Allied Health
June 14, 2024

Medical Assistant License and Certification Requirements by State (2024)

Below, we walk through the licensing and certification requirements in states that regulate medical assisting.

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Medical Assistant License and Certification Requirements by State (2024)

Whether medical assistants need a license or training depends on where they live. The rules are strict in some states, while they're more relaxed in others. 

This article is a comprehensive guide to the different licensing requirements and state regulations for medical assistants across the United States. Understanding these regulations is crucial for anyone considering a career as a medical assistant, as it ensures you are well-prepared and informed about the requirements in your state. 

Medical Assistant License vs. Certification

Licensing and Regulation

Licensing is a required process controlled by state laws that gives people official permission to work as medical assistants. Washington state is the only state that requires medical assistants to be licensed. Medical assistants must register with the Washington State Department of Health.

Although Washington is the only state requiring all medical assistants to register, other states have rules regarding what medical assistants can or cannot do, also known as their scope of practice. In many states, medical assistants must obtain a certification or training to perform clinical tasks such as EKGs or administering vaccinations. 

Certification

A certification is a credential provided by a professional organization certifying a medical assistant's knowledge and skills. The RMA, CCMA, and CMA are the most popular certifications. To be certified, you must pass an exam after completing a medical assistant training program or meeting real-world training experience requirements.

While not always mandated by law, certification for medical assistants can be a game-changer. It can boost your job prospects, serve as a tangible demonstration of your competency, and may even be a prerequisite for certain employers or specific duties within a medical practice.

Medical Assistant Regulations by State

In some states, medical assistants are not limited to administrative duties, scheduling and taking vital signs. They can also administer medication, venipuncture, and other clinical tasks with training and supervision. Clinical training varies—it can be on-the-job training, or it can be through a certified medical assistant training program. 

Are you thinking about becoming a certified clinical medical assistant? Search our write-up on accredited online medical assistant programs. 

Washington

In Washington State, the process of becoming a registered medical assistant is straightforward. You need to complete an approved training program and pass a certification exam, such as those from AAMA or AMT. Once you've done that, you can apply through the Washington State Department of Health by submitting your application, proof of education, and any required fees. While waiting for your official credential, you can work under supervision for up to 180 days.

You must renew your medical assistant credentials every two years, but no continuing education requirements exist. You must pay the renewal fee and apply within 90 days of your credential expiring. This process ensures that all medical assistants in Washington are adequately trained and qualified for their roles.​

California

According to the Medical Board of California, medical assistants must receive training before performing technical tasks. This training can be given by a licensed physician, podiatrist, registered nurse, vocational nurse, physician assistant, or qualified medical assistant. For tasks like giving injections, performing skin tests, or drawing blood, specific training requirements include 10 hours of practice and instruction in the procedure.

Medical assistants must demonstrate competence to their supervising physician. They need training in relevant anatomy, equipment use, proper technique, potential hazards, patient care, emergency procedures, and California regulations. Before giving any medication, a licensed professional must verify the correct dosage. Supervising physicians must be present in the treatment facility during procedures. While California does not require medical assistants to be licensed or certified, an approved organization must certify those who train others outside a formal setting.

Connecticut

In Connecticut, medical assistants who have completed specific education requirements and are certified can give vaccines in places like clinics or doctor's offices (not hospitals). They must do this under the supervision and guidance of a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.

Delaware

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), like nurse practitioners, can allow medical assistants to give medications in Delaware. To do this, the medical assistant must have finished a training program and have a current national certification. The APRN must be in the same building when the medical assistant gives medications and is responsible for what the medical assistant does.

Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a primary care provider (PCP) can allow a certified medical assistant to give immunizations if they meet two conditions. First, the medical assistant must have graduated from an accredited medical assisting education program, such as one approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Second, the medical assistant must be working in the clinical practice of a licensed primary care provider.

Nebraska

In Nebraska, medical assistants must register with the state Department of Health and Human Services as medication aides before giving certain types of medication. It doesn't matter what their education or credentials are. Medical assistants working in clinics and medical practices must also pass a skills test from a licensed provider or health care professional.

Medical assistants in Nebraska can also perform other tasks, including venipuncture, measuring vital signs, and entering data into the electronic health records (EHR). 

New Jersey

In New Jersey, medical assistants who have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program and have a current certification can do two things: draw blood (venipuncture) and give certain injections. They can do this only if a doctor is on-site and available to help.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, medical assistants must complete a board-approved medical assistant program and pass a medical assistant certification exam to administer medication. They must also register with the Board of Nursing as a Medication Assistant III to give certain types of medication.

South Carolina

South Carolina law permits medical assistants who have completed specific education requirements and currently hold recognized medical assisting certification to be delegated certain clinical tasks such as taking vital signs and administering medication or injections. They must be near physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who are on the premises and immediately available. These tasks include certain types of administration of medication. 

South Dakota

The South Dakota Board of Nursing says that registered nurses can assign and supervise tasks to medical assistants under certain conditions. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the American Medical Technologists (AMT) must certify the medical assistant. The tasks assigned should follow the standards set by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), but they can't include IV therapy. The medical assistant must also show they can do the tasks properly. Additionally, the supervising nurse must be available to help in person or through electronic communication.

Tennessee

Tennessee regulates medical assistants by requiring them to be certified to work in certain medical settings. In an "ambulatory outpatient hospital clinic," owned by a hospital that treats patients who don't stay overnight, certified medical assistants are trained to assist doctors and nurses. They must be certified by an approved organization. These assistants can administer standardized vaccines but only give other medications if directed by a doctor or nurse. This regulation does not apply to medical assistants outside these clinics.

Bottom Line

Even in states where medical assistants do not need to be licensed (i.e., they don’t need to register with the state), becoming a certified clinical medical assistant can be valuable. A clinical medical assistant program could train you to perform certain duties, such as administering medication, performing EKGs, or drawing blood. Certification demonstrates your competence and dedication to the profession, making you a more competitive candidate in the job market. Additionally, some employers may require certification, even if the state does not, ensuring that you can meet the demands of various health care settings. 

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