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2020 Most Affordable Online Medical Assistant Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 4/9/2021
2020 Most Affordable Medical Assistant Associate Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 4/9/2021

Because of the growing number of seniors in our population who require preventive medical care, there is an increasing need for health professionals who take on administrative and clinical responsibilities in doctors' offices, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the need for medical assistants will expand by 19% through 2029, creating nearly 140,000 new job openings in this field.

The following is a list of accredited colleges that offer the most affordable online medical assistant associate degrees. These two-year programs provide a stepping stone into a steady, in-demand career as a medical assistant. We've also included information about the legitimacy of online medical assistant programs, how much they cost, and whether you can take the medical assistant test without going to school.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or see our Overall Most Affordable Colleges. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

Find an Online Degree:
All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Barton County Community College $4,800
# 2 #2 Dakota College at Bottineau $5,451
# 3 #3 Minnesota State Community and Technical College $5,968
# 4 #4 Alexandria Technical and Community College $5,970
# 5 #5 Herzing University $13,190
# 6 #6 University of the Incarnate Word $15,900
# 7 #7 Davenport University $16,608
# 9 #9 Keiser University $19,808
Annual Tuition: $4,800
Annual Tuition: $4,800
Annual Tuition: $4,800

Barton County Community College offers a fully online Associate of Applied Science Medical Assistant program. To complete the 64-credit degree, students must take both general education and medical assistant courses. In the administrative courses, students learn to schedule and receive patients, type reports, perform medical transcription, and handle financial transactions. In the clinical courses, enrollees learn to take patients’ medical histories, record vital signs, perform routine lab procedures,... administer medications, and more. Graduates are prepared to work in physicians’ offices, health clinics, hospitals, and laboratories.

Barton students use an online learning management system to take asynchronous courses. The college offers payment plans, and it charges the same per-credit fee for in-state and out-of-state residents. Online associate students may be eligible for various types of financial aid, including Barton Foundation Scholarships and Barton Boost Scholarships. Military personnel and veterans may be entitled to tuition discounts and other benefits. Among the resources available to enrolled students are 24/7 IT help, a career center, academic advising, and the library.

Interested students can apply online. Applicants must submit additional documents, such as transcripts and test scores, along with their applications. Barton is an open-admission college, so most students are admitted upon application.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,085
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Online Associate Degrees

  • AAS in Medical Assistant
Annual Tuition: $5,451
Annual Tuition: $5,451
Annual Tuition: $5,451

The 60-credit, online Associate of Applied Science Medical Assistant program at Dakota College at Bottineau is designed to be completed in two years. Students must complete at least 17 credits of general education courses and at least 43 credits of major-specific courses to graduate. The curriculum covers medical terminology, anatomy, clinical procedures, pharmacology, and medical coding, and it builds relevant skills in public speaking, computer technology, and office management. Graduates of the... program are prepared to sit for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam.

Through the Blackboard learning management system, Dakota College students are able to access course materials, assignments, and discussion forums. The college awards prior learning credit for students who have military service, work experience, and professional training and certification. Enrolled students are eligible for many types of financial aid, including some school-sponsored scholarships, and military students are eligible for additional scholarships and grants. Tutoring, counseling, and IT support are among the services available to online students.

To complete an online application file, prospective students must include high school or prior college transcripts, test scores, and immunization records. Medical assistant enrollees must also undergo a criminal background check. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and almost all students who apply are accepted as long as they have earned a high school diploma or GED.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 349
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Online Associate Degrees

  • Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assistant

Minnesota State Community and Technical College

Fergus Falls (MN) (and 2 others)
Annual Tuition: $5,968
Annual Tuition: $5,968
Annual Tuition: $5,968

Minnesota State Community and Technical College offers a 60-credit, online

Medical Administrative Assistant Associate of Applied Science degree. To graduate, students take nine credits of general education courses, a psychology course, a communications course, and 45 credits of medical administration courses. These include classes in medical language, billing and coding, documentation, anatomy, and medical transcription, as well as a capstone course in medical office procedures. The program is designed... to be completed in two years of full-time study.

At Minnesota State, students can read course materials, complete homework assignments, and participate in class discussions through the D2L Brightspace online learning platform. Financial aid is available, and more than

half of the school’s students fund their education entirely through grants and scholarships. Incoming students may be able to earn credits for previous college, military, and work experience. Once students enroll, they may take advantage of student resources, including technology help, academic advising, accessibility services, the library, veterans services, and career guidance.

Registration for the fall semester starts in late March. Prospective students may register and take an online orientation on the college website.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 87%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,291
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Online Associate Degrees

  • Associate of Applied Science in Medical Administrative Assistant

Can You Become a CMA Online?

Yes, there are many medical assistant educational programs available through distance learning. All of the schools on our list of most affordable online associate programs, for example, enable students to take their general education and major-specific courses through online learning management systems. You'll find both administrative and clinical courses in these programs.

The administrative courses will teach you how to keep records, use the medical billing and coding system, transcribe patient records, and perform other clerical tasks in a medical setting. In the clinical courses, you'll learn how to work with patients by checking their vital signs, administering medications, and drawing blood. Programs may also include coursework in psychology, communications, and basic computer technology.

Some online programs may require you to complete an internship or practicum, which will give you valuable hands-on experience working with patients and other medical professionals. An advisor or coordinator at your school should be able to help you set up an appropriate learning situation at a health care facility near you.

In some cases, you may also be able to take your certification exam online. For example, an exam proctoring service called Prometric administers the 200-question Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Certification Exam in four 40-minute sessions.

Are Online Medical Assistant Programs Legitimate?

There are many legitimate, accredited online medical assistant programs available. Accreditation means that the program or the school offering it have been evaluated by an independent agency and found to meet or exceed nationally accepted standards for quality. Legitimate online medical assistant programs are those that have been accredited by any of the six regional accrediting bodies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation for specific medical assistant programs may also come from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

Another way to determine whether a program is legitimate is to check with the association that will be administering the certification exam you intend to take in order to advance your career. For example, if the health care employers in your state prefer candidates who have been certified as National Certified Medical Assistants through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), you can contact the NCCT to check for approved programs.

How Much Does Medical Assistant Certification Cost?

There are two ways you can obtain the training needed to become a medical assistant, and each comes at a different cost.

Cost of Earning an Associate Degree
One way is to earn an associate degree from an accredited college or university. The programs on our list of affordable online medical assistant degrees have annual tuition rates ranging from $4,800 to $19,808. To get these annual tuition rates, we've multiplied the per-credit cost by the number of credits full-time students typically take, which is 30 each year. You can double this number to see the total tuition for a two-year program. At Barton County Community College, our #1 ranked school, the per-credit cost is $150 and the program requires the completion of 64 credits, resulting in a 2-year tuition cost of $9,600. The full cost of an associate degree will also include books, supplies, and fees charged by the college.

The programs on our list of affordable online medical assistant degrees have annual tuition rates ranging from $4,800 to $19,808.

Cost of Earning a Certificate or Diploma
The alternative is to earn a certificate or diploma by taking a course that will cover essential medical assisting skills and concepts. Some of these courses are accelerated, taking six weeks to three months and costing roughly $1,000 to $3,500. Other certificate programs take anywhere from six to 12 months, and tuition fees can vary widely. These programs may entail some additional expenses for items such as course materials and program fees.

However, cost is only one of many factors that should be considered when deciding what type of medical assistant program is best for you. You might also think about what learning pace feels right, how quickly you want or need to get into the workforce, how much structure you prefer in a learning environment, and what type of certification exam you plan to prepare for. Above all, you'll want to examine your long-term career goals and determine which program is most likely to take you where you want to go.

Can I Take the Medical Assistant Test Without Going to School?

Whether you can take the test to become a medical assistant without going to school depends on which test you intend to take. The following are just four of the more common medical assistant certification exams you can choose from, and each have slightly different eligibility requirements:

Medical Assistant Exam Eligibility Requirements Administering Agency
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Certification Exam
You must have graduated from or be about to graduate from an accredited medical assisting program.
American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Exam
You must be a recent or scheduled graduate of an accredited medical assisting program or from a formal military medical services training program, have worked as a medical assistant for five of the last seven years, or have extensive experience in teaching medical assisting classes.
American Medical Technologists (AMT)
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Exam
You will either have graduated from an accredited medical assisting program within the last five years or will have worked as a supervised medical assistant for one of the last three years.
National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Exam
You must be a current student of an NCCT-approved program, have graduated from an NCCT-approved program within the last five years, have worked as a medical assistant for two of the last five years, or have completed medical assistant training through the U.S. military within the last five years.
National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

To help determine which, if any, certification exam you need to take, you may want to check with your state's Department of Health website. Although the states themselves usually do not require certification, health care providers often do. These employers may have a specific exam that they prefer or require. The fees for these exams can vary anywhere from $90 to $250, and the cost may depend on whether you are a paid member of the sponsoring organization.

It is also possible to find work as an uncertified medical assistant. However, certification achieved by earning a certificate or degree and passing one of these standardized exams assures hiring managers that you have mastered the appropriate knowledge and skills to do the job. Education and certification can lead to more job opportunities, a higher income, and more chances for promotion.


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