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Online Medical Assistant Programs

By Michael McCarthy | Updated 4/19/2022

Online medical assistant programs, available at the certificate and associate levels, aim to educate students in patient care. You can enroll in a medical assistant program to learn both medical office administration and clinical procedures for patient care. These include scheduling patients, billing insurance providers, measuring vital signs, and explaining physician instructions.

In small offices, medical assistants often handle a wide range of duties, whereas they may specialize in one particular area in larger healthcare facilities. In all cases, they work closely with doctors, nurses, and other practitioners to ensure that their patients' care experience is thorough and seamless.

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Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs

The beauty of certificate programs is their brevity. Most certificates take no more than a year to complete with a full-time schedule, which means you can enter the workforce more quickly. To enroll in a certificate program, you only need a high school diploma or GED, whether attending online or on campus.

Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Medical Assistant Certificates

Visitors to our site are most interested in these schools
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 Purdue University Global $14,358 72% (465 reviews)
# 2 #2 Liberty University $11,700 57% (325 reviews)
# 3 #3 Daymar College $19,450 33% (3 reviews)
# 4 #4 American National University $8,244 17% (6 reviews)
# 5 #5 Baker College Online $9,920 59% (94 reviews)
# 6 #6 Carrington College $34,050 0% (5 reviews)
# 7 #7 Penn Foster Career School Not Provided 46% (158 reviews)
# 8 #8 Penn Foster - Healthcare Not Provided 47% (15 reviews)

Online Medical Assistant Certificate Program Curriculum

Professors discuss the two sides of the medical assistant profession during a certificate program: administrative and clinical. You'll generally take 36-48 credit hours of classes on these topics.

Many online certificate programs have an externship requirement. Once you enroll, you'll work with a program advisor to find a placement site near your home, which can include a hospital, private medical practice, or urgent care center. An on-site supervisor will oversee your work and ensure that you complete the minimum time requirement.

Online Medical Assistant Associate Degrees

Program directors design these degrees to take two years of full-time study to complete either online or on campus. In reality, most associate students need longer to finish. Though recent data is scarce, the Urban Institute's research suggests that most enrollees take closer to four years to earn their diploma for a variety of reasons.

Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Medical Assistant Associate Degrees

Visitors to our site are most interested in these schools
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 Daymar College $19,450 33% (3 reviews)
# 2 #2 Independence University $14,585 56% (124 reviews)
# 3 #3 American National University $8,244 17% (6 reviews)
# 4 #4 Davenport University $19,338 100% (3 reviews)
# 5 #5 National American University Online $10,575 40% (75 reviews)
# 6 #6 Penn Foster Career School Not Provided 46% (158 reviews)
# 7 #7 Penn Foster - Healthcare Not Provided 47% (15 reviews)
# 8 #8 University of the Incarnate Word $32,576 100% (2 reviews)

Online Medical Assistant Associate Program Curriculum

In most cases, you'll take the same 36-48 credits of medical assistant classes that you would in a certificate program. You may also have room for one or two healthcare-related electives in your schedule, but this varies by school. You'll also take 30-40 credit hours of general education courses and complete an externship to gain hands-on experience.

Overview of Online Medical Assistant Programs

The medical assistant field is growing rapidly, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 18% increase in new jobs through 2030. Colleges are racing to keep up with enrollment demand by offering more online programs in the major. You can potentially qualify for many medical assisting roles by earning either a certificate or associate degree in the discipline, because both types of program cover the knowledge and skills required of professionals. However, associate degrees also contain general education courses that may transfer more easily to another college if you decide to pursue a subsequent bachelor's degree.

The medical assistant field is growing rapidly, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 18% increase in new jobs through 2030.

In general, the medical assistant curriculum focuses narrowly on training students for these roles and doesn't feature optional concentrations. You may end up specializing in either the administrative or clinical side during your medical assistant career, but you typically can't start preparing for this during your studies.

To learn more about medical assistant programs, check out our Guide to Online Medical Assistant Programs.

Common Courses

The core curriculum is similar for most online medical assistant degrees and certificates. Below, we list some medical assisting courses you're likely to take if you enroll in either type of program.

Anatomy and Physiology

Faculty introduce the systems of the human body and the ways in which they interact. They typically discuss normal organ system health along with common disease pathologies that can disrupt their functions.

Clinical Billing and Reimbursement

This course describes the considerations and procedures particular to healthcare professionals, such as billing codes, medical insurance reimbursement, privacy regulations, and electronic health record software.

Healthcare Law

Professors introduce legal topics relevant to your role as a medical assistant, including major legislation such as HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act. They often discuss the lines between medical law and ethics, as well as the duties of confidentiality and retention of medical records.

Medical Office Applications

This course is a survey of both commonly used technology tools and soft skills needed in medical assisting, such as communication and organization. Lessons may cover scheduling, accounting, and business writing for clinics and doctors' offices.

Medical Terminology

This class introduces the standardized written and oral classifications that help medical personnel understand their patients' situations. Faculty emphasize the importance of accurate spelling, pronunciation, and differentiation of diagnoses and treatments.


Medical assistants can dispense medication in most states, so this course teaches the responsibilities inherent to that function. You'll study various drugs and their physiological effects on the body, along with the most common methods of dispensing them.

Accreditation for Online Medical Assisting Programs

It's important to ensure that a school is accredited before you apply, because this means that it passed a voluntary review by an organization dedicated to educational quality. Many trade and vocational schools opt for national accreditation, which tends to have lower academic standards but still qualifies the institution to accept federal financial aid. Regional accreditors generally review academic institutions such as two- and four-year colleges. Regionally accredited colleges typically don't accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools, so keep this in mind if you think you might want a bachelor's degree in the future.

It's important to ensure that a school is accredited before you apply, because this means that it passed a voluntary review by an organization dedicated to educational quality.

Individual programs can also seek accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). You don't need to graduate from an accredited program to work as a medical assistant, but it is required to qualify for a Certified Medical Assistant credential. This isn't the case for other professional certifications.

Next Steps for Medical Assistant Program Graduates

You can choose several paths once you earn your medical assistant qualification. Read on for a few options you might consider.

Apply for jobs. You can potentially start working for a hospital, outpatient care clinic, physician's office, or chiropractor practice. These employers may hire you on a provisional basis on the condition that you get certified by a particular organization

Take a certification exam. Some certifiers let you sit for a test up to a month before you graduate, as long as you can provide proof of externship experience.

Enter an advanced degree program.

  • Certificate graduates can pursue an associate or bachelor's degree, but it will likely need to be in a subject other than medical assisting — you'll have already completed the major coursework.
  • Associate degree graduates can likewise apply for bachelor's degrees but only in another major, because an associate is the terminal degree for medical assisting.
  • In either case, you might be interested in other majors in the medical field, such as healthcare administration, nursing, or public health

Do I Need to Get Certified as a Medical Assistant?

There's no legal requirement for medical assistant certification, but it can only help your ability to market yourself to employers. Some medical assistant programs advertise their curriculum as helping students prepare for particular certification exams. If you're interested in a specific certification, you might give more weight to schools that intend to help you sit for that exam.

FAQs About Online Medical Assistant Schools

How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Assistant?

It can take as little as one year of full-time study and four to five years if you study part-time. You may be able to complete a certificate program in 9-12 months and find a job soon after graduating. If you want to earn a certification to improve your employability, you might be able to take a certification exam before you graduate, but this assumes that your academic program includes a practicum or externship. Field experiences are more common in two-year associate degrees, and some certifying bodies require them before you can qualify for certification.

Do Medical Assistants Require a License or Certification?

There are no licenses for medical assistants, and states don't require certification because their clinical duties are more limited than those of other healthcare practitioners, such as doctors or nurses. However, some employers might only consider candidates who hold one of the five certifications for this profession.

How Much Do Online Medical Assisting Classes Cost?

This varies by institution. Many students enroll in medical assisting programs at public community colleges. According to the latest National Center for Education Statistics data, these schools average $3,800 per year for tuition and fees. Private schools cost significantly more, as do most four-year colleges.

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