Medical Assistant Programs in Hawaii and Qualifying for Certification

Medical assistants are in high demand in Hawaii. A 2019 report by the Healthcare Association of Hawaii’s Healthcare Workforce Initiative suggested that 10% of medical assistant positions were unfilled.

Hawaii’s medical assistants carry out routine tasks under delegation by physicians and intermediate professional. They are multi-skilled and may carry out a range of tasks, administrative as well as clinical. Medical assistants are most often found in ambulatory care settings. Many are at clinics operated by health systems. The Hawaii Healthcare Workforce Initiative reported many open positions at health system clinics.

Hawaii organizations are developing partnerships to help meet workforce needs. Technology is being used to increase options on Neighbor Islands ( address medical assistant shortage/).

Hawaii’s medical assistants are unlicensed. Third party certification is not mandated at the state level but is often mandated at the employment level.

Top Medical Assistant Training Programs in Hawaii

Kapiolani Community College offers multiple program options. Students can opt for a certificate or associate degree. Also available is a 20-credit program in medical assistant healthcare practice management that the school notes can help a medical assistant advance his or her career. Kapiolani Community College holds continuing accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Kaua’i Community College holds initial CAAHEP certification. In 2018, it reported a 100% certification examination pass rate and 90% job placement rate. A partnership with the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College – and some modern technology – allows Maui students to participate with Kauaʻi students.

Hawaii Pacific Health has a program specifically for high school seniors. They complete two semesters of coursework and 225 hours of externship. One notable thing: It’s free! One thing Hawaii Pacific is accomplishing: increasing its own pool of potential medical assistants. The organization states that after completing the program and achieving their professional certifications, students are given “primary consideration” for employment.

Medical Assistant Certification Standards Set by Hawaii Employers

Hawaii employers frequently require certification. They may do so in different ways.

Waikiki Health noted in a recent posting that medical assistant candidates should have completed programs that included externship and certification.

Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center noted “CMA or RMA”.

Both Hawaii Pacific Health and Hawaii Health Systems Corporation reference the same four organizations in late 2019 job postings:

  • American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
  • National Center for Competence Testing (NCCT)

Each of these certifying agencies is accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

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Medical Assistant Certification Pathways

Medical assistants have varying titles depending on their certifying body.

The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) grants Certified Medical Assistant. It may be referred to as CMA or CMA (AAMA); the latter makes it clear the title is not being used in a generic way to denote certification.

The National Healthcareer Association grants Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) credentials.

American Medical Technologists grants the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA).

The National Center for Competency Testing, meanwhile, grants National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA).

The certification process for each of these certifications includes examination. Certification options, though, depend on training.

Individuals must have formal education in medical assisting to achieve AAMA certification. They can achieve AMT certification through experience but will need five years of recent experience (a higher amount than what some organizations require). Individuals qualifying through the traditional academic pathway at this time have similar requirements whether they test through AAMA or AMT. They will complete a program that holds programmatic accreditation or is housed in an accredited institution. Students who go the latter route can expect at least 720 hours of training. AAMA specifies 560 hours of non-practicum academic coursework and 160 hours of practicum but does allow 1,000 hours of experience to substitute for practicum. Completion of an academic program that does not hold accreditation through CAAHEP or the Accreditation Bureau for Health Education Schools (ABHES) is described as a time-limited or pilot option.

Multiple organizations have pathways for medical assistants who received formal medical services training in the armed forces.

Top Hawaii Employers of Medical Assistants

Hawaii Pacific Health is a major employer. Medical assistants are utilized in many specialized clinics and services. The organization has recently sought individuals to assist with pediatric cardiology, infectious diseases, and the women’s center (among other programs).

The following are among Hawaii’s other employers:

  • University Health Partners of Hawaii
  • Kokua Kalihi Valley
  • Kauai Region, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation
  • Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center

Hawaii Medical Assistant Salary and Career Outlook

Hawaii medical assistants earned a mean wage of $38,040 a year or $18.20 an hour in 2018. The10th percentile wage was reported as $27,360; the 90th percentile wage as $50,240. The Hawaii-Kauai nonmetroplitan area reported the second highest average wage of any nonmetropolitan area in the country. Here the mean was $40,620, or $19.53 an hour.

The location quotient is slightly above average in Hawaii. It’s greatest in Urban Honoluluu, though not by a wide margin. Location quotient is lowest in the Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina area.


The Hawaii State Society of Medical Assistants is the state affiliate of the American Association of Medical Assistants. AAMA has multiple membership categories, encompassing CMA, non-CMA, and student.

Related Content:

CNA Programs in Hawaii

LPN Programs in Hawaii

How to Become an LPN in Hawaii

RN Programs in Hawaii

How to Become an RN in Hawaii

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