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.
What are the best medical assisting programs of 2020? Here are our top 3:
|1||Keiser University||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|2||State Fair Community College||Sedalia, MO|
|3||Georgia Northwestern Technical College||Rome, GA|
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
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Keiser's 60-credit associate in medical assisting program emphasizes pharmacology, medical law and ethics, and computerized medical office management. Graduation requirements include an externship in medical assisting. Earning the degree qualifies graduates to sit for the registered medical assistant certification exam.
More than 90% of Keiser's medical assisting students find a job within six months of graduation. Keiser supports students' professional advancement through resume critiques and mock interviews.
Keiser admits applicants who passed the GED. The university does not require recommendation letters or standardized test scores. Keiser charges the same tuition rate to all students regardless of residency. Active-duty service members benefit from a reduced tuition rate through the Yellow Ribbon Program.
State Fair Community College
|Sedalia, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
SFCC's online associate degree in medical assisting features coursework in administrative procedures, pharmacology, and laboratory procedures. Students complete clinical rotations at medical offices in and around SFCC's Sedalia, Missouri, campus. The 61-credit program requires that learners maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate.
As students near graduation, SFCC provides them with interest assessments, resume and cover letter assistance, and a guide that covers interviewing best practices. Other services include links to top job and networking websites.
Prospective students can apply for the fall semester. Incoming students who have not taken the ACT take the ACCUPLACER. In-district students pay the lowest tuition rate at SFCC.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College
|Rome, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
GNTC's associate in medical assisting program uses a hybrid delivery method, as some courses take place on the college's Rome campus. Core courses in the 63-credit curriculum include anatomy and physiology, medical office procedures, and legal and ethical concerns in the medical office. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to stay in the program.
To prepare for careers, students can download a resume template, review interviewing skills, and explore links to the best job search websites. GNTC also hosts on-campus job recruitment fairs.
GNTC accepts new medical assisting students in the fall semester. Applicants can submit GED scores or high school transcripts. Incoming students may qualify for federal, state, or private financial aid opportunities by providing FAFSA results.
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.
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