Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs Guide
Medical assistant programs prepare aspiring medical assistants to pass state exams and meet other state requirements. These programs can be completed in two years or less at a technical or vocational school and junior and community colleges.
Though licensure requirements vary by state, those pursuing a degree in medical assisting can take advantage of the flexibility of an online degree.
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for medical assistants to be hired without experience and receive on-the-job training. As the healthcare system increases in complexity, employers are looking for candidates with deeper skill sets who can handle the increasing demands.
Medical assistant programs and state exams have been created to help prepare aspiring medical assistants for work in the healthcare system.
3 Types of Medical Assisting Degrees
Online Medical Assisting Certificate
- A focused program comprises core clinical courses without many general education and liberal arts classes in an associate degree program.
- You may not be eligible for transfer credit if you decide to further your education in the future.
- Often the least expensive programs due to the lower number of credit hours.
- It can be completed in as little as nine months
Online Medical Assisting Diploma Programs
- Entry requirements may include an H.S. diploma or equivalent
- Typically last 12-18 months (as little as 8-9 months)
- Nearly identical to certificate programs
- Self-paced study mixed with real-time elements
- Credits may not transfer
- Courses focus on clinical and administrative skills
Associate of Applied Science Degree in Medical Assisting (AAS)
- Can be earned in two years or four semesters
- ~65 credits (50 core course credits, 15 general studies elective credits)
- Average of 30 more credit hours than certificate programs
- Includes more general, liberal arts, clinical, and administrative classes
- Credits easily transfer toward a bachelor of science degree, if further education is sought
- Eligible to take the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) examination and/or Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) examination once the degree is earned
- Offers top-level earnings and more lucrative positions
- Offers immediate employability once a degree is earned
3 Specialties and Areas of Concentration
Medical assistants tend to seek specific training to better serve their employers. This training involves one of three categories:
Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA): This focus mainly deals with patient care alongside a physician. Clinical medical assistants assist with minor procedures and examinations, chart vital signs, explain treatments and procedures to patients, and document vital signs, among other things.
In small offices, CMAs often help with maintaining and ordering supplies, answering phones, scheduling appointments, working on insurance claims, and more. A two-year degree or certificate course is required to jumpstart your career as a formally trained CMA. Most online courses include real-world “practice” and study that prepare them for this field.
Administrative Medical Assisting: Administrative medical assistants, or medical secretaries, perform administrative tasks for hospitals and clinics. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, managing front desk operations, interviewing patients for case histories in advance of appointments, processing insurance payments, accounting and billing, maintaining supplies for and appearance of the office, and other functions. Administrative medical assistants often manage basic business operations for healthcare facilities.
There are no formal educational requirements to jumpstart your career as an administrative medical assistant, but most employers will mandate at least a high school diploma for employment. The Accreditation Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) are the two medical assistant accreditation bodies. Seek certification through an institution that's accredited by one of those groups.
Specialized Medical Assisting: As physicians become more specialized, there is an increasing need for specialized medical assistants. Specialty certifications allow medical assistants to concentrate their medical training on a narrowly focused medical field. Specialized assistants become healthcare team members. Certifications are available through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the American Medical Technologists (AMT).
School data was compiled from IPEDS and the College Navigator, both hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Our rankings aim to objectively assess online medical assisting programs according to affordability, academic quality, and student satisfaction. The following criteria were used to make our assessment:
Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs
Each School Must
- Be an accredited public or private, not-for-profit institution.
- Offer an online associate in Medical Assisting degree program
- Submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.
All eligible institutions are ranked on a 100-point scale. A perfect score of 100 is earned by ranking #1 for all ranking factors.
ACADEMIC QUALITY – 60%
- Full-Time Retention Rate – 20 %
- Part-Time Retention Rate – 20 %
- Graduation Rate – 20 %
AFFORDABILITY – 40%
- Average Net Price – 20 %
- Percentage of Enrolled Students Receiving Financial Aid – 20 %
Schools on our list are committed to high-quality, affordable education for their students. We are pleased to announce the outcome of our assessment with the ranking below.
Top 10 Accredited Online Medical Assisting Programs
#1 Alexandria Technical & Community College
Founded in 1961, Alexandria Technical & Community College has a history of keeping up with changes and offering what students need. Currently, this college offers a Medical Administrative Specialist program that is completely online. This program also ranks as one of the best medical assistant programs online. Students will learn advanced computer functions, medical terminology, anatomy, communication, how to use electronic health records, and much more. To earn the degree, students will also work with a medical office mentor in a capstone course to meld the major topics in this program. Students are equipped to apply for jobs in hospitals, medical clinics, private practices, and more.
- Net Price: $13,636
- Retention Rate: 70%
- Graduation Rate: 64%
- Salary After Attending: $45,227
Further Reading: Cheapest Accredited Online Colleges
#2 Clarion University of Pennsylvania
Clarion University was founded in 1867 and serves roughly 4,000 students. This university has received over 30 awards based on accreditations, teaching, and student performance. Clarion University offers an Associate of Science in Allied Health, which can only be completed online. This degree is suited for students who already have training in allied health fields such as paramedic technology, medical assisting, medical lab, and several other careers. This degree is meant to help students progress in their medical careers. The program requires 30 credit hours of courses with health concentration, as well as 30 credit hours of general education and 30 credit hours for clinical training.
- Net Price: $19,452
- Retention Rate: 76%
- Graduation Rate: 51%
- Salary After Attending: $43,071
#3 Olney Central College
Olney Central College is part of the Illinois Eastern Community College system (OCC). All of the OCC schools have a set of values that encourage responsibility, honor and truth, fairness, respect and self-respect, and compassion. This college offers an online medical office career degree. The specialties offered in this degree include Medical Office Assistant, Medical Coding Associate, and Medical Transcription. With one of these degrees, students will be ready for employment in medical clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and even insurance companies. Students may also find employment with local health organizations. These programs focus on administrative medical duties such as medical reimbursement. Classes also focus on the clinical side, as well as anatomy. Olney offers the most affordable medical assistant program online.
- Net Price: $7,254
- Retention Rate: 67%
- Graduation Rate: 53%
- Salary After Attending: $31,880
#4 Minnesota State Community and Technical College
The mission of MSCTC is to help students develop the skills they will need for their future. In other words, to help students learn with purpose. This school offers medical assistant online degrees for Medical Office Assistants as well as Medical Administrative Assistants. In each program, students will learn patient billing, scheduling, record keeping, and general office functions. The administrative assistant degree includes some leadership courses, preparing the student for administrative roles right after graduation. Students will also learn medical terminology and ethical practices in both programs. Upon graduating, students are equipped to work in doctor’s offices, medical clinics, and hospitals.
- Net Price: $11,244
- Retention Rate: 63%
- Graduation Rate: 39%
- Salary After Attending: $41,470
#5 Keiser University – Ft. Lauderdale
Keiser University is ranked as one of the top colleges in the South by U.S. News & World Report. It offers several campus locations in Florida and includes online courses. Keiser offers one of the best medical assisting degree programs available. This degree readies students to work under physicians performing tasks such as testing blood sugar levels, providing injections, and helping with minor surgeries. Students will also learn to perform x-rays, run blood tests, and perform other laboratory functions. Students also learn how to communicate properly with patients, the proper method of maintaining patient records, and other administrative duties. Although the highest-priced online medical assistant program, Keiser University also offers the highest full-time and part-time retention rates and graduation rates.
- Net Price: $35,346
- Retention Rate: 72%
- Graduation Rate: 58%
- Salary After Attending: $36,284
#6 Kirtland Community College
Serving nine different counties, Kirtland Community College is the largest in the state of Michigan. To keep up with the needs of students, this school offers several degrees in the health science field, including a medical assistant degree. KCC also offers a degree in Health Information Technology, which is fully online. This course teaches students how to do billing and coding, maintain medical records, as well as various clerical duties. The degree focuses on new federal regulations of how billing information and medical records are to be tracked. Graduates will be educated for careers in specialty doctor’s offices, the health department, hospitals, and even the government. Kirtland Community College offers the second most affordable online medical assistant program on our list.
- Net Price: $5,105
- Retention Rate: 62%
- Graduation Rate: 23%
- Salary After Attending: $33,145
#7 Minnesota West Community and Technical College
Minnesota West Community and Technical College has received several accolades. MWCTC offers an online medical assistant degree. It also offers a Medical Administrative Secretary A.A.S. degree. With this degree, students can work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and more. This degree focuses on the clerical side of the medical field. Students in this course will learn medical office procedures, word processing, medical insurance, and business communications. Students also learn general medical knowledge and terminology. Minnesota West offers the third cheapest online medical assistant program on our list.
- Net Price: $11,439
- Retention Rate: 57%
- Graduation Rate: 49%
- Salary After Attending: $39,460
#8 Barton County Community College
Since 1998, Barton County Community College has been providing students with the education needed for upstanding careers. This school sees more than 4,300 students on an annual basis. It offers online learning, with its medical assistant degree being one of the top courses in all of Kansas. BCC also offers online degrees in Medical Lab Tech and Medical Administrative Tech. Medical Lab Tech students will learn chemistry, immunology, psychology, anatomy, and more. This degree allows students to retain employment as lab managers, cruise ship hospital techs, infection control specialists, and more. Medical Administrative Techs will learn business law, accounting, payroll procedures, and more. This degree is for someone interested in the healthcare field but does not want direct interaction with patients.
- Net Price: $10,003
- Retention Rate: 62%
- Graduation Rate: 21%
- Salary After Attending: $35,932
#9 Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical
The vision of Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical is to serve the individual as well as regional needs for lifelong learning and career development. This school does this by focusing on technical and career-oriented education. MSCST boasts a 94% job placement rate and even offers students a chance to earn a medical assistant degree completely online. This school also allows students to earn an associate degree in Medical Administrative Assistant. In this course, students will learn medical office procedures, healthcare documentation, business communication, medical transcription, and more. As a graduate of the program, students are educated for employment in extended care facilities, outpatient clinics, medical centers as well as insurance companies.
- Net Price: $13,063
- Retention Rate: 57%
- Graduation Rate: 39%
- Salary After Attending: $40,045
#10 Guilford Technical Community College
Since 1958, GTCC has been training professionals for a career of their choice. This school had a humble beginning with only 42 students. However, that number has grown to over 10,500 students annually, with five campuses. This school honors the values of excellence, integrity, and collaboration. This school provides a medical assistant degree focusing on Medical Office Administration. This course teaches students to coordinate information, provide statistics, billing and coding functions, and more. Students will be able to manage manual and electronic medical records, process medical codes, decipher medical billing claims, and have an in-depth knowledge of medical terminology.
- Net Price: $10,898
- Retention Rate: 56%
- Graduation Rate: 21%
- Salary After Attending: $31,781
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Medical Assistant Programs – Accelerated Online Programs
- Online Medical Assistant Programs & Schools
- CMA (AAMA) Exam
- Medical Assistant (CCMA) Exam
Medical Assistant Certification Guide
Certified medical assistants are important for healthcare teams as they ensure that patients are well cared for. While most certified medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, you’ll find them in other healthcare practitioners’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can enter this growing profession, read on!
Career Outlook for Certified Medical Assistants
As the medical field continues to advance, the need for skilled and certified medical assistants will inevitably rise alongside it. Years ago, these positions were obtainable for those with only a high school diploma, but times have changed, and most employers now prefer candidates who have both training and medical assistant certification.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that medical assistants will see job growth over the next 10 years. People with the best prospects will be those with certification and/or experience. Technological advances, an aging population, and the need to replace medical assistants leaving the profession mean that this will be a healthcare job sector that will continue to grow.
The BLS also reports that the median annual wage of medical assistants as of 2021 was $37,190; the middle 50% earned between $26,860 and $37,760, with earnings varying by location, experience, and skill level.
Job Responsibilities of Certified Medical Assistants
Medical assistants have a diverse set of duties that can span from administrative work to clinical tasks. As a result, it's essential to prepare to perform any or all of the following obligations:
- Greet patients
- File and update medical records
- Fill out insurance forms
- Schedule services at hospitals and laboratories
- Answer the phone and handle emails and correspondence
- Schedule patient appointments
- Perform various bookkeeping and billing tasks
- Assist doctors during exams
- Take patients’ vital signs
- Record medical histories
- Provide information to patients regarding diets, treatments, and procedures
- Prepare patients for x-rays, exams, and other procedures
- Sterilize and arrange medical equipment
- Distribute medications
- Remove stitches
Training for Certified Medical Assistants
Those interested in becoming a certified medical assistant have two basic educational paths to choose from certificate/diploma or associate’s degree. Completing either of these paths may qualify you for medical assistant certification, but be sure to read program descriptions carefully to be sure you will be eligible.
- Certificate/diploma medical assistant programs: Offered through community or career colleges, courses in a certificate or diploma program deal with the knowledge and training required to be a certified medical assistant; that is, you will not have extra, more general academic requirements. A certificate/diploma medical assistant program takes between nine months and a year to complete; because this is considerably shorter than an associate’s degree program, these programs are also less expensive.
- Associate’s medical assistant degree programs: Offered through community or career colleges, associate degree programs will require general liberal arts courses and those necessary to become a certified medical assistant. These programs take about two years of full-time study to complete and are more expensive than certificate or diploma programs, but there are at least three big advantages:
(1) You may be able to apply your credits to a bachelor’s degree program.
(2) You will be a more well-rounded job candidate.
(3) You may command a higher starting salary.
Upon completing an accredited medical assistant training program, you will become eligible for medical assistant certification. It would be best to ensure a program will make you eligible for certification, as employers are increasingly accepting only certified ones. The Certifying Boards of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT) certify CMA programs.
Choosing the Right Medical Assistant Certification Online Program
You must select a school that has either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) accreditatation for medical assistant certification.
Some other factors you should consider when choosing a medical assistant degree program include the following:
- Your future career aspirations (especially whether you would like to continue your medical studies later)
- The time and money you have to devote to your studies
- Whether you are eligible for financial aid
- Whether the school will help you find a job and how well they have helped other graduates
Are you ready to start becoming a certified medical assistant?
Choosing a Medical Assisting Program
How do I choose a good program?
All programs are not created equally. To get a respected education, you should look for programs that meet specific criteria. All good programs, including the best online medical assistant programs, have institutional accreditation, require internships and offer job placement resources.
How important is accreditation for medical assisting degree programs?
There are 2 types of accreditation. It is important for you to understand the differences between them before you look into accredited programs. The first type is institutional accreditation which is awarded to universities, colleges, or technical schools as a whole. The second type is program accreditationwhich is granted by professional organizations to specific programs within a university, like a business program.
No matter the academic discipline you pursue, it is crucial to select a school that has obtained institutional accreditation. It is especially important to make sure that your school is accredited if you are interested in attending medical assistant online programs.
Program accreditation requirements tend to be less clear. You do not need to graduate from a specially accredited program to get a job as an administrative or clinical medical assistant. To attain certification as a medical assistant, it is imperative that your program holds accreditation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there are 2 accrediting agencies in this field. You should look for medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
You can find an accredited medical assistant program online or at a brick-and-mortar school. And since there is no difference in the standards for online programs for medical assistants and brick-and-mortar medical assistant programs, you can view program accreditation as a stamp of approval whether you are looking for medical assistant schools online or not.
Will I have to do an internship or get hands-on training?
All high-quality medical assistant programs, including online programs, will require you to complete an externship, which is a short-term internship. The externship is offered at the end of your program in your final term so that you can practice the skills you have learned in a practical setting and graduate with confidence in your abilities to perform your future job. Externships can vary somewhat according to your school and your workplace. But generally speaking, medical assisting externships consist of at least 160 hours of supervised work experience in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or clinic. You should pay close attention to whether your school offers a chance to build your hands-on skills to obtain a medical assistant online degree. Externships are important regardless of the school you attend, but they are essential if you attend an online medical assistant program. Even the top medical assistant programs online cannot effectively teach you to all of the hands-on clinical skills that you need to excel as a medical assistant. Therefore, you should only attend a medical assistant online program if it places you in an externship.
Will my medical assisting program help me find a job as a medical assistant?
Some schools offer career resources to help students find jobs after graduation. Typically, students complete externships with clinics that are affiliated with their school. The business relationship between schools and clinics gives students work experience and a foot in the door.
Naturally, a positive externship experience will boost your resume greatly. You may be hired by the same clinic directly after completing your externship. But that is not a guarantee, so you should begin networking with others to secure a job. To start networking, you should become active in professional organizations like Linked In, which can help you reach out to other medical assistants and allied health professionals.
There are also a variety of professional organizations you can join to enhance your credibility and find out about job offers in your area. The top organization is the American Association of Medical Assistants, which offers information on recruiting medical assistants and about average salaries and benefits. There are five medical assistant certifications: CMA, CCMA, CMAA, NCMA, and RMA. The most important of these is the CMA, and you should only pursue the other certifications if your employer specifically requires them.
The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential is awarded by the American Association of Medical Assistants when students pass its CMA certification examination. This is considered a baseline for establishing your professionalism to employers and will increase your chances of getting a job. The CMA helps employers protect against medical malpractice plaintiffs who may attempt to discredit a healthcare organization that otherwise employs an unlicensed healthcare worker. Increasingly, most healthcare employers require this certification. To take the CMA, you must graduate from the CAAHEP or ABHES accredited programs.
After earning your credential, the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) requires recertification every 60 months. You can recertify by earning continuing education (CE) credits or by retaking the examination. If you choose to recertify by examination, you can learn what is required in the AAMA online handbook.
Suppose you would rather recertify through further study. In that case, you must earn 60 recertification points by taking approved medical assistant classes through colleges or on the continuing education page of the AAMA website. You can start by visiting AAMA’s e-Learning Center to complete your training online. Additionally, you can take advantage of its online self-study courses, which cover various topics in medical assisting.
The American Medical Technologists award the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential. You are eligible to take this examination only after you have worked as a medical assistant for five years or more. Some employers require registered medical assistant status, so upon your fifth anniversary, you can attain this certification. You should only do so if you can confirm a salary increase with your current employer or if you plan to change jobs to a new employer that requires RMA.
The American Medical Technologists (AMT) regulates recertification through its Certification Continuation Program (CCP). AMT recertification guidelines state that medical assistants must meet CCP requirements every three years. In addition, you should expect an annual renewal fee to maintain your RMA certification.
AMT also provides a series of web-based educational opportunities that members can utilize. Their STEP Online continuing education program gives you access to printable academic articles and online tests through which you can earn CE credits.
CCMA or CMAA
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) comes from the National Healthcareer Association. Unless the healthcare organization for which you are applying requires the CCMA, it is not recommended you pursue this certification.
Even so, both of these certifications also require continuing education to maintain them. To recertify, you must either participate in a continuing education medical assistant training program or retake the certification exam. If you recertify through continuing education, you must earn at least ten of your CE credits every two years from its own Continuing Education Program, where all of its CE programs are available in an online format.
The National Center for Competency Testing offers the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) credential. Again, unless the healthcare organization for which you are applying requests it specifically, the NCMA is not recommended.
The NCMA certification is issued by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), which offers an online continuing education test that you can take annually to keep your medical assistant certification current. NCCT offers over 70 downloadable CE courses. After completing each course, you can take an online test to earn CE credits.
Study for Your Certification Exams
These print and online medical assistant study resources can help you prepare for your certification exam, whether this is your first time attempting certification or needing a refresher before recertifying. The key to success is preparation, so utilize the medical assistant study resources listed below to increase your chances of passing your exam.
Free Medical Assistant Study Resources
Certified Medical Administrative Assistant Study Guide – Specifically created for administrative medical assistants, this guide provides a comprehensive discussion of the key elements of medical office management, like communication techniques, scheduling appointments, processing mail, working with health insurance, medical terminology, and more. After reviewing all the information, it contains, you can take a practice exam to test your knowledge and assess which areas of medical assisting you still need to study.
National Healthcareer Association Clinical Medical Assistant Online Study Guide – This online study guide published by Virginia College allows you to create digital notecards to study for medical assistant exams at no cost. Additional features of this interactive guide are spelling quizzes, practice tests, and educational games to make studying simple and enjoyable.
MA Exam Help – Maexamhelp.com is a website devoted to helping prospective medical assistants pass their exams with minimal stress. The free resources available on this site include practice quizzes, study notes, digital flashcards, lecture notes, medical terminology dictionaries, and a brief history of medicine, plus links to other study sites.
Medical Assistant Resources Material You Can Purchase
These resources are considered the most valuable in the industry, based on interviews with medical assistants in North America, who found them of value in honing their medical assisting knowledge.
ATI Allied Health Clinical Medical Assistant Online Tutorial – This online tutorial, published by ATI Allied Health, is based on CMA certification tests from previous years, so you can be sure it will provide you with questions that prepare you for the actual exam. For instance, you can use the interactive quiz to test your knowledge of medical history, vital signs, the parts of a prescription, specimen collection, and legal considerations for medical assistants. Note that this valuable resource is provided for $40.00.
Certified Medical Assistant Exam Secrets Study Guide – After completing your study of the CMA exam material, you may utilize this textbook as a tool to familiarize yourself with the exam's format. By implementing the strategies outlined in this resource, you can improve your test-taking skills and gain a competitive advantage.
Kinn’s The Medical Assistant Study Guide and Procedure Checklist Manual Package – The most comprehensive study resource available, this book, published in 2010, was written by a collaboration of authors, including certified medical assistants, allied health instructors, and healthcare writers. It covers every topic you need to know to become a medical assistant. The field is divided into 11 units, including Administrative Medical Assisting, Health Information in the Medical Office, Assisting with Medical Specialties, and Diagnostic Procedures. This extremely comprehensive study review is available for $42.95.