California Medical Assistant Requirements and Approved CMA Programs 

The Medical Board of California defines medical assistants as “unlicensed individuals who perform non-invasive routine technical support services under the supervision of a licensed physician and surgeon, podiatrist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse midwife in a medical office or clinic setting without the need of receiving a certification.” A medical assistant must perform all non-invasive, technical support services under supervision.

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The demand for medical assistants in California is on par with other health care professions. According to Los Angeles Times, the vacancy rate hit 24% for medical assistants in 2022, a rate that is three times higher than the year before. The average wage, according to federal data, is $40,000 to $43,000 annually or $20 to $24 per hour. Certified medical assistants earn more than uncertified MAs. The availability of jobs, good starting salary, and ease of entry are just some reasons you might consider medical assisting as a lifelong profession or a point of entry into the expansive health care industry.

Benefits of Becoming a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants work in several sectors of the health care industry including clinics, large hospitals, and ambulatory care. Their responsibilities include administrative as well as clinical tasks such as updating patient records, patient billing and insurance, scheduling appointments, measuring and recording vital signs, sterilizing equipment, and conducting lab tests.

Before pursuing medical assistant training, you should have a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities in your state as these vary from state to state. The benefits of becoming a medical assistant might outweigh any further indecision about whether this is the right career for you.

As discussed earlier, rapid growth in the healthcare industry stands as a primary reason for committing time and money to pursue training in the field. The job outlook assures that you will find a job after completing the training and certification sought by employers. Another positive is the accessibility of training programs and the short completion time. Certificate and diploma programs can be completed in as few as 6 to 12 months. 

Medical assistants are not confined to one area of healthcare. Your training prepares you to work anywhere physicians work, so there are plenty of options. Although more than 52 percent of medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, you can choose to work in community clinics, hospitals, and outpatient centers. Of course, your place of work will also determine the flexibility of your schedule. If you prefer traditional working hours without shifts, you might consider working in a community clinic or physician’s office.

Medical assistants enjoy career stability. Your special skills and abilities cannot be replaced with technology. As long as there are patients who need care, there will be a need for medical assistants to lend a helping hand.

If you’re looking for a reasonable path to launch a career in the healthcare industry, you find very few options that will serve you better. Medical assisting is rewarding in itself. But if you have big dreams of leading the healthcare team or just taking a more active role in patient care, you can start off with medical assisting and work your way up. Some healthcare programs, such as nursing degree programs, facilitate an easy transition for medical assistants to enroll with advanced standing credits.

An easily overlooked benefit of medical assisting is the sense of personal accomplishment of committing your time and energy to help others. At the end of each shift, despite the weariness, you can carry the joy and satisfaction from helping patients in their time of need.

Certified Versus Uncertified Medical Assistants

Medical Assistants and Certified Medical Assistants are not the same! Certification will make a huge difference in your experience as a medical assistant. For one, listing your certification on your job application will determine whether you receive a call for an interview. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), one of the leading certifying bodies, outlines the wide range of job opportunities afforded to certified medical assistants that are not available to those who are uncertified.

Certification, or lack of it, determines your pay rate – if you do manage to land a job without certification. Certified medical assistants routinely earn higher wages than non-certified medical assistants. Job stability, perks, and jobs duties are some other benefits that are extended to those who are certified.

The exam required to obtain certification is well worth the effort to get the best out of the profession. It evaluates your understanding of healthcare delivery. Once you’re successful, you will be awarded the CMA credential.

Medical Board of California Approved Certifying Organizations

American Association of Medical Assistants

20 N. Wacker Drive, #1575

Chicago, IL 60606-2963     

(312) 424-3100

American Medical Certification Association

310 Passaic Avenue, Suite 204B

Fairfield, NJ 07004

(888) 960-2622

American Medical Technologists

10700 W. Higgins Road, Suite 150

Rosemont, IL 60018  

(847) 823-5169

California Certifying Board of Medical Assistants

P.O. Box 462

Placerville, CA 95667         

(866) 622-2262 or (530) 622-1850

Multiskilled Medical Certification Institute, Inc.

P.O. Box 17

7007 College Boulevard

Overland Park, KS 66211   

(888) 625-8408 or (913) 754-3287

How to Become a Medical Assistant in California

Complete accredited training

Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations sections 1366.3(a)(1) and 1366.3 (a)(2) state that medical assistants must be trained by a licensed physician or podiatrist or a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, physician assistant, or a qualified medical assistant acting under the direction of a licensed physician or podiatrist or through a formal educational program authorized by the Department or accredited by an accreditation agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Although training can take place in one of two ways outlined by the Board, most medical assistants acquire the knowledge and skills through formal training programs.

Once again, the Board makes clear recommendations for training which must include:

  • 10 clock hours of training in administering injections and performing skin tests;
  • 10 hours of training in venipuncture and skin puncture for the purpose of withdrawing blood;
  • at least 10 of each intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intradermal injections and 10 skin tests, and/or at least 10 venipuncture and 10 skin punctures;
  • 10 hours of training in administering medical by inhalation; and
  • Training in the above shall include instruction and demonstration in:
    • pertinent anatomy and physiology appropriate to the procedures;
    • choice of equipment;
    • proper technique including sterile technique;
    • hazards and complications;
    • patient care following treatment or tests;
    • emergency procedures; and
  • California law and regulations for medical assistants

See the list of accredited programs that fulfill these recommendations below. Some features of a great medical assistant program in California include:

Duration of the medical assistant program: Certificate programs typically take 6 to 8 months while diploma programs can be up to 12 months. A few community colleges offer students the option to complete additional general education courses to earn an associate degree.

Employer-centered curriculum: The program’s curriculum should be tailored to cover the skillsets that employers want. It should be updated regularly to reflect changing trends in the industry.

Experienced instructors: More than just covering the material, instructors should have the experience to guide students in the right direction by preparing them for real-world scenarios.

Flexible formats: A fully online program will not meet the Board’s requirements for in-person, hands-on training. However, a hybrid program that includes a combination of online and in-person instruction might suit your needs.

Hands-on experience: A hands-on program is critical to the development of the skills you need to become a competent medical assistant. Lab sessions and clinical rotations are designed to prepare you for practice in a fast-paced medical environment.

Financially viable: Whether through affordable medical assistant training, financial aid, or through flexible payment plans, the program you choose must be within your budget.

Fringe benefits: Job placement assistance, resume development, exam prep, and additional guidance (if needed) are some other benefits you might need.

Obtain Medical Assistant Certification

The CMA Certification Exam administered by the American Associate of Medical Assistants comprises 200 multiple-choice questions. Out of the 200 questions, 180 will be scored and 20 will be pretested. The exam assesses three principal categories:

Clinical Competency (59%)

  • Clinical Workflow: Patient Intake and Discharge
  • Safety and Infection Control
  • Procedures/Examinations
  • Pharmacology

General (21%)

  • Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Communication

Administrative (20%)

  • Billing, Coding, and Insurance
  • Schedule Appointments and Health Information Management

Eligibility Requirements

You must meet the following eligibility categories:

  1. Must be completing or a recent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assistant program. A completing student may take the exam no more than 30 days prior to completing a formal program and practicum and a recent graduate must apply to take the exam within 12 months of graduation.
  2. Must be a nonrecent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assistant program. A candidate who applies for the exam more than 12 months after graduation is a nonrecent graduate.
  3. Must be a CMA (AAMA) recertificant. This is a candidate who previously passed the CMA Certification Exam and is applying to recertify the CMA credential.

Application Steps

  1. Verify that you are eligible to take the exam
  2. Review the exam policies and information
  3. Gather your documentation for your eligibility category
  4. Determine the start date for 90-day testing period – this will determine when you apply for the exam.
  5. Submit your application, pay the application fee of $125 for AAMA members or $250 nonmembers
  6. Make name, email, and postal address corrections on a timely basis
  7. Schedule your exam appointment after your application and payment are processed
  8. Complete the exam and receive a pass/fail notification
  9. Watch for your official score reports – within three weeks after your exam
  10. Watch for your certificate or digital badge via email

California Medical Assistants FAQs

Are medical assistants required to be licensed or certified by the State of California?

Medical assistants are not required to be licensed or certified by the State of California. However, the medical assistant’s employer and/or supervising physician’s or podiatrist’s malpractice insurance carrier may require that the medical assistant be certified by a national or private association. Medical assistants who will not be training other medical assistants may obtain certification from any national or private association and are not required to come from one of the Board-approved medical assistant certifying organizations.

What duties are medical assistants allowed to perform?

  • Nasal smears if the procedure is limited to the opening of the nasal cavity
  • Finger sticks if the MA received proper training
  • Throat swabs to preserve the specimen in a throat culture
  • Take patients’ vitals, height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, and pulse
  • Inject narcotics into a patient once the licensed person has verified the correct medication and dosage
  • Chart pupillary responses
  • Call in refills to a pharmacy under the supervision of a physician or podiatrist
  • Administer flu shots and other vaccines with appropriate training
  • Hand patients prescription medications that are properly labeled and prepackaged

Contact the Medical Board of California

Medical Board of California

2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 1200

Sacramento, CA 95815



(800) 633-2322

(916) 263-2382

CAAHEP & ABHES Accredited Medical Assisting Programs California

Bakersfield, CA Medical Assistant programs:
North-West College
3000 Ming AvenueBakersfield, CA 93304
(626) 251-1078
Carson, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Regan Career Institute
1000 East Dominguez Street, Suite 201Carson, CA 90746
(626) 455-0312
City of Industry, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Angeles College
17595 Almahurst Street, Unit 101-3
City of Industry, CA 91748
(626) 965-5566
Chula Vista, CA Medical Assistant programs:
PIMA Medical Institute
780 Bay Boulevard, Suite 101Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 425-3200
Concord, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts
1401 Willow Pass Road, Suite 450Concord, CA 94520
(925) 687-9555
El Monte, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Regan Career Institute
11350 Valley BoulevardEl Monte, CA 91731
(626) 455-0312
Fremont, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Medical Career College
41300 Christy Street, Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 445-0319
Fresno, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts
4747 N. 1st Street, Suite 192 Fresno, CA 93726
(559) 222-1903
Glendale, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Glendale Career College
240 N. Brand Blvd., Lower Level, Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 243-1131
Huntington Park, CA Medical Assistant programs:
American College of Healthcare and Technology
6330 Pacific Boulevard, Suite 201, Huntington Park, CA 90255
(323) 585-9000
Modesto, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts
4712 Stoddard Road, Suite 200
Modesto, CA 95356
(209) 521-1821
North Hollywood, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Galaxy Medical College
6400 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Suite 270, North Hollywood, CA 91606
(818) 509-9970
Norwalk, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Healthcare Career Center
12240 Firestone Boulevard, Suite 220Norwalk, CA 90650
Oxnard, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Charter College
2000 Outlet Center Drive, Suite 150
Oxnard, CA 93036
(805) 973-1240
Panorama City, CA Medical Assistant programs:
National Career College
14355 Roscoe Boulevard, Suite 101, Panorama City, CA 91402
(818) 988-2300
Riverside, CA Medical Assistant programs:
American College of Healthcare and Technology
11801 Pierce Street, Suite 100, Riverside, CA 92505
(951) 729-5320
Roseville, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Medical Career College of California
1220 Melody Lane, Suite 140
Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 721-7106
Sacramento, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts
8810 Cal Center Drive, 3rd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95826
(916) 588-2060
San Diego, CA Medical Assistant programs:
North-West College
6106 Arosa Street, San Diego, CA 92115
(858) 715 1120
San Marcos, CA Medical Assistant programs:
PIMA Medical Institute
111 Campus Way, Suite 100
San Marcos, CA 92078
(760) 299-4500
San Mateo, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts
2121 South El Camino Real, Building C200, San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 685-6616
Santa Ana, CA Medical Assistant programs:
American College of Healthcare and Technology
1840 E. 17th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92705
(951) 729-5320
Torrence, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Southern California Regional Occupational Center
Medical Assisting
Torrence, CA
Van Nuys, CA Medical Assistant programs:
Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts
15400 Sherman Way, Suite 201
Van Nuys, CA 91406
(747) 200-4567