With doctors and nurses in high demand, the need for office administrators has also increased across the country. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 29% growth in medical office administration positions by 2026.
Many colleges and universities offer unique programs that can lead to this fulfilling healthcare position. A medical office administration degree can provide a lucrative income and advancement opportunities. As both technology and medicine evolve, medical administration professionals remain on the cutting edge of health science and must adapt to new changes.
Should I Get an Associate Degree in Medical Office Administration?
A medical administration degree can offer working adults scheduling flexibility through online colleges for medical office administration. Recent high school graduates may prefer on-campus programs for a more interactive college experience. Campus classes offer opportunities for lively discussions among students, supportive social networks, and meetings with local professionals.
Colleges for medical office administration prepare graduates to serve as liaisons between patients, doctors, pharmacies, and insurance companies. As such, students learn a variety of skills, including data input, medical terminology, scheduling strategies, critical thinking, and effective communication.
Degree candidates can access a variety of resources to help guide them toward their career goals. On-campus learners may join student groups, meet with professors, attend job fairs, and complete internships to gain valuable experience. Some colleges for medical office administration also offer career services like resume help, interview preparation, and job placement assistance.
What Can I Do With an Associate in Medical Office Administration?
Colleges for medical office administration prepare graduates to work in various healthcare facility departments. Those who enjoy interactions with patients may become medical assistants or fill administrative roles, while others may prefer to work as medical records technicians. After gaining experience, these professionals can advance to administrative service managers.
- Administrative Services Manager
These professionals can work in almost any healthcare setting, including physician's offices and hospitals. They manage teams of administrative assistants to ensure efficiency and quality in all paperwork. In health offices, administrative services managers handle contracts with insurance companies, billing patients, and scheduling exams.
Median Annual Salary: $94,020
- Medical Assistant
Medical assistants take patients' vital signs and health histories. Although an associate degree in medical administration is not required, it can set applicants apart from the rest, as medical assistants also perform administrative tasks.
Median Annual Salary: $32,480
- Medical Records Technician
Often called health information technicians, these professionals use both paper and electronic systems to input patient data. They must ensure confidentiality, accuracy, and patient safety. These professionals need a strong understanding of healthcare administration.
Median Annual Salary: $39,180
- Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistants can work in many different industries. In healthcare, these professionals make appointments, take calls, and communicate with other medical facilities.
Median Annual Salary: $37,870
How to Choose an Associate Program in Medical Office Administration
Institutions offer many different types of associate programs for medical administration, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Applicants should carefully weigh the length, curriculum, cost, method, and accreditation of each program when making a selection.
First, students should determine how long it will take them to finish the degree. Some institutions offer accelerated classes that allow part-time students to graduate in two years, while others may provide summer classes that enable full-time students to complete degrees in 18 months.
Next, candidates should consider each program's curriculum. While many feature similar basic courses, some offer concentrations in areas like dental administration, insurance billing, and mental health. When considering cost, learners can save on tuition by attending local, two-year colleges.
Candidates must also consider whether they want to take classes online or in person. Distance education programs can allow students the flexibility to work while charging lower tuition rates. However, on-campus programs provide networking opportunities and socialization that online counterparts may not provide. Students should seek only fully accredited programs, preferably by a regional institution. These credentials help ensure that credits earned will transfer to four-year schools.
Associate in Medical Office Administration Program Admissions
On-campus programs may offer simpler admissions processes than online programs. However, most associate programs require the following for board review: the application, all transcripts, and the application fee. Some institutions additionally require SAT or ACT scores and letters of recommendation.
Learners should only apply to schools they truly want to attend. Candidates generally do not need to apply to more than three two-year programs since these institutions offer relatively open admissions. Students should gather all relevant documents prior to beginning the application process.
- Application: As admissions applications take nearly an hour to complete.
- Transcripts: Learners should submit all high school and college transcripts with the admissions application. Issuing institutions may offer a free copy, but many charge a small processing fee.
- Application Fee: Some public, two-year colleges offer free application. Other institutions may charge $10-$50 to review an application. Students with financial hardships can file waiver requests under certain circumstances.
Educational Paths for Medical Office Administration Associate Programs
Professionals who go on to obtain bachelor's degrees after an associate degree in medical office administration can earn a higher salary. According to the BLS, medical office administrators with bachelor's degrees in nursing earn an average of $70,000 annually, while graduates with bachelor's degrees in medical administration might earn $98,350.
- Medical Administration
With this four-year degree, graduates can become managers in healthcare organizations, studying the unique laws surrounding medical businesses and how to help both shareholders and patients.
A bachelor's in nursing can launch a successful medical career. Nursing graduates care for patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health facilities.
- Business Administration
These programs give students a broad view of how business works in various industries. Learners can choose from several concentrations that prepare them for management positions.
What Else Can I Expect From an Associate Program in Medical Office Administration?
Medical office administration programs can vary widely in offered courses and program completion times. However, some factors remain consistent between institutions. The following includes program similarities that associate-level medical office administration students can expect.
Courses in an Associate Program in Medical Office Administration
While each program offers a unique curriculum, many institutions provide similar foundational courses. These subjects ensure that students gain a basic understanding of medical terminology, systems, ethics, laws, and management.
- Medical Terminology
Whether patient-focused or administrative, medical professionals must understand medical terminology. This course familiarizes students with the names of medicines, diseases, and procedures.
- Billing and Insurance Coding
Insurance companies require medical administration officials to use proper coding on every bill. Doing so ensures that the insurance companies pay for patients' procedures and visits. This course teaches students billing and coding best practices.
- Healthcare Systems and Operations
Healthcare operations differ from other businesses in structure and operations. This course prepares learners to navigate complicated systems and communicate with other professionals effectively.
Students learn industry standards for making appointments and how to use scheduling software.
- Medical Laws and Ethics
The medical profession often presents workers with ethical quandaries and unique legal situations. This course prepares degree candidates to handle various workplace scenarios. Learners may also study changing healthcare laws and their impacts on medical businesses.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Medical Office Administration?
A student who enters a medical office administration program taking full-time courses in the fall and spring can expect to spend two years earning an associate degree. Several factors can change an individual student's timeline, however. For example, learners with relevant work experience may be able to earn credit at some institutions. This can allow such candidates to graduate quicker than their peers with less professional experience.
On average, associate programs require 60-64 credit hours for completion. Students can participate in summer courses through certain programs to accelerate the degree timeline. However, learners with full-time jobs and family commitments may need to take fewer classes per semester. Doing so may delay graduation, but the slower pace can help with scheduling flexibility and balancing personal life responsibilities.
How Much Is an Associate in Medical Office Administration?
The average annual price for tuition and fees at a public, two-year college stands at $3,440, according to the College Board. Students who earn their associate degrees from these institutions can pay less than $8,000 for their education. Learners at private schools or four-year universities can expect to pay more than double that amount.
Tuition and fees only make up part of the full education price. Students should take into consideration the cost of living and commute expenses in the area where they plan to attend school. Online students may need to pay for a new computer and software for coursework. Degree candidates may want to explore financial aid options to help supplement education costs, as these awards can help pay for tuition, books, housing, and basic needs.
Professional Organizations in Medical Office Administration
Professional organizations can allow medical administration professionals to network through local events and national conferences. Members can use career services, such as resume reviews, job boards, and continuing education programs, to help find employment. Some organizations also lobby legislature for better working conditions within the medical industry.
When professionals have questions about financial management or new healthcare legislation, they can turn to their fellow members at AAHAM, the only professional healthcare organization that focuses on revenue.
This organization benefits managers at small practices or physicians' offices. PAHCOM offers certification for managers, a national conference, and continuing education opportunities.
Administrators at long-term care facilities, students, and retired professionals are welcome to join this organization. ACHCA provides members with certification, networking, and scholarship opportunities to promote professional growth.