Medical assistants play a vital role in today's healthcare industry. These professionals typically serve as go-betweens for patients and doctors. Their duties often include checking patient vital signs and diagnostics, administering injections, collecting blood and other bodily samples and other tasks that must be performed before and after physician exams. Medical assistants also update patient records, and are often proficient at using electronic health record (EHR) software programs.
Educational requirements for medical assistants and other supportive healthcare personnel are relatively relaxed; many enter the workforce with a high school diploma or less. Aspiring medical assistants can boost their career standing and expand their job opportunities by earning an associate degree in their field. Medical assisting associate programs cover both the clinical and administrative aspects of medical assisting, and some programs allow students to specialize in one of these areas. Administrative medical assistants usually work in an office setting, while clinical medical assistants work more closely with patients.
Most programs include clinical practicum courses, which allow students to receive supervised onsite training from experienced medical assistants and other healthcare professionals. Many of today's students choose to earn their associate degree in medical assisting online. Web-based students follow the same demanding curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of post-degree job opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule of most online medical assisting associate programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that may interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online associate degree in medical assisting and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE MEDICAL ASSISTING ASSOCIATE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Online associate degree programs in medical assisting provide a comprehensive overview of the principles, laws and ethics guiding modern patient care and support. Courses will cover basic diagnostics, medical technology, patient record-keeping and healthcare administration. During the latter stages of their online program, students will have the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they have gained in clinical practicum courses. The best online medical assisting degree programs also prepare students for additional career requirements, such as professional certification.
WILL AN ONLINE MEDICAL ASSISTING ASSOCIATE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online associate degree in medical assisting programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional, classroom-based education. Students will be able to access course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their own home. Current technology also allows them to study away from their desktop computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online students can usually coordinate onsite courses at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities near their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MEDICAL ASSISTING ASSOCIATE DEGREE?
Although most states do not have formal education requirements for medical assistants, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that many employment-seekers in this field have a postsecondary background. Candidates with an associate degree will be well-positioned to compete for top positions in the job market. An associate degree in medical assisting will also prepare students for alternative careers, such as EMTs and paramedics, occupational therapy assistants and aides, nursing assistants and orderlies and healthcare administrators.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MEDICAL ASSISTING ASSOCIATE PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online associate degree in medical assisting programs in the United States. If you are considering an online associate in medical assisting, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific associate degree requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Medical Assisting Programs
|1||Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 150 community colleges in the country, MWCTC operates five campuses in southwestern Minnesota, along with a range of online programs. Students at the college can earn a fully online medical assistant degree that’s typically completed within two years of study. MWCTC offers a Medical Administrative Secretary A.A.S., preparing students for administrative and clerical positions in medical offices. Medical secretaries receive patients and perform general administrative duties such as bookkeeping, appointment scheduling, typing, transcription, and answering telephones. They may also be responsible for ordering medical lab tests and other medical supplies. Students in the program gain skills for office administration, such as keyboarding and word processing, along with general medical knowledge, including disease conditions and medical terminology.
|2||Olney Central College Olney, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Part of the Illinois Eastern Community College system, OCC’s mission is based in values of responsibility, honor, fairness, respect, and compassion. OCC ranks as one of the top community colleges in Illinois, and the school is also praised by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 150 community colleges nationwide. The school offers an online Medical Office Assistant associate degree, preparing graduates for careers as medical office assistants, receptionists and transcriptionists. Students who earn their medical assistant associate degree online from OCC can find employment at doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, insurance companies and health organizations both public and private. The program includes administrative and communications courses along with medical topics such as clinical processes and anatomy.
|3||Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
Keiser operates several campuses around the state of Florida, with its main location in Ft. Lauderdale. The school is a top regional institution, ranked as one of the best colleges in the South by U.S. News & World Report. Kesier also offers one of the strongest medical assistant online degree programs in the state. The degree gives students the skills to work directly under physicians, performing a range of medical duties, including preparing exam rooms, administering injections, taking patient vital signs, and assisting in surgical procedures. Students also learn to perform laboratory operations such as urine analysis, blood tests, and pregnancy analysis, along with procedures such as x-rays and electrocardiograms. Medical assistants receive additional training in administrative procedures, including maintaining records, communicating with patients, and ordering supplies.
|4||Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
Located in Alexandria, Minnesota, ATCC has offered community education since 1961, and the school is now a part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. ATCC maintains an online Medical Administrative Specialist program that ranks as one of the top medical assistant online degree programs in the area. The degree emphasizes medical technology, computer, and general education courses. The degree includes medical knowledge, such as anatomy and physiology, along with clerical skills, such as transcription, billing, and insurance claim submissions. Students end the program working with a medical mentor in a special capstone course that synthesizes the program’s major topics. Program graduates are equipped for work in a range of administrative and health information positions at hospitals, clinics, and private practices.
|5||Barton County Community College Great Bend, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
BCC serves seven counties in Central Kansas, enrolling more than 17,000 students annually. More than 40% of students enroll in online courses, and the school’s medical assistant online degree is one of the top programs in the state. Through its BARTonline distance education system, BCC offers online degrees in both Medical Administrative Technology and Medical Lab Technician. Medical Administrative Technology focuses on the use of medical computer programs for record keeping, accounting, customer service, and more. The degree does not emphasize patient care, and is one of the few programs that allows graduates to work in healthcare with limited patient interactions. Medical Lab Technicians assist physicians by performing a variety of medical lab tests, including blood examinations, bacteria identification and diagnosis of diseases such as AIDS and cancer.
|6||Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
With campuses in four Minnesota cities, MSCTC enrolls more than 9,000 students annually through face-to-face and online programs. The school offers medical assistant online degree programs in both Medical Administrative Assistant and Medical Office Assistant. Both programs focus on coordinating medical office functions, including record keeping, patient scheduling, billing, and medical transcription. The administrative assistant degree includes some liberal arts credits and prepares graduates to assume leadership roles in the field. Students in both programs also gain knowledge of medical terminology and legal and ethical practices for the healthcare field. Graduates are prepared to work in clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare agencies.
|7||Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical Winona, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 40%||
Part of the Minnesota State system, MSCST operates out of two campuses in the cities of Red Wing and Winona. The school is focused on technical and career-oriented education, and its 94% job placement rate among graduates makes MSCST a natural choice for students looking to earn their medical assistant degree online. The college offers an associate degree in Medical Administrative Assistant, emphasizing the use of computer programs, medical office procedures, and healthcare documentation practices. The program prepares graduates for employment at medical centers, outpatient clinics, insurance companies, home health agencies, and extended care facilities. Students can take courses entirely online or in a hybrid format that also includes campus visits.
|8||Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Founded in 1867, Clarion is a part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, serving more than 5,500 students from its campus in western Pennsylvania. Clarion ranks as one of the top online colleges in the state as well as a top military friendly school, making it a popular choice for students earning their medical assistant degree online. The college offers an Associate of Science in Allied Health, intended for students with prior training in allied health fields, such as medical assisting, medical lab technology, ultrasonography, and paramedic technology. The degree gives students general education and awards them credit for their existing medical training, preparing them to pursue a bachelor’s degree after graduation. The program is offered solely in an online format.
|9||Guilford Technical Community College Jamestown, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
GTCC began in 1958 as North Carolina’s first training school, and today the college is the third largest technical school in the state, serving more than 40,000 students annually through five campuses and several online degree programs. Fostering values of collaboration, accessibility, excellence, integrity, and inclusion, GTCC emphasizes community service and workforce productivity through personal and professional growth. The college offers a medical assistant degree online with a focus in Medical Office Administration, giving students administrative and support skills for work in medical offices and similar organizations. Program graduates are prepared to use proper medical terminology, communicate effectively with patients, use relevant software, and perform financial and clerical tasks.
|10||Kirtland Community College Roscommon, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
KCC is a center of rural education in Michigan, serving nine counties that span more than 2,500 square miles. The school offers several high demand health science degrees, including a medical assistant degree online. KCC offers a fully online degree in Health Information Technology, training students to maintain medical records, perform billing and coding tasks, and input various types of medical and clerical data. The degree emphasizes information technology in a medical, ethical, legal administrative, and regulatory context, preparing graduates for work in most healthcare settings, from hospitals and doctor’s offices to health departments and insurance agencies. Students take courses on medical ethics, pathology, physiology, diagnostic coding, and information management.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Associate in Medical Assisting?
|Timeline||18 months to 2 years|
|Program Costs||$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition|
|Related Areas of Study||Nursing, Practical Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Medical Laboratory Technician, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Biomedical Equipment Technology, Surgical Technology, Pharmacy, Radiology/Radiologic Technology, Physical Therapist Assistant Studies, Health Sciences|
|Accreditation||Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)|
Employment Outlook for Associate in Medical Assisting
The projected job outlook for medical assistants and other supportive healthcare personnel is quite favorable. A growing number of patients seeking medical care has fueled the demand for qualified medical assisting professionals. More than 20 million previously uninsured Americans now receive medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and an aging baby boomer population has added to the uptick of patients requiring geriatric care.
The following table explores unemployment rates for medical assistants and other assistive professionals working in the healthcare industry.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2016)|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant||1.2%|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographer||1.9%|
|Clinical Laboratory Technician||3.4%|
|Physical Therapist Assistant||5.8%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
Of the 10 careers listed on the table, medical assistants face the second-highest unemployment rate. However, this figure is still significantly lower than the national unemployment rate for all occupations, which currently sits at 4.9%.
Earning a Living
According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, medical assistants with an associate degree earn a median annual salary of $27,800 during their first five years on the job and $34,600 after 10 years in the workforce. The table below explores salary expectations for employees with associate degrees in medical assisting and other healthcare-oriented fields.
|Associate Degree Field||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)|
|Physical Therapist Assistant Studies||$47,400||$57,400|
|Medical Laboratory Technology||$37,200||$48,500|
|Health Information Management||$33,900||$47,600|
|Medical Laboratory Technician||$35,400||$45,300|
|Health Information Technology||$32,000||$39,300|
|Medical Office Administration||$28,200||$34,400|
|Medical Billing and Coding||$29,600||$33,200|
As the table indicates, medical assistants earned the lowest salaries at the entry-level mark and the third-lowest salaries at the mid-career mark. However, this profession experienced the fourth-highest rate of salary growth after 10 years on the job: an increase of 24.4%.
Associate degree field of study is not the only variable used to predict salary expectations for medical assistants. Earnings for these employees will also depend on specific job titles, as well as other factors like employer size, certifications and city/state of employment. The next table looks at career salary growth for five common career paths in medical assisting.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
|Certified Medical Assistant||$33,959||$38,251||$42,014||$46,485|
|Certified Clinical Medical Assistant||$29,125||$35,016||$35,669||$39,464|
|Certified Medical Administrative Assistant||$29,432||$39,236||$40,695||$40,081|
The average career salary growth rate for all five occupations listed is 33.28. Certified medical assistants experience the highest rate of growth: an increase in earnings of 36.9% between the entry-level and late-career stages. Certified medical administrative assistants placed a close second with 36.2% salary growth after 20 years in the workforce.
Career and Further Education Opportunities
Students who graduate with an associate degree in medical assisting will be qualified for dozens of entry-level roles; those who obtain certification will enjoy even more job opportunities. Medical assistants and three other related career pathways are outlined in the section below.
Medical Assistants: Medical assistants offer basic patient care and support services at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. The BLS notes that nearly 600,000 medical assistants are employed nationwide, and this profession is projected to grow by 23% between 2014 and 2024.
EMTs and Paramedics: EMTs and paramedics care for sick and injured individuals in emergencies and critical situations. All states require these professionals to be licensed, although licensure requirements vary by state; many EMTs and paramedics obtain their license through certification with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies: These professionals (also known as nursing aides) offer basic patient care and support at hospitals, as well as nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. All nursing assistants and orderlies must earn a state-issued license; licensure requirements vary by state, but often include a comprehensive exam, background check and continuing education courses.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians: Also known as medical laboratory scientists, these professionals specialize in the collection and evaluation of blood, urine and other bodily fluid samples. Some states require medical laboratory scientists to earn full licensure.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)|
|Medical Records and Health Information Technicians||$30,590||23% (+138,900 jobs)|
|EMTs and Paramedics||$31,980||24% (+58,500 jobs)|
|Nursing Assistants and Orderlies||$25,710||17% (+267,800 jobs)|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians||$50,550||16% (+52,100 jobs)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to medical assisting is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for medical assistance professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.
- American Association of Medical Assistants: The AAMA is home to the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) professional credential, as well as other professional development and continuing education opportunities. Membership options are available to professionals and students in their first or second year of postsecondary education.
- American Academy of Physician Assistants: Founded in 1968, the AAPA is today the nation's largest professional organization for physician assistants with nearly 109,000 members in all 50 states. Membership perks include free webinars and continuing education courses, complimentary magazine and journal subscriptions, and substantial discounts on various goods and services.
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA): This organization is recognized nationally as the premier hub for professional health information management (HIM) education and training. The AHIMA website features information on certification and career options.
Financing Your Online Associate in Medical Assisting
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.