Pennsylvania Medical Assistant Requirements and Approved CMA Programs

Medical assistants are categorized as unlicensed personnel in the State of Pennsylvania. Although the profession is not regulated by a state organization, there are specific conditions for the delegation of tasks to medical assistants. Physicians are charged with the responsibility of determining the minimum requirements for employment and the tasks that may be delegated within the scope of acceptable practice. Pennsylvania’s medical assistants cannot provide the full scope of services outlined by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), but there’s still a wide range of administrative and clinical duties they can perform to provide support to physicians in outpatient or ambulatory care facilities.

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Medical assistant duties vary from one facility to another depending on the location, specialty, size, and the physicians’ judgment. The clinical duties may include taking medical histories, preparing patients for examinations, assisting the physician during examinations, explaining treatment procedures to patients, performing basic laboratory tests, wound care and changing dressings, and collecting and preparing laboratory specimens. Some administrative duties include answering telephones, completing admissions forms, greeting patients, updating patient medical records, managing billing and correspondence, and filling out insurance forms.

The Pennsylvania Society of Medical Assistants, an affiliate of the American Association of Medical Assistants, provides support to medical assistants to help them enhance and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and professionalism required by employers, protect their rights to practice, and promote effective and efficient healthcare delivery.

Benefits of Becoming a Medical Assistant

The role and function of medical assistants in healthcare are easy to overlook as they play a supportive role to physicians. Their knowledge and skills are essential to the delivery of care, as they give physicians the freedom to attend to patients. If you’re considering this profession, know that there are pros and cons, but the good far outweighs the bad. Here’s an outline of some of the benefits of becoming a medical assistant today.

Medical assistants work with physicians in private offices, outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. Their role centers on patient services and care, which include administrative and clinical roles. In a single day, a medical assistant might answer phones, update medical records, take vitals, assist the physician with examinations and treatments, perform basic lab tests, file insurance claims, and educate patients about treatments. In Pennsylvania, a medical assistant’s tasks are determined by the physician, who must assign duties within the confines of state law for unlicensed professionals.

In the performance of varied duties lies one great benefit of medical assisting – the development of diverse skills. The possession of strong administrative skills on one hand and clinical skills on the other can take you places. If you decide later on to broaden your administrative abilities and start a separate career – in healthcare or otherwise- or build your clinical skills to focus on patient care, you will have a foundation to build on. Your skills as a medical assistant are valuable for starting a new career if you should so decide.

Medical assistants also have the flexibility to work where they want. You might have in inkling to work with pediatricians because of your love for children or opticians in a optometry clinic or even gynecologists and general practices. There are numerous specialties from which you can choose and move around when you feel the need. Within each field there are certificate options available for additional leverage in your practice.

Other benefits that medical assisting can provide include job security – there will always be a demand for the special services medical assistants provide- a decent wage, and opportunities to meet and work with diverse healthcare professionals.

Certified Versus Non-certified Medical Assistants

There are no special privileges afforded by the State of Pennsylvania for medical assistants who are nationally certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants or other certifying organization. That said, there is a world of opportunities within the profession for medical assistants who take the time to become certified. In fact, it would be almost impossible to secure and maintain employment without it in some sectors of the industry. The rigorous requirements for certification create a degree of confidence in CMAs abilities to perform required tasks. Employers feel safe in their ability to assign both clinical and administrative duties that fall within the confines of the law.

The pay rate offered to certified medical assistants far exceeds that of those who are not certified. After investing time and money to complete medical assistant training, the additional cost for certification will ensure you get the most out of your investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants on the higher end of the pay scale can earn as must as $48,720 or more annually. At the lower end of the spectrum, the starting salary could be as low as $25,800.  

Certification first starts with the successful completion of an accredited program. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are the two accrediting bodies for medical assisting programs. These programs provide the broad training that can be later used for credit if you decide to pursue additional studies in healthcare.  

Your CMA credential shows your commitment to excellence in practice. Employers will respect and reward you for your knowledge and abilities as administrative and clinical professionals. It is important after certification to renew every five years if you decide to continue in the field. The AAMA requires candidates to complete 60 CEUs to renew their certification.

Recognized Medical Assistant 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

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 Pennsylvania

Complete accredited training

A medical assistant program will set you on the path to a promising career in healthcare. Accredited programs, such as those accredited by ABHES will include both theory and practical training so you can develop the skills needed to meet the demands of the fast-paced health care sector. More than just practical training in the clinical aspects of the profession, you’ll also have numerous opportunities to develop administrative skills through hands-on participation in real-world settings. Apart from preparation for entry-level employment, the ideal program will include a module dedicated to exam review to give you the confidence to succeed on the national certifying exam.

Some things to look for in a medical assistant program include:

Duration of the medical assistant program: Ideally, the program should be outlined in such as way as not to exceed 12 months. Medical assisting requires short-term preparation for fast and easy entry into the health care sector.

Employer-centered curriculum: The goal of any training is you give you the skills and confidence to perform competently in your role. Review and understand carefully the job description of a medical assistant and ensure that the program’s curriculum aligns with the role.

Experienced instructors: It is important that instructors are versed in state regulations as well as national guidelines for medical assistants.

Flexible formats: If you’re pursuing an education while working or balancing other commitments, the schedule should be such as to accommodate your needs. Always choose is a traditional or a hybrid option to receive in-person practical training. 

Hands-on experience: The hands-on aspect of the program is essential for a better understanding of the theoretical concepts covered in the program.

Financially viable: Allied health programs must be affordable due to their short-term nature. Determine what is included and not included in the program’s advertised cost.  

Fringe benefits: Will the school facilitate assistance with your job placement and search? Will they provide extra practice session and help with signing up for the certification exam? These are some things to consider.

Obtain Medical Assistant Certification

The CMA Certification Exam administered by the American Associate of Medical Assistants comprises of 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 one of the following eligibility categories:

  1. Must be a recent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assistant program. Graduates have up to 12 months after graduation to take the exam. Current students may also apply to 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 have graduated from a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assistant program and classified as a nonrecent graduate. A candidate who applies for the exam more than 12 months after graduation is a nonrecent graduate.
  3. Must have previously passed the CMA Certification Exam and 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 start date for the 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 in 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

Pennsylvania Medical Assistants FAQs

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

Medical assistants are categorized as unlicensed personnel in Pennsylvania State, so there’s no requirement for certification at the state level. The absence of state governance in no way diminishes the importance of certification within the profession as a whole. Employers are up to speed with the extensive regimen required for certification and actively seek out medical assistants who are AAMA certified.

What duties are medical assistants allowed to perform?

According to the Pennsylvania Medical Practice Act of 1985, the delegation of duties to health care practitioner or technician, a medical doctor may delegate to a practitioner the performance of a medical service if the task is consistent with the standards of acceptable medical practice and the delegation is not prohibited by board regulations and regulations pertaining to other licensed health care practitioners. Some of the delegable tasks include:

  • Duties associated with nontreatment aspects of occupational therapy services if the following conditions are met:
    • The licensee who delegates a duty shall accept professional responsibility for the performance of that duty by the aide or other unlicensed person to whom it is delegated. Responsibility for the performance of a duty delegated by an occupational therapy assistant shall lie with both the assistant and with the occupational therapist who supervises that assistant.
    • The aide or other unlicensed person does not perform an activity that requires licensure under the act.
  • Transporting patients
  • Preparing or setting up a work area or equipment
  • Attending to the personal needs of patients/clients during treatment
  • Assisting patients/clients with nontreatment aspects of occupational therapy services, such as monitoring and curing patients/clients as they participate in activities.
  • Performing clerical and housekeeping activities.

Medical assistants may not engage in:

  • Evaluating patients/clients.
  • Treating patients/clients.
  • Recording occupational therapy progress reports on the chart of a patient/client.

Contact the Pennsylvania Society of Medical Assistants

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania


CAAHEP & ABHES Accredited Medical Assisting Programs Pennsylvania

Altoona, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center
1500 4th Ave, Altoona, PA 16602
Butler, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Butler County Community College
107 College Dr, Butler, PA 16002
Johnstown, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
101 Community College Wy, Johnstown, PA 15904
Media, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Delaware County Community College
901 Media Line Rd, Media, PA 19063
Pleasant Gap, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology
80 S Harrison Rd, Pleasant Gap, PA 16823
Scranton, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Lackawanna College
501 Vine St, Scranton, PA 18509
Summerdale, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Central Penn College
600 Valley Rd, Summerdale, PA 17093
West Mifflin, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Community College of Allegheny County-West Mifflin (South Campus)
1750 Clairton Rd #885, West Mifflin, PA 15122
Youndwood, PA Medical Assistant programs:
Westmoreland County Community College
145 Pavilion Ln, Youngwood, PA 15697, United States