What is the Salary of Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs)? Pay by Region & Work Setting

Many within the healthcare industry would agree that a career as a certified medical assistant (CMA) can be a truly rewarding endeavor. These skilled professionals are responsible for assisting physicians and other healthcare personnel in clinical and administrative settings. They perform a number of tasks that are integral to the proper management and treatment of patients. Certified medical assistants may help prepare patients for examination rooms or administer certain medications. They also may be required to perform front-office work, including scheduling patient appointments and answering the phone.

Of course, certified medical assistants who have additional specializations will have different duties; for example, a CMA who works in the office of an obstetrician may assist with the monitoring and care of pregnant patients.

Along with significant personal reward, a career as a CMA also generally comes with significant monetary incentives, as well. Indeed, working in this capacity can be relatively lucrative, especially given the limited amount of time required to enter the workforce. And those within this field won’t likely have difficulty finding work in the future; specifically, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for certified medical assistants is expected to grow 23 percent nationally between 2018 and 2028, for a total of 154,900 new positions nationwide.

An overview of average salaries earned by CMAs across the nation follows, broken down into various sections for employment seekers.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Salary by Region

As with other professions, certified medical assistants who work in certain regions earn more than others; this depends on the housing supply and demand, positions available within the region, the cost of living overall, a person’s qualifications, and a number of other factors.

For example, those working in New York and California earn, on average, a higher salary than those in Texas or Florida. Statistics provided by the BLS (2019) demonstrating a regional difference in average salaries earned by CMAs are provided below:

  • California – $38,250, or $18.39 per hour
  • Florida – $32,870, or $15.80 per hour
  • New York – $37,560, or $18.06 per hour
  • Texas – $31,580 – or $15.18 per hour
  • Pennsylvania – $32,770, or $15.75 per hour
  • Maine – $35,160, or $16.90 per hour
  • Arizona – $33,410, or $16.06 per hour
  • New Mexico – $30,750, or $14.79 per hour
  • Oregon – $38,260, or $18.39 per hour

The statistics provided above show that there is a significant difference in salary depending on location nationwide.

That said, it’s impossible to say that CMAs in New York, for example, are necessarily more well-off than those in New Mexico, even if the former earn more than $5,000 per year more than the latter. Certified medical assistants in New York, especially those in an urban setting, face a much higher cost of living than those in New Mexico; this should be taken into consideration when deciding between employment opportunities in the future.

Currently, the top-paying states in this occupation with their annual mean salaries are:

  • Alaska – $45,490
  • District of Columbia – $42,010
  • Washington State – $41,340
  • Minnesota – $40,320
  • Massachusetts – $40,270

It is also important to note that the employment opportunities available to CMAs vary nationwide, as well. Below is a list of statistics provided by the BLS that show the number of employed CMAs within the associated states:

  • California – 92,960 medical assistants employed
  • Texas – 59,930
  • Florida – 55,330
  • Pennsylvania – 27,590
  • New York – 26,080
  • Arizona – 18,250
  • Maine – 4,180
  • New Mexico – 5,960
  • Oregon – 12,960

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to take into account regional differences, as well, and how they may account for variances in salary. For example, because the cost of living is generally higher in an urban area, it is likely that the salaries offered will be greater, although this is not an absolute rule.

Here are some average annual salaries for CMAs among large metropolitan regions in the U.S.:

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Division – $36,920, or $17.75 per hour
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Division – $37,720, or $18.13 per hour
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX – $32,400, or $15.58 per hour
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metropolitan Division – $33,530, or $16.12 per hour
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ – $34,090, or $16.39 per hour
  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA – $33,620, or $16.16 per hour
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metropolitan Division – $36,590, or $17.59 per hour
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division – $45,640, or $21.94 per hour
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL – $34,570, or $16.62 per hour
  • Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD – $34,480, or $16.58 per hour

The above statistics show that it is possible to command a higher or lower salary by finding employment even a few hours away. Consider, for example, those certified medical assistants who work in Philadelphia versus those who work in Newark; on average, the latter earn over $1.50 more than the former, yet the distance between the two can be covered in less than an hour-and-a-half by car.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Salary by Type of Office

Another factor that significantly affects the level of compensation that a certified medical assistant can expect to receive involves the type of setting in which they work. CMAs have the option to work in a variety of different settings, from individual doctor’s offices to large hospitals, and each of these employment opportunities will come with a specific level of salary.

The following provides an overview of the average annual salaries earned by CMAs in settings with the highest number of CMAs employed:

  • Offices of Physicians – $34,320, or $16.50 per hour
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners – $31,650, or $15.22 per hour
  • Outpatient Care Centers – $37,340, or $17.95 per hour
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals – $36,070, or $17.34 per hour
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly – $28,720, or $13.81 per hour

And there are additional industries that pay more than the rest. To help illustrate this fact, we have included additional statistics from the BLS below on the top-paying employers for CMAs:

  • Junior Colleges – $43,670, or $21.00 per hour
  • Computer Systems Design and Related Services – $40,610, or $19.52 per hour
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries – $39,710, or $19.09 per hour
  • Insurance Carriers – $39,530, or $19.00 per hour
  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories – $38,190, or $18.36 per hour

It is indisputable that these aforementioned industries pay, on average, well above many of the rest. However, the employment opportunities in these settings are significantly lower, meaning that the competition for available positions may be much greater in these industries, as a result.

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Salary Overall

According to information from the BLS, certified medical assistants earn, on average, quite a bit less than all other occupations nationwide. The BLS claims that the mean annual salary for CMAs is $34,540, while the average salary of all U.S. occupations is $51,960. These CMA statistics are broken down further into percentiles, as follows:

  • 10th percentile – $24,790, or $11.92 per hour
  • 25th percentile – $28,400, or $13.65 per hour
  • 50th percentile (median) – $33,610, or $16.16 per hour
  • 75th percentile – $39,190, or $18.84 per hour
  • 90th percentile – $47,250, or $22.72 per hour

Those interested in a position in this field should also note that there are variations in average salaries as reported by different sources. For example, PayScale paints a different picture of salary expectations by presenting data claiming that the average certified medical assistant earns $14.78 per hour, as opposed to the $16.16 stated by the BLS.

According to PayScale, the average salary is broken down by percentile in the following manner:

  • 10th percentile – approximately $24,000 per year
  • 50th percentile – $33,000 per year
  • 90th percentile – approximately $46,000 per year

The variance in reporting is something to keep in mind when job hunting for CMA positions in the future.

In conclusion, it is important to have reasonable salary expectations when pursuing employment as a CMA and this is meant to serve as a guide for your job search. However, a number of other factors should be taken into consideration, as well, such as the desired setting, required hours, possibility for advancement, among others. Keeping all of this information in mind can help ensure you are fully informed as you decide between available positions.