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Certified Medical Assistant vs. Registered Medical Assistant

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Certified medical assistants (CMAs) and registered medical assistants (RMAs) are entry-level positions within the medical field. On a day-to-day basis, medical assistants are responsible for handling classified patient information and performing “front desk” duties, such as answering phones and coordinating appointments.


Both certified and registered medical assistants are responsible for clinical and administrative duties in a physician’s office, such as recording vital stats and completing insurance forms.


According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 417,000 medical assistants were employed in 2006. This number is expected to increase by 35 percent to 565,000 by 2016.


In order to become a CMA or RMA, you must graduate from a medical assisting program that has been accredited by the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or the ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools). Programs offer certificates, a diploma or an associate’s degree and vary in length.


Certified and registered medical assistants are equally ranked, have undergone the same education and are eligible to become either certified or registered. The only difference between the two is that they’ve taken different exams to further their medical credentials.


According to 2009 data from, the average annual salary of a certified medical assistant with one to four years of experience is $29,943. While the average annual salary for a registered medical assistant with the same experience is $26,900.

2016 Salary Information for Medical Assistants

Medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $31,540 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $26,860, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $37,760, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 634,400 people were employed in the U.S. as medical assistants.