Complete Guide to Online Medical Assistant Programs
Online medical assistant programs are available at the associate and certificate levels. The online medical assistant programs on this page prepare students to play a very important role in patient care. Typically, medical assistants work in physicians' offices or healthcare clinics, performing both administrative and clinical tasks and working closely with doctors, nurses, and other practitioners to ensure that their patients' care experience is thorough and seamless. In small offices, medical assistants will likely have a wide range of duties, while in large offices, they may specialize in one particular area.
Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs
Medical assistant certificates prepare students for entry-level medical assistant positions in outpatient clinics, residential care facilities, and other healthcare clinics. Job titles may include medical administrative assistant, medical assistant, or medical office assistant. Certificate programs usually take between 6 and 10 months and require applicants to have only a high school degree or GED for admission.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Medical Assistant Certificates
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|# 1||Purdue University Global||$14,343||63% (283 reviews)|
|# 2||Daymar College||$15,000||33% (3 reviews)|
|# 3||American National University||$17,361||25% (4 reviews)|
|# 4||Pinnacle Career Institute Online||$18,115||23% (13 reviews)|
|# 5||Carrington College||$34,050||0% (3 reviews)|
|# 6||Penn Foster Career School||Not Provided||46% (151 reviews)|
|# 7||Penn Foster - Healthcare||Not Provided||47% (15 reviews)|
Online Medical Assistant Certificate Program Curriculum
Because certificates in medical assisting programs are designed to be completed in a relatively short period of time, they typically focus more on the administrative duties of a medical assistant and less on the clinical aspects. These duties may include updating and transferring patient medical records, answering phones, checking in patients, helping patients with scheduling for lab work, and helping with bookkeeping and billing. Students will also learn how to deal with sensitive, confidential situations in a professional manner. Other principles that are emphasized include time management skills, goal setting, and communication skills.
Medical terminology is an important foundational course in the certificate program, since many other topics are built around medical terms. Students will focus on the pronunciation, spelling, and roots of words so that they can effectively communicate with medical professionals and accurately document treatments and procedures. A course in insurance billing and coding will provide students with an understanding of the health insurance industry and how it relates to their jobs. They will learn how to write referrals, file claim forms, and recognize diagnostic codes. Medical assistant students should be sure to take a course on electronic health records (EHR), as management of these records will be a key duty of assistants in coming years.
Online Medical Assistant Associate Degrees
Associate degree programs for medical assistants are found at junior colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools. They usually take two years of full-time study to complete. To enroll in these programs, students must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Students who have excelled in high school classes related to math and science, such as chemistry, anatomy, and biology will be well prepared to start an associate degree program for medical assisting. Associate degrees require students to take liberal arts classes that fulfill general education requirements in addition to coursework for their majors.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Medical Assistant Associate Degrees
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|# 1||Independence University||$16,972||57% (123 reviews)|
|# 2||Bryant & Stratton College Online||$14,618||59% (64 reviews)|
|# 3||National American University Online||$10,575||40% (75 reviews)|
|# 4||Daymar College||$15,000||33% (3 reviews)|
|# 5||American National University||$17,361||25% (4 reviews)|
|# 6||Pinnacle Career Institute Online||$18,115||23% (13 reviews)|
|# 7||Davenport University||$18,414||100% (3 reviews)|
|# 8||Penn Foster Career School||Not Provided||46% (151 reviews)|
|# 9||Penn Foster - Healthcare||Not Provided||47% (15 reviews)|
|# 10||University of the Incarnate Word||$31,484||100% (2 reviews)|
Online Medical Assistant Associate Program Curriculum
Medical assistant associate degree programs involve both laboratory and classroom coursework. Students will study a number of subjects related to the human body, such as anatomy and aspects of kinesiology. Students will also learn practical facets of this profession such as the proper etiquette for working directly with patients, how to gauge patient vital signs, how to ready blood for testing, and how to perform various types of injections.
Other practical aspects of the coursework include learning medical terminology and different types of equipment necessary to fulfill tasks. Students will also learn how to interpret and write medical coding, which is used for health records. Electronic health records require candidates to learn different software used to preserve patient information. Additionally, medical assistants will learn to read patients' diagnoses and assist physicians in interpreting the results.
In addition to lab and classroom work, most associate medical assistant programs require students to complete a practicum or externship in order to gain hands-on experience. Under the supervision of licensed healthcare professionals, students will have a chance to apply the techniques and methods they've learned in the classroom to real-life situations. There will also be some on-the-job training once graduates are hired as medical assistants, since all healthcare clinics have different computer programs, systems, and procedures in place.
There are no formal education requirements for medical assistants who choose not to become certified. Thus, those with an associate degree should be qualified for all areas of specialization within this profession. Some of these specializations include those for ophthalmic, administrative, podiatric, and clinical medical assistants. Some medical assistants choose to focus more on administrative tasks, like record keeping, while other medical assistants may become more specialized in clinical work directly caring for patients. By accumulating experience and on-the-job training, candidates can perform more advanced duties that may be state-regulated, such as administering X-rays.
Certification Requirements for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants are not legally required to be licensed or certified in order to work in the United States. However, earning a voluntary certification may increase the number of job opportunities available to you or help you negotiate a higher starting salary. Many employers prefer to hire those who are certified, and some employers require it. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, offers four core certifications for medical assistants:
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant: The CCMA certification is sponsored by the National Healthcareer Association and is designed for medical assistants who are skilled at both clinical and administrative tasks. CCMAs must complete 10 continuing education credits every two years to maintain their certification.
Certified Medical Assistant: The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the Certified Medical Assistant credential, which is known around the profession as the gold standard and best of all available certifications for medical assistants. To be eligible for the CMA exam, applicants must either be a student who is within 30 days of graduating from an accredited medical assistant program, or they must have graduated from an accredited program within the past year.
National Certified Medical Assistant: This certification is offered through the National Center for Competency Testing. Those who have graduated from approved programs or those with acceptable work experience may apply for NCMA certification. Upon passing the NCMA examination, medical assistants must participate in continuing education units each year to keep their certification current.
Registered Medical Assistant: The American Medical Technologists offers certification with a Registered Medical Assistant title. Applicants must have completed an accredited medical assistant program within the past four years or have relevant work experience.
The Importance of Accreditation for Medical Assistant Programs
In order to have access to the best job opportunities, students who are considering a career as a medical assistant are encouraged to enroll in a certificate or degree program that has been accredited. Accreditation means that the program has voluntarily chosen to be evaluated and held up to the highest professional standards.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools are the accrediting agencies that evaluate and set the standards for medical assistant programs in the United States. They are both recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.