The Ultimate Guide to Medical Assistant Programs 2021
Exploring your healthcare career options? Medical assistant programs can be an excellent way to spark a career in healthcare, especially for people that enjoy collaboration and helping patients. Or a way to gain experience and clinical hours for a nursing or physician assistant program.
As an added bonus, many of these programs are available online, so you can go to school while balancing everything else going on in your life.
In this article, we'll dig into everything you need to know about online medical assistant programs, including what you can expect to learn, and programs with high student success rates to help you make that next move.
Why Enroll in a Medical Assistant Program?
Completing an online medical assistant program can lay the foundation for a career as a professional medical assistant, or can be a good starting point for other healthcare careers such as nursing or healthcare administration.
Many people find that they can transfer their existing customer service skills from positions in the service or restaurant industry into a medical assistant position! Making it a great transitional career for those looking to make a change.
Another reason to consider enrolling is the salary and job growth potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median income for medical assistants is $34,800 per year. The BLS projects a 19% job growth rate for medical assistants from 2019-2029 -- much faster growth than the average position.
The programs themselves offer plenty of benefits, including flexible course schedules, commute-free classes, and, occasionally, reduced tuition rates. These programs are ideal for people with full- or part-time jobs or limited experience in healthcare.
Medical Assistant Program Accreditation
When reviewing potential schools and programs, always, always, always check for accreditation!
Accreditation means that a school or program meets the academic standards set by an industry authority. All programs in our ranking are recognized by an accrediting body.
Types of Accreditation: Regional vs National
Schools may receive either national or regional accreditation. Aspiring medical assistant students should only apply to programs with regional accreditation. While national accreditation demonstrates quality, students who attend nationally accredited schools may have trouble securing financial aid. In general, employers tend to prefer applicants who graduated from a regionally accredited institution.
Medical assisting programs do not receive programmatic accreditation from any specific organization, though this type of accreditation does signify a quality program.
What to Expect from an Online Medical Assistant Program
Not all medical assistant programs are the same. Schools may offer medical assistant programs as a diploma, certificate, associate degree, or combo. Curriculum, graduation requirements, and course structure will vary from program to program. However, most schools follow a similar medical assistant program structure.
Medical Assistant Coursework
Online medical assistant programs prepare students for administrative healthcare roles and don't require any background in healthcare. Making them ideal for recent high school graduates or people looking to switch professional fields.
These programs teach basic skills like collecting samples, taking vital signs, and administering medications.
Most programs also prepare students to take and pass various certification exams, such as the Registered Medical Assistant exam.
To meet certificate exam requirements and industry standards, schools may require the following courses:
- Medical terminology
- Pharmacology for medical assistants
- Administrative skills for medical offices
- Legal and ethical issues for healthcare professionals
- Insurance claims and processing
- Patient privacy
How Long are Online Medical Assistant Programs?
The length of an online medical assistant program depends largely on the program type. But can be as little as one year up to two years. Certificates, diplomas, and associate degree programs in medical assisting each have unique credit requirements and timelines.
- A medical assistant certificate usually takes one year to complete, potentially less. The program duration depends on how quickly students complete courses.
- A medical assistant diploma can take up to two years to complete. Some diploma courses also include a medical assistant certificate halfway through the program.
- A medical assistant associate degree takes at least two years to complete, though some programs require five semesters of study. Students are often able to transfer credits from an associate degree into a four-year bachelor's degree.
Paying for Online Medical Assistant Programs
Studying online is a great way to eliminate the costs of in-person education, such as room and board, transportation, and on-campus fees. However, students still need to pay their tuition and fees.
Fortunately, students can cover the cost of their education through financial aid.
Types of Financial Aid
- Scholarships: Students often use scholarships to cover portions of their education. Some scholarships only accept applications from students pursuing a medical assistant degree, certificate, or diploma.
- Grants: Similar to scholarships, grants offer money for students to put toward their education. Students might automatically qualify for grants after applying for federal financial aid.
- Federal Financial Aid: Before looking at scholarships and grants, be sure to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA could qualify you for scholarships, grants, and government student loans.
- Student Loans: While not ideal for all students, student loans can cover the remaining educational costs of your program. Shop around for different types of loans before making any decisions.
Online Medical Assistant Programs with the Highest Success Rates
To help you choose the right medical assistant program for you, we analyzed accredited online medical assistant programs and ranked them based on student success, measured by graduation and transfer out rates.
Because many schools offer a range of medical assistant program options, this ranking utilizes the school's overall graduation and transfer out rates. We also included tuition rates and available programs.
- Total Tuition: $23,000
- Degree Program(s): Health medical assistant certificate
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 90.3%
The University of California Los Angeles, better known as UCLA, created an Extension division that helps students study for specific career outcomes. The health medical assistant certificate offers some courses online, but requires some in-person coursework.
In this program, students in the Los Angeles area can take advantage of one of the top programs in the nation. Those who work for UCLA can significantly reduce the cost of this certificate.
- Total Tuition: $21,518 (based on per-credit tuition rate)
- Degree Program(s): Medical assistant certificate
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 88%
Purdue University Global, the online extension of Purdue University, offers a medical assistant certificate at an accelerated pace. Using innovative 10-week courses, students can complete the 58 required credits faster than they could elsewhere.
Those with previous college credits can reduce the time and cost of this online certificate.
- Total Tuition: $1,239
- Degree Program(s): Medical assistant certificate
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 87%
The U.S. Career Institute is dedicated to providing degrees and certificates that lead to careers. In addition to affordable tuition, the U.S. Career Institute offers most of their programs entirely online, including the medical assistant certificate.
The program consists of just four units and prepares students to sit for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant exams. The U.S. Career Institute holds accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
- Total Tuition: $14,950
- Degree Program(s): Medical assistant diploma
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 75%
Based in Provo, Utah, Provo College specializes in healthcare education and offers a medical assistant diploma. This entirely online program takes as little as nine months to complete and qualifies students to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant certification exam.
After graduation, Provo College can connect aspiring medical assistants with positions across Utah.
- Annual Tuition: $13,361
- Degree Program(s): Medical assisting associate degree, medical assisting diploma
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 75%
Originally a massage therapy education center, Daytona College now features medical assisting programs to earn an associate degree or diploma.
The associate degree takes 70 weeks to earn while the diploma program lasts 40-48 weeks. Both options prepare students for certification exams, such as the Registered Medical Assistant exam.
- Total Tuition: $12,573
- Degree Program(s): Medical administrative specialist associate degree
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 70%
Alexandria Technical & Community College -- one of the best two-year colleges in Minnesota -- prides itself for high retention, graduation, and career placement rates. The community college's online medical administrative specialist associate degree requires 60-semester credits to complete.
Full-time students can finish the degree in just four semesters, while part-time students may take longer.
- Annual Tuition: $21,000
- Degree Program(s): Medical assisting science associate degree
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 69%
Founded in 1977, Keiser University is Florida's largest not-for-profit private institution with 21 campuses throughout the state.
The online medical assisting science associate degree prepares students to begin a career in medical assisting or transfer into a four-year degree. In total, the associate degree requires 60 credits and takes at least four semesters.
- Annual Tuition: $11,700 (based on per-credit tuition rate)
- Degree Program(s): Medical office assistant certificate, medical office assistant associate degree
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 62%
A Christian school based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University has over 250,000 alumni that may connect students with professional roles. Students can earn either a certificate or an associate degree in medical office assisting through entirely online courses.
The certificate takes an average of six months to complete while the associate degree takes an average of two years. Both options use accelerated eight-week courses, ideal for people studying part-time.
- Total Tuition: $3,199
- Degree Program(s): Medical administrative assistant with electronic health records certificate
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 59%
California State University San Bernardino, part of the extensive CSU system, serves over 20,000 students each year. Some choose to study entirely online, including those in the medical administrative assistant with electronic health records program.
This short program prepares graduates to become Certified Medical Administrative Assistant or Certified Electronic Health Record Specialists. CSU San Bernardino lets students jump into the program any time during the quarter.
- Annual Tuition: $5,693
- Degree Program(s): Medical assistant associate of applied science degree, medical assistant certificate
- Graduation and Transfer-Out Rate: 49%
Part of the North Dakota University System, Dakota College at Bottineau prepares most of its students to transfer into a four-year university. However, the medical assistant certificate and associate of applied science may lead directly into the workforce.
While most of the program is online, both options require a 180-hour cooperative education experience to gain professional exposure. This format prepares graduates to step immediately into medical assistant positions.
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