Tennessee Medical Assistant Requirements and Approved CMA Programs

Medical assistants are healthcare professionals specifically trained to work in ambulatory settings where they perform administrative and clinical duties. Their role in healthcare has a direct bearing on public health, patient satisfaction, and patient outcomes. They manage clinical and front-office operations giving physicians the freedom to focus on patient care. Medical assistant programs prepare adults with the special skills required for entry-level positions in diverse settings. Practical and didactic instruction cover medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, clinical processes, communication, legal and ethics responsibilities, administrative duties, and information management.

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Benefits of Becoming a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants form a critical part of the health care team, especially in ambulatory care settings where medical teams strive to meet the needs of the growing patient population. The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reflects the demand for medical assistants with a projected 16 percent growth in employment through 2031 – a projection that is higher than the average for all occupations. This positive outlook provides a valid ground for completing medical assistant training to enter the field. It guarantees immediate employment after graduation, and especially after obtaining national certification.

Entry into the field of medical assisting is not as extensive or tedious as some other healthcare occupations. Most medical assistant programs are designed for completion in just 9 to 12 months – and that includes any mandatory clinical training. The short-term training places you in an entry-level position where you can begin earning a salary and pursuing any additional training you desire. In addition to saving time, you will also save a lot of money (compared to longer healthcare programs) and almost eliminate the debt associated with degree programs.

In spite of the brevity of medical assistant programs, graduates earn an enviable salary. The short-term investment and affordable cost (an average of $4,800 to $9,500 in Tennessee) leads to a median annual salary of $37,190 – according to the BLS. The salary potential is a lot more for medical assistants employed in ambulatory care settings and also for those who pursue national certification. That’s a sizeable return on a small investment of time and money in the medical assistant program.

Medical assistants have a unique position in the healthcare industry. They are one of few professions that have the flexibility to move around and work freely in diverse areas of the industry. For instance, a medical assistant can work with a primary care physician and move on to work with a chiropractor or nurse practitioner. The flexibility is beneficial for those who are attempting to find their footing or settle in a specific area of the industry.

Apart from exploring different areas of the industry, medical assistants can also build their skills in the administrative or clinical component – depending on their strengths. Medical assistants are cross-trained to perform both administrative and clinical duties. However, there are opportunities to work in a strictly clinical setting or administrative setting. The flipside is to become proficient in both areas provide additional value to healthcare employers. Medical assistants may perform administrative duties such as scheduling appointments, collecting patient histories, greeting patients, billing, and ordering inventory. Clinical duties include preparing patients for examinations, performing basic lab tests, preparing and administering medications, assisting the physician during examinations, drawing blood, wound care, and taking ECGs. The extensive list of duties reduces monotony in the workplace.

More than 32 percent of medical assistants move on to other careers in the industry. The education and experience as a medical assistant provide a solid foundation for advancement. With some additional training, medical assistants can prepare for leadership roles within the health care industry – another area where there is great demand. Medical assistants can enroll in a degree program to prepare for positions such as healthcare managers, nurses, healthcare administrators, and more.

Medical assisting can be beneficial for anyone trying to decide on a career path in the healthcare sector. Some careers require years of training and a sizeable financial investment – which is fine for someone who has a decided plan and career path. But for someone who wants some exposure to the industry before taking such a step, medical assisting will create opportunities to work with various professionals in diverse settings to help solidify a career decision.

Certified Versus Uncertified Medical Assistants

The shortage of certified medical assistants in previous years limited physicians’ options in the hiring of medical assistants. The rise in certifying organizations and ease of certification have greatly increased the availability of certified medical assistants and influenced the hiring practices of healthcare employers. Today, physicians understand the value of medical assistants, and in spite of financial limitations, many choose certified medical assistants simply because it gives them greater flexibility in the delegation of duties – which ultimately saves money in the long term.

Rapid changes in the field also dictate hiring practices where employers seek out the best educated medical assistants. Certified medical assistants, especially those certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants, must complete formal training from an accredited school. Other certifying organizations may certify candidates based on experience in the field. Certification says to employers that a potential employee has both the clinical and administrative skills to manage their practice. In Tennessee, physicians, physicians’ assistants, and licensed nurses may delegate the administration of certain medications only to medical assistants certified by one of five certifying organizations.

Certification in most cases reduces health risks and legal implications of the practice since a certified medical assistant is a trained professional. Certifying requirements are typically in line with changing industry trends, so credentialed MAs are more than able to stay on top of trends. Furthermore, the Tennessee health code requires health facilities to evaluate the quality of medical assistants, including verification of their certification, before delegating the administration of medication and other duties. In such a case, certification is beneficial as the majority of worthwhile jobs go to those who are currently certified through the AAMA or other certifying body.

See the list of certifying organizations below to determine what is the best option for you.

Nationally 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

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 Tennessee

Complete accredited training

A certificate, diploma, or degree in medical assisting includes instruction designed to prepare students with the knowledge and skills to perform medical office administrative and clinical tasks. The accredited training program will include didactic as well as practical activities in anatomy, physiology, and pathology, medical lab procedures, pharmacology, medical terminology, and phlebotomy. Medical assistant students will also learn how to manage administrative functions such as medical insurance, scheduling appointments, front office procedures, communication skills, and managing emergencies. A most important benefit of completing accredited training is the eligibility to apply for national certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants. The AAMA stands as the only certifying agency that requires completion of a medical assistant program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) for certification. Other certifying agencies accept experience as a substitute for formal training.

Accredited medical assistant programs cover at least 600 hours of theory and practical instruction. Admission may be competitive – depending on the available of clinical partners. A high school diploma or GED and some prerequisite coursework in math and science may be required by a few programs in Tennessee.

An accredited program will cover all or most of the points on the checklist below.

Duration of the medical assistant program: Medical assistant programs are classified under allied health and are typically short-term, requiring 12 months or less. Some certificate programs may be completed in 6 months.  Associate degree programs may extend to 24 months to include the general education requirements.

Employer-centered curriculum: An accredited program will base its curriculum on the goals and objectives of the certifying organization, employer expectations, and state mandates for the delegation of tasks to medical assistants. Assess the curriculum before enrolling to see that it covers all the duties permissible at the state level.

Experienced instructors: Faculty should be versed in the legal and ethical requirements at the state level as well as the role and function of the “certified medical assistant.” In Tennessee, certified medical assistants are permitted to administer medications with some conditions.

Flexible formats: Medical assistant programs may be offered full-time, part-time evenings, on the weekends, in traditional on-campus formats, and in hybrid formats. Choose a format that fits with your schedule. Hybrid programs provide an additional convenience of online study if you need the option of online learning.

Hands-on experience: A key part of healthcare programs is the practical training made available in a simulation lab and during clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities. The hands-on experience supports the application of the knowledge gained in the classroom.

Financially viable: Accredited programs are eligible for financial aid if you need additional help to pay for your studies. Apart from financial aid, you should consider scholarships, grants, and tuition reimbursement if you’re employed by a healthcare employer.

Fringe benefits: Extensive preparation for a certifying exam, remedial training, career prep coursework, and textbooks and supplies rolled into the program cost are some valid expectations.

Obtain Medical Assistant Certification

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential is a product of the American Association of Medical Assistants awarded to candidates who complete accredited training, pass the certification exam, and meet all other requirements for certification.

The CMA certification exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that will test your knowledge of pharmacology, safety and infection control, legal and ethical issues, communication, and much more.

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 can sit for the exam if you meet one of the criteria outlined below:

  1. Must be completing or a recent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assistant program. If you’re enrolled in a medical assistant program, you can take the exam no more than 30 days prior to completing the program and practicum. If you’ve graduated from a program, you must take the exam within 12 months of your graduation date.
  2. Must be a nonrecent graduate of a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited medical assistant program. You’re considered a nonrecent graduate, if you apply for the exam more than 12 months after graduation.
  3. Must be a CMA (AAMA) recertificant. Use this option if you previously passed the CMA Certification Exam and want 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 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

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) awards the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential to persons who meet the eligibility criteria and pass the RMA exam. The RMA credential is also accepted by healthcare employers across the nation. RMAs have the abilities, knowledge, and commitment to quality care.

Following are some other requirements for RMA certification:

Through formal education-

  • Must have graduated, within the past 4 years, or scheduled to graduate from an accredited MA program or program that is housed within an accredited institution.
  • Must have completed 720 hours of instruction that includes at least 160 hours of externship

Other training –

  • Must have completed a medical assisting work-study/training program within the last 4 years such as:
    • An apprenticeship program registered with the US Department of Labor (DOL)
    • A federally recognized State Apprenticeship Agency (SAA)
    • Workforce Development/Employer program

Work Experience

  • Must be employed as a medical assistant for a minimum of 3 years within the past 7 years – 3 years of full-time employment at 36 hours per week is the equivalent of 5,616 hours. Provide documents of both administrative and clinical duties on the employment letter
  • Experience must include both clinical and administrative duties
  • Must have a valid CPR card (copy of front and back). CPR training must include both theoretical and in-person demonstration of CPR proficiency.


  • Must be recent graduate, or scheduled to graduate from a formal medical services training program of the United States Armed Forces – Must have graduated within the last 4 years.


  • Must have worked as a medical assistant educator for a minimum of five years, and have previously completed a course in a healthcare related discipline.

The application fee for the RMA exam is $135. You must schedule your exam online after you receive approval from the RMA.

The official certification will be supplied within 7 to 14 days after you pass the exam.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)

The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is another nationally recognized certifying organization for medical assistants. Candidates who successfully meet all the requirements will receive the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) credential. Candidates for certification may fulfill the requirements for certification via work experience or practical training.

To take the CCMA credentialing exam, you must:

  • Possess a high school diploma/GED equivalent AND
  • Have completed a medical assistant training program (within the last 5 years) OR
  • Have one year of supervised medical assisting experience, in the last 3 years

The exam is administered either at your school, a PSI testing center near you, or through live remote proctoring at the location of your choice.

For online CCMA exams, NHA will officially post your certification results to your account page within two days of scoring your test.

Tennessee Medical Assistants FAQs

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

Medical assistants are not required to be licensed or certified by the State of Tennessee. Medical assistants working in ambulatory settings who will administer approved medications must be certified by an approved organization including the AMT, AAMA, NCCT, NHA, or NAHP. An ambulatory outpatient hospital is responsible for training and verifying competence of certified medical assistants.

What duties are medical assistants allowed to perform?

A hospital may employ certified medical assistants to administer approved medications to the hospital’s patients in an ambulatory outpatient hospital clinic as set forth in Tenn. Code Section 68-11-244.

A certified medical assistant may:

  • Administer approved, standardized dosage vaccines to the patients of an ambulatory outpatient hospital clinic
  • Administer other medications only pursuant to delegation by a licensed nurse or physician.
  • Only administer vaccines after:
    • An individual is assessed by a physician or licensed nurse; and
    • The physician or licensed nurse makes a determination that it is appropriate for the individual to receive the immunization administered by a certified medical assistant.
  • Administer only those medications that have been ordered by an authorized healthcare provider and are in single-dose, appropriately labelled, ready-to-administer packaging, including the following categories:

(A) Intramuscular or subcutaneous medications;

(B) Oral, sublingual, and buccal medication;

(C) Topical creams and ointments;

(D) Saline solutions for simple wound irrigation;

(E) Eye drops;

(F) Inhalation treatments, either metered hand-held inhalants or unit dose nebulizers;

(G) Ear medications; or

(H) Nasal medications.

  • Measure vital signs
  • Perform phlebotomy
  • Perform simple dressing changes
  • Collect patients’ medical history data
  • Prepare patient care areas

A physician or licensed nurse shall not delegate to a certified medical assistant the administration of:

  • Intravenous medications;
  • Blood or blood products;
  • Investigational drugs;
  • Chemotherapy drugs;
  • Drugs given through an implanted device;
  • Insulin;
  • Controlled substances;
  • Anesthetic agents;
  • Medications used for cosmetic procedures;
  • A medication requiring calculation of dosage;
  • Contrast media;
  • Allergy antigen agents; or
  • A medication requiring patient monitoring and assessment of response when a licensed nurse or physician is not immediately available to provide monitoring or assessment.

Certified medical assistants shall not administer medications to hospital inpatients or patients in an emergency department.

Contact the Tennessee Society of Medical Assistants

Chattanooga, TN 37415



CAAHEP & ABHES Accredited Medical Assisting Programs Tennessee

Chattanooga, TN Medical Assistant Programs:
Chattanooga State Community College
4501 Amnicola Hwy,
Chattanooga, TN 37406

The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
311 East MLK Blvd
Chattanooga, TN 37406

Miller Motte College
6397 Lee Highway, Suite 100
Chattanooga, TN 37421
(423) 510-9675

Cleveland, TN Medical Assistant Programs:
Cleveland State Community College
3535 Adkisson Dr,
Cleveland, TN 37312

Columbia, TN Medical Assistant Programs:
Columbia State Community College
1665 Hampshire Pike,
Columbia TN 38401

Johnson City, TN Medical Assistant Programs:
Ross Medical Education Center
3021 East Oakland Avenue
Johnson City, TN 37601
(423) 232-6270

Knoxville, TN Medical Assistant Programs:
South College – Knoxville
3904 Lonas Drive
Knoxville, TN 37909
(865) 329-7801

Ross Medical Education Center 
206 N. Seven Oaks Drive
Knoxville, TN 37922
(865) 297-4800

Lebanon, TN Medical Assistant Programs:
Genesis Career College Lebanon Campus
1505 Noah Court
Lebanon, TN 37087
(615) 453-7066

Nashville, TN Medical Assistant Programs:
South College Nashville Learning Site
616 Marriott Dr.
Nashville, TN 37214
(629) 802-3000

Remington College
441 Donelson Pike #150,
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 889-5520

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
1211 Medical Center Drive,
Nashville, TN 37232
(615) 322-5000