & Coding Specialist (MAA/BCSC)
- Medical Administrative Assistant with Electronic Health Record (MAA/EHRC)
- Medical Administrative Assistant / Billing & Coding Specialist / Electronic Health Record (MAA/BCS/EHRC)
Though the AMCA was founded in 2010, it’s recognized as an excellent certifying organization across the US.
So now that you know a little bit about each certification provider, let’s get into the details!
We’ll start with one of the most common questions asked by teachers and students -- what are the eligibility requirements?
What Are the Certification Exam Eligibility Requirements?
Depending on the age of your students and where you teach, the eligibility requirements for a certification may differ.
That’s why it’s such an important point to consider when choosing a certification.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for the NHA CCMA Exam?
To be eligible to take the NHA CCMA exam, a candidate need to meet two specific requirements set by the NHA.
First, the candidate must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
Second, they must have successfully completed a medical assistant training program or have work experience that falls under one of these categories:
- CCMA training program offered by an accredited or state-recognized provider
- Registered Apprenticeship Program in medical assisting that is registered with the US Department of Labor
- Formal medical training offered by a branch of the US Military in the medical assisting field
In addition, students must have worked at least one year in a medical assisting job if they’ve already graduated high school or completed their training more than five years before taking the exam.
But what about high school students who are looking to become clinical medical assistants?
High school health science students can take the test to earn a provisional NHA CCMA certification if they plan to graduate within 12 months from an accredited high school or GED program.
Provisional certifications are different because:
- The provisional certification expires 12 months after the exam date
- After graduating, the student must apply to have the provisional certification converted into a full certification
For more detail on both standard and provisional certifications, the NHA outlines all of the requirements in their Candidate Handbook.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for the AMCA CMAC Exam?
In order to apply for the AMCA CMAC exam, a candidate must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
In addition, they must meet one of the following requirements within one year of taking the exam:
- Graduate from a training program
- Graduate from a training program and have full-time work experience
- Have two or more years of full-time work experience and be presently working in the field
The AMCA notes that CTE students are eligible to sit for their exams, but it doesn’t provide further information on their website.
For full details on the eligibility requirements for AMCA exams, review their exam eligibility page.
What Do the Exams Cost?
When it comes to any resource for your classroom, you need to know how much it costs.
So, how much can you and your students expect to spend on each of these exams?
How Much Is the NHA CCMA Exam?
The NHA charges a $155.00 application fee, which must be paid at the time of registering for the CCMA exam.
In some instances, this fee may be paid by an institution or employer — but that depends on each candidate’s individual case.
How Much Is the AMCA CMAC Exam?
When someone wants to take the AMCA CMAC exam, they must first submit an exam eligibility application along with a $25.00 application fee.
After approval, the candidate then pays a $139.00 fee to take the actual exam.
It’s important to note that the candidate must take the exam within 60 days, or they’ll need to reapply and pay another application fee!
That means the candidate will pay a minimum of $164.00 in order to take the AMCA CMAC exam.
Now that we’ve looked at cost, let’s take a look at each certification exam itself!
What’s the Structure of the Certification Exams?
These certification exams break down to three areas.
First and foremost, you need to look at what topics will be on the exam.
In addition, it’s important to be aware of how many questions are on the test and how long students have to complete the exam.
So let’s dive in!
How Is the NHA CCMA Exam Structured?
The test questions fall under seven topic areas, which the NHA calls “domains:”
- Foundational Knowledge and Basic Science
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Clinical Patient Care
- Patient Care Coordination and Education
- Administrative Assisting
- Communication and Customer Service
- Medical Law and Ethics
Each of these domains has a number of subtopics that are categorized as either knowledge statements or task statements.
You can see the full breakdown of the domains, knowledge statements, and task statements by reading the NHA’s CCMA test plan.
On test day, students have three hours to complete the exam, which can take place either at your school or a designated testing center.
How Is the AMCA CMAC Exam Structured?
The AMCA CMAC exam is made of 200 questions which fall under seven topic areas:
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Law & Ethics
- Safety & Infection Control
- Medical Office & Patient Care
- Healthcare Systems
The AMCA does not provide any further detail on the breakdown of these topics on their website, but you can contact them to see their curriculum coverage recommendations.
On test day, students have 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam, which takes place at official AMCA testing sites.
That’s the breakdown of the tests themselves. So how do you get your students ready for test day?
What Study Materials Are Available for Students?
While the previous questions are more focused on the details of each exam, each exam also has crucial study resources available for your students.
After all, they’re the ones who are working to become medical assistants!
Because of this, it’s important for you to review what types of study materials are available for each exam.
What CCMA Test Prep Materials Does the NHA Provide?
The NHA provides five test prep options for students to choose, all of which cost an extra fee:
- Online practice test ($39)
- Online study guide ($52)
- Online study guide & practice test package ($74)
- Printed study guide ($52)
- Printed study guide & online practice test package ($74)
What’s great about these resources is they are specifically designed to help students master every detail needed to pass the NHA CCMA exam.
The biggest downside is that your students will have to purchase these materials themselves, which can be quite a stretch on top of the price of the exam itself.
What CMAC Test Prep Materials Does the AMCA Provide?
After a student registers for the AMCA exam, they receive an email with a PDF study guide that will help reinforce material students need to know for the test.
The AMCA explicitly notes that these study materials are not meant to replace traditional classroom instruction, but they can be used as a reference when studying prior to the exam.
Overall, students get these three types of test prep materials from the AMCA:
- An exam study guide
- Practice tests
- Quizlet-based study materials
What’s great about all of these resources is they come free to any student who is registered for the AMCA CMAC exam!
Is the NHA CCMA or AMCA CMAC Exam Right for You?
So which clinical medical assistant exam should you use?
Both options will set your students on a successful career path, but the specific knowledge and skills needed are different.
Depending on what state you’re in, the requirements for clinical medical assistants may vary. That’s why it’s crucial to choose the certification that best aligns with your local area needs!
To get the full picture of how these certifications cover topics like medical ethics, healthcare systems, and anatomy and physiology download our comparison guide!