FAQ: How To Become a Certified Medication Aide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 15, 2022 | Published May 3, 2021

Updated September 15, 2022

Published May 3, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A health care professional discusses medication with an older patient who holds a prescription bottle. The professional wears light green scrubs with a white undershirt.

A certified medication aide (CMA) administers drugs to patients in health facilities. They double as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and assist with patient care. Knowing how to become a certified med aide and the requirements of the job can help you determine whether it is an ideal career for you.

In this article, we discuss what a CMA is and what they do, the salary a CMA can expect, the requirements for becoming a certified medication aide, and the expected job outlook.

What is a certified medication aide?

A certified medication aide is a type of certified nursing assistant trained to dispense medication to patients in hospitals and other health facilities. The CMA can also perform nursing assistant duties such as patient care. It is an entry-level role that you can use to build a long-term career in the health care industry.

Related: How To Create a Medication Aide Resume (With Example)

What does a certified medication aide do?

A certified medication aide is a medical professional with the authority to dispense drugs to patients in various health facilities. Medication aides work in hospitals, assisted living facilities, correctional homes and intermediate care institutions.

The medication aide may work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) on the job. They dispense medication to patients daily and also monitor dosing and drug use.

The list below covers the essential duties of a certified medication aide:

  • Record the quantity of dosage and time of medication use

  • Collect samples for laboratory analysis

  • Administer both non-prescription and prescription medication to patients

  • Collaborate with the nursing team to handle patient medication and care

  • Ensure the dispensary is well-stocked with adequate drug supplies

  • Advise and educate patients to ensure they comply with instructions on proper medication use

  • Alert supervisors to any adverse changes in patients due to medication

  • Follow all health regulations to ensure the safety of patients and staff

Read more: What Does a Medication Aide Do?

How do you become a CMA?

Here are the steps you need to follow to become a certified medication aide:

1. Complete your education

Unlike other health care professions, medication aides don't require a bachelor's degree to be certified. However, a basic education (in the form of a high school diploma or a GED) is still required in order to gain certification. Candidates must be 18 years or older to apply to be a CMA.

2. Obtain a CNA certification

The medication aide is a certified nursing assistant who is certified to administer medication. Candidates must therefore acquire a CNA qualification before applying to a medication aide training program. CNA programs are common in community colleges and medical education institutions and usually take 6-12 weeks to complete. A CNA program will teach you effective communication and patient care.

3. Earn a CMA certification

CMA certification takes about four months to complete. Candidates need to demonstrate at least 140 hours of clinical practice during their training period as part of the requirements.

In most states, CMA candidates have to pass an examination to get their Certified Medication Aide (CMA) license. Once they receive this license, they have permission to administer medication in any facility. Finding a good medication aide training program to prepare you for the certification examination is important. The proposed curriculum should cover the following:

  • Medication: Types, interactions and side effects

  • Legal, ethical and regulatory considerations related to the administration of medication to patients

  • Safe administration and control of medication

  • Record-keeping and communication in the health care team

You should note that the particular details of your certification training program, including the required number of hours of clinical practice, may vary depending on the region or state you live in.

4. Get industry experience

Most CMA training programs include significant hands-on experience. Take advantage of any opportunity during your training that allows you to gain industry experience.

Employers may require at least one year of industry experience in the field. That way, they know you have proven ability and skills to handle the tasks associated with the medication aide role. During this period, you should endeavor to acquire skills crucial for success in the industry. You should also gain a good grasp of medical and pharmacological terminology.

5. Apply for medication aide jobs

Once you have acquired the requisite qualifications and skills, applying for a job should come next. You can apply to hospitals, care homes, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities, assisted living care centers and medical research facilities.

To improve your chances of success, tailor your resume for each job application. Emphasize key skills such as knowledge of patient care procedures, attention to detail and the ability to manage adverse drug reactions in patients.

6. Commit to continuous study

Even after getting certified and landing a job, your learning should continue. Commitment to continuous study improves your skills and keeps you ahead of the competition. For instance, legislation concerning medication administration and management may change. Keeping abreast of such developments will ensure that you operate within the confines of the law.

It's important to remember that your medication aide certification is not permanent; you have to renew it by taking a fresh exam at intervals. If you fail any of these exams or tests, the state medical board can remove your certification. There are numerous opportunities to continue your education in the medication aide field. Refresher courses or online classes are resources that can improve your skills as a CMA.

Related: Becoming a Nurse Aide

What skills do certified medication aides need?

To become an excellent medication aide, a good understanding of must-have skills is important. Here are skills that employers look for in prospective medication aides:

1. Attention to detail

Medication aides must be observant and demonstrate an ability to notice minute details. They will have to document prescription dosages and time of use and make sure the details are correct.

2. Organization

Medication aides have to ensure routine administration of drugs to patients. They must record who used what drug, in what quantity and by what time. Aside from overseeing drug administration, they have to observe patient behavior daily.

Related: 9 Medical Assistant Skills To Include on Your Resume

3. Computer skills

Employers expect medication aides to be tech-savvy, as they have to use computers to execute their tasks. Depending on your employer, you may need to use specialized medical software to update patients' medical records.

4. Caregiving

Beyond dispensing drugs, the medication aide assists nurses in caring for patients. This is common, especially for certified med aides working in elderly care homes and other related facilities. You must understand the basics of caregiving for patients. This may involve learning how to take care of people with intellectual disabilities, bathing and monitoring patients.

5. Behavior analysis

After they administer drugs, the medication aide must observe patient behavior to evaluate the effects of the medicine. This is important to detect the adverse effects of medication on patients. Employers want medication aides skilled in behavior analysis. Such individuals are better positioned to evaluate the effectiveness of medication and their potential side effects on patients.

6. Medication administration

Medication administration is the primary duty of any medication aide, so employers want individuals who are highly skilled in this area. This skill includes understanding major drug types; their actions, side effects and indications. It also involves knowing how to prescribe and track medication dosage.

Related: Learn About Being a Nursing Assistant

What is the average salary of a CMA?

Salary data from Indeed shows that certified medication aide professionals in the US earn $45,299 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that nursing assistants and orderlies earn $30,290 per year. Both nursing assistants and orderlies perform similar tasks as medication aides. Thus, we assume that the salary for medication aides should be around that figure.

Several factors can influence the salary of certified medication aides. These factors include the employer, location, qualifications, experience and exact job duties and responsibilities.

Related: Learn About Being a Medical Technician

What is the projected growth for the medication aide industry?

Statistics from the BLS Job Outlook shows demand for nursing assistants and orderlies increasing by 5% between 2020 to 2030. The demand for medication aides may also see similar growth since the professions are similar.

The BLS says the aging baby boomer generation is the major factor driving demand for nursing assistants, who also double as medication aides. The bureau explains that the need for caregivers will continue to expand demand for this field.

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