US Nursing Certifications, from NCLEX to MACE

Nursing Certifications

The medical field is full of rewarding careers, such as nurse practitioner, medical assistant, and certified nurse's aide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 11 percent of private-sector workers throughout the United States work in the healthcare industry, while 20 percent of private sector workers in metropolitan areas work in the medical field. Among these individuals, a majority are registered nurses. Each type of nursing has its own professional certifications and licensure examinations.

Registered Nurse and Practical Nurse

Pearson VUE administers an exam that was developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The test is called the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse, also known as the NCLEX-RN, or you can take the NCLEX-PN if you're going to become a licensed practical nurse. You'll have up to six hours to complete the RN exam, while you'll only have five hours for the PN test. The NCLEX-RN covers topics related to a safe and effective care environment, maintenance and health promotion, physiological integrity and psychosocial integrity.  You will have a minimum of 75 questions to answer and a maximum of 265. The NCLEX-PN covers the same topics only less in-depth, but requires you to answer a minimum of 85 questions and a maximum of 205. For test prep, you can find sites online with sample quizzes, or you can purchase a book to help you study, In order to take the PN exam, you must complete an accredited practical nurse program in a technical school, vocational school, community college or nursing school. Programs last between one to two years. In order to take the NCLEX-RN, you must earn a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree to be eligible for the RN exam. A person can do this through a nursing school, college, technical school, vocational school or a hospital program.

Medical Assistant

Once you complete an accredited medical assistant program, you will be eligible to gain one of a few professional certifications:


Certified Medical Assistant

You can opt to become a certified medical assistant (CMA)  from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The National Board of Medical Examiners not only provides many of the exams for physicians, they act as consultants for the CMA exam as well. When you complete your test prep, make sure you pay special attention to medical terminology, psychology, administrative tasks, health-related laws, nutrition and emergencies.


Registered Medical Assistant

Another certification you're able to earn is your Registered Medical Assistant licensure, which is provided by the American Medical Technologists (AMT). The AMT has been around since 1939. It's a nonprofit agency that provides membership to over 60,000 healthcare professionals and its licensure is well recognized, both nationally and internationally.


National Certified Medical Assistant

The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers the option to earn your National Certified Medical Assistant license. Established in 1989, the NCCT's medical assistant licensure tests an MA's knowledge of both administrative duties and patient care. An MA will be test on various areas including phlebotomy, pharmacology, physiology and bookkeeping.  

Nurse's Aide

A nurse's aide must go through a certified nurse's aide program.  At the end of the course, you'll be prepared to take an examination covering topics like anatomy, one-on-one patient care, safety and infection control procedures. The exam is given through the state you live in.  You can contact your state's licensure board to find designated testing centers. The test has two sections: a clinical portion and a written exam. During the clinical portion, you'll have to demonstrate the skills you learned for patient care such as how to transport a patient. In many states, the test you need to pass is given by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. A nurse's aide can also take the Medication Aide Certification Examination (MACE), which is provided through the state. This test allows a person to legally be able to pass medication in places such as assisted living facilities. Before the test, a person must take a two-day class to learn about safe handling and disposal of medications as well as the correct procedure to administer medications. It also teaches a student how to do a medication pass by using the correct procedures.  

Nurse Practitioner

Before you're eligible to become a licensed nurse practitioner, you must first complete your bachelor of science in nursing and your master's degree in nursing. You can choose from various specialties when you go to complete your master's. You must first complete the NCLEX-RN nursing exam. In addition, you'll need to earn your specialty certification. This varies based on your specialty, and this certification is given by your state's board.