Fastest Online Associate and Certificate in Healthcare Programs

Want to prepare for a healthcare career quickly? Consider some of the nation's accelerated programs in healthcare to enter this fast-growing field.

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by James Mielke

Published August 8, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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An accelerated degree in healthcare at the associate level makes it possible for motivated, focused students to complete their degrees more quickly than if they enrolled in a traditional program. Some learners may also choose to complete a certificate in healthcare — either online or in-person. The majority of accelerated associate degrees require approximately 18 months to complete.

Costs for an accelerated online associate degree in healthcare from a community college vary but tend to be far less than a four-year degree. Graduates can look forward to projected growth in the healthcare industries and positions that offer median salaries between approximately $35,000 and $50,000 annually. Keep reading to learn about fast online associate in healthcare programs at top schools, what these programs entail, and where they can lead.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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How Fast Can I Get an Online Associate or Certificate in Healthcare?

A standard associate in healthcare typically requires two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study for students with no previous college coursework. An accelerated program, conversely, can be completed in as few as 16 months.

Most associate degrees consist of approximately 60 credits. Learners should decide how quickly they hope to graduate before dividing the number of credits by the number of terms available. Many students in accelerated programs also participate in summer classes and spend between 20-25 hours per week completing degree requirements.

What Can I Expect From an Accelerated Online Associate or Certificate in Healthcare Program?

Completing a certificate or associate in healthcare program allows learners to gather important foundational clinical and administrative skills that apply to a wide variety of entry-level positions. Designed for students who aspire to work in the healthcare field, these programs appeal to individuals who enjoy combining science and business.

Some learners pursue an accelerated degree that allows them to graduate more quickly. These are especially popular with busy professionals who want to complete major requirements as quickly as possible and begin earning a higher salary.

Accelerated programs do not limit the type of program customization available in a traditional program. That said, some programs only offer specific classes once every two years and may not align with student scheduling needs. Learners may be able to engage in independent study, if needed. These programs do not come with specializations, but may offer some electives for customizing studies.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.

What Courses Will I Take in an Accelerated Online Associate or Certificate in Healthcare Program?

Administrative Medical Management

This course provides skills related to office management, records management, professional communication, insurance processing, and coding for graduates who want to work in administrative roles.

Human Anatomy and Physiology

Typically taken in the first semester, this introductory course provides foundational knowledge about the human body's makeup and functioning that will prove useful in both administrative and clinical positions.

Foundational Clinical Skills

For students who wish to work as a medical assistant or phlebotomist, this course provides the knowledge needed to assist with physical examinations, laboratory procedures, and testing. The course also builds other skills commonly required in these roles.

Reimbursement Methodologies

This course provides students with an overview of the different types of health insurance and managed care plans. Students learn how to navigate the health insurance industry and become familiar with billing practices and regulatory policies.

Students enrolling in this research-based course learn how to engage with scientific literature, extract qualitative and quantitative data, and evaluate findings before producing original research aligned with scientific ethics.

Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare

This course provides an overview of the legal, regulatory, and ethical principles in healthcare. Some of the topics covered include bioethical issues, patient confidentiality, access to care, and malpractice and negligence.

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What Are Admission Requirements for an Accelerated Online Associate or Certificate in Healthcare Program?

Admission requirements for certificate and associate in healthcare programs can vary from school to school, although they tend to remain the same between campus-based and online offerings. They also look the same for accelerated versus traditional programs. We look at some common application components below.

Application

Most community colleges use undergraduate applications as an opportunity to collect basic demographic information about potential candidates. Common requirements of this form include the applicant's full name, mailing address, citizenship status, and date of birth. Most allow for online applications, though a few may allow students to mail in their applications.

Test Scores

The vast majority of certificate and associate in healthcare programs do not require test scores for admission, though schoolwide or program-specific scholarships may require these. If this is the case, most will expect learners to supply either ACT or SAT scores. Students without a traditional high school diploma will also need to supply GED test scores.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation provide the opportunity for current and former teachers, supervisors, mentors, faith leaders, and other influential figures to talk about how they know the candidate. Additionally, letter-writers offer personal experiences that indicate an applicant's readiness for a healthcare program.

Essays

Though not always required, college application essays allow candidates the chance to explain, in their own words, why they want to earn this type of healthcare credential and how they plan to use it after graduating. They can also talk about personal experiences that helped shape them and their interest in healthcare.

Official Transcripts

Official transcripts get used in multiple ways during the admission process. In addition to ensuring learners complete all prerequisite coursework requirements in high school or before enrolling, they also help the school identify any previously taken courses or life experiences that may be eligible for use as transfer credit to the new certificate or degree.

What Can I Do With an Accelerated Online Associate or Certificate in Healthcare Degree?

Career Outlook

Earning an accelerated online certificate or associate in healthcare remains a popular choice due to several reasons. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs in healthcare will grow by 16% between 2020 and 2030, leading to the creation of approximately 2.6 million new positions. While not all of these will be available to those with associate degrees, graduates can look forward to growth in entry-level positions.

Salaries vary substantially based on the type of job a professional holds. Associate degrees typically offer expanded job opportunities compared to certificates, as they represent a higher level of learning. While the BLS reports that medical assistants earned a median salary of $37,190 in 2021, professionals working as medical records and health information specialists took home a median pay of $45,240 during the same period.

See where an associate in healthcare degree can take you. Learn more about healthcare careers.

Career Paths

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants perform both administrative and clinical tasks, depending on the needs of their places of employment. While some may spend most of their time scheduling appointments, updating electronic health records, or taking phone calls, others also take vital signs and assist with examinations.

Median Annual Salary: $37,190


Dental Assistants

Working under the supervision of dentists and dental hygienists, dental assistants help prepare patients for cleaning and procedures, sterilize medical instruments, process x-rays, and provide assistance through procedures as needed. They also handle administrative tasks such as appointment scheduling and billing and payments.

Median Annual Salary: $38,660


Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses

Under the direction of registered nurses and physicians, LPNs or LVNs perform basic nursing functions. In addition to taking vital signs and monitoring patient health, they may also change dressings, help with showers, and pass out medications. Some may also update patient records as needed.

Median Annual Salary: $48,070


Medical Records and Health Information Specialists

These professionals ensure that both traditional and electronic health records are correctly filled and updated with accurate information. They must maintain familiarity with insurance classification systems when assigning clinical notes and ensure all records are kept confidential and secure.

Median Annual Salary: $45,240


Phlebotomists

Phlebotomists spend their days collecting blood from patients for testing, research, donations, and transfusions. They label each collection based on patient and blood type, keep all needles, vials, and work areas sanitary, and help each patient remain calm and relaxed throughout the process.

Median Annual Salary: $37,380


Healthcare Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

After completing a certificate or associate degree in healthcare program and working in the field for a few years, many professionals return to school for continuing education. The path an individual takes will depend on specific career aspirations, but common options include bachelor's degrees in health education, health science, or healthcare management, among others.

Those who decide to go into a more clinical profession may decide to complete a bachelor's in nursing or a similar program. Most of these programs require four years of full-time study, though accelerated options may take three years or less.

How Do I Choose an Accelerated Online Healthcare Program?

Cost

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), tuition and fees at public in-state community colleges cost an average of $3,501 during the 2020-2021 academic year. While cheaper than four-year programs, students should still plan and budget accordingly. Many learners who compare costs between online and on-campus programs find distance learning offers the more cost-effective option.

Program Format

Students who attend an accelerated online healthcare program can frequently choose from synchronous or asynchronous formatting. Those needing more flexibility typically choose the latter. In addition to accelerated learning, schools commonly offer part-time and full-time pathways.

Location

Location may seem less important when looking into online programs, but prospective students should carefully review if their associate in healthcare program requires any in-person requirements.

Accreditation

Any community college a student attends for an associate degree in healthcare program should hold institutional accreditation. Failing to follow this step can result in issues transferring credits, seeking licensure, or finding work. Some degrees may also qualify for programmatic accreditation, which lends an additional level of quality.

Student Support

Resources that point to strong student support services at a community college include opportunities for mentorship and access to local internships. In addition to campus-based student support, online student services, like virtual tutoring, can also be found.

Fastest Accredited Online Associate in Healthcare Programs

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

The school programs listed in this ranking were selected due to their accelerated formats — each program can be completed in less than four years. These programs were then ranked based on their overall academic quality, affordability, and online offerings. To learn more about our different rankings, read our ranking methodology.

#1

Central Maine Community College

School Information
Location Auburn, Maine
Graduation Rate 29%
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $96

Out of State | $144-$192

Credits to Graduate

60-62

Program Information

Program Accreditation | New England Commission of Higher Education

CMCC offers a fully online associate in applied science in medical coding and electronic health records. Students complete foundational courses in subjects like anatomy and physiology. The two-year curriculum introduces enrollees to medical terminology, and students learn coding terminology and health information management skills.

Graduates qualify to sit for a certification exam. Learners have access to online tutoring, advising, and financial aid assistance. Recent high school graduates may receive a full scholarship. Admission to this accelerated degree in healthcare requires a high school diploma or GED certificate.

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#2

Fletcher Technical Community College

School Information
Location Schriever, Louisiana
Graduation Rate 30%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 64% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Program Cost 

In State | $2,995 total

Out of State | $2,995 total

Credits to Graduate

370 course hours

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A 

Fletcher Technical Community College prepares online learners to become certified medical billing coders in just 12 months. The medical billing and coding certificate introduces students to concepts like health insurance and managed healthcare. Participants develop coding and revenue cycle management skills. Enrollees explore different private and state insurance programs.

The accelerated program in healthcare ends with a course that prepares enrollees for employment. Students receive a voucher to take a certification exam like certified professional coder or certified coding associate. A high school diploma or GED certificate is recommended for admission.

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#3

Madison Area Technical College

School Information
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Graduation Rate 22%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition Cost 

In State | $4,734 

Out of State | $4,734 

Credits to Graduate

33

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs 

MATC offers a one-year medical assistant training program. The medical assistant technical diploma requires 33 credits delivered in a hybrid format. The curriculum covers topics like medical terminology and medical office insurance and finance. 

One key course covers basic computer applications that medical assistants use in healthcare settings. All enrollees learn medical assistant clinical procedures. Students apply their skills during a practicum completed in ambulatory healthcare settings. Admission to this accelerated program in healthcare requires a high school diploma or GED certificate.

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#4

York County Community College

School Information
Location Wells, Maine
Graduation Rate 27%
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $96

Out of State | $172-$221

Credits to Graduate

27

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

At YCCC, degree-seekers can train for a mental health career in two semesters. The community mental health certificate program requires 27 credits taken online. Graduates qualify to apply for Maine's mental health rehabilitation technician community certificate.

YCCC's certificate prepares graduates for entry-level employment at facilities such as hospitals, social services, and mental health programs. The curriculum introduces students to human services, psychology, and sociology. 

Learners study advanced concepts like trauma and recovery and psychosocial rehabilitation. Admission to this accelerated program in healthcare requires a high school diploma or HiSET/GED transcripts.

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#5

State Fair Community College

School Information
Location Sedalia, Missouri
Graduation Rate 32%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 64% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $321-$383

Out of State | $447

Credits to Graduate

80.5

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs

SFCC's associate of applied science in diagnostic medical sonography prepares sonographers for national certification in 22 months. Participants choose a general or cardiac degree track. Each curriculum requires online didactic courses and scanning labs on campus in Sedalia, Missouri.

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#6

Charter Oak State College

School Information
Location New Britain, Connecticut
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $319

Out of State | $419

Credits to Graduate

30

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

Located in Connecticut, Charter Oak offers a 30-credit online certificate in medical coding. The curriculum consists of coding and medical science training courses. Students learn medical terminology, reimbursement methods, and health information management principles.

Enrollees train in advanced ICD and CPT coding. Participants enhance their skills during a coding practicum. Students can finish this certificate faster by earning credit for professional credentials. Foundation scholarships help students afford this accelerated certificate in coding. Admission requires school transcripts.

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#7

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

School Information
Location Fennimore, Wisconsin
Graduation Rate 62%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Program Cost 

In State | $5,160

Out of State | $5,160

Credits to Graduate

33-34

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

Southwestern Wisconsin Technical College offers a medical coding specialist technical diploma that prepares graduates for careers as entry-level coding specialists. The curriculum covers topics like digital literacy for healthcare and healthcare law and ethics.

Students can finish this diploma program in three semesters and shorten time to graduation by transferring credits for work and life experience. Applicants must submit all official transcripts and ACT scores.

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#8

Stark State College

School Information
Location North Canton, Ohio
Graduation Rate 21%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $190

Out of State | $319

Credits to Graduate

21

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

SSC paves the pathway for a medical biller career with the two-semester medical billing specialist certificate. The 21-credit program prepares enrollees for certification exams. Students explore topics like medical terminology and healthcare delivery in the United States.

Enrollees learn about medical claims methodology and how to use professional computer applications. A course in this accelerated program in healthcare focuses on legal and ethical issues. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and SSC placement testing.

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#9

Oconee Fall Line Technical College

School Information
Location Sandersville, Georgia
Graduation Rate 52%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $100

Out of State | $200

Credits to Graduate

20

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A 

Students can complete OFTC's medical billing clerk certificate in two semesters. Participants receive training in medical insurance and billing practices. The online program explores topics like healthcare coding and business document production.

A course focuses on medical terminology for applied health sciences (AAS). Students can transfer this certificate toward a business technology diploma or AAS degree. Applicants may qualify for a HOPE career grant to help pay for this accelerated certificate in healthcare. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED completion.

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#10

Drexel University

School Information
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $1,296

Out of State | $1,296

Credits to Graduate

18

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Education for Public Health

Drexel designs online programs for busy professionals. The certificate in maternal and child health (MCH) equips students to promote the health and well-being of this population. Enrollees finish the 18-credit certificate faster with shorter courses.

This accelerated program in healthcare covers topics like epidemiology and MCH policy. Students customize the certificate with elective coursework such as the design and analysis of epidemiological studies. Participants apply their knowledge during a local field experience. 

Drexel offers other short-term programs such as a certificate in epidemiology and biostatistics. Admission to the MCH requires a bachelor's degree and demonstrable interest or work experience in MCH.

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How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Fastest Online Associate and Certificate programs in Healthcare ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 10 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring admissions rate, enrollment rate, full-time retention rate, and graduation rate. Review our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more about the standards we uphold.

Popular Online Healthcare Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fastest Online Healthcare Programs

Can I get an associate degree in one year?

For first-time college students with no previous experience in postsecondary coursework, earning an associate degree in one year is unlikely. Students who take 18 credits per term and complete a few summer classes may be able to graduate in about 18 months.

That said, many high schools now provide AP classes that can count toward college credits. Others provide opportunities for dual enrollment, making it possible for learners to complete high school and college classes simultaneously. Learners who follow this path may be able to graduate with their associate degree one year after completing high school.

Are accelerated degree classes worth it?

Earning an accelerated degree in healthcare makes a lot of sense for many different types of students. For instance, those who want to enter the workforce as quickly as possible and begin earning an income often gravitate toward these online programs. Accelerated associate degrees may also be a more efficient path for individuals who know they want to pursue a bachelor's degree directly after program completion.

Accelerated programs can also help students save money since students enroll for fewer semesters and will accumulate fewer semester-based fees.

Are accelerated associate degrees as valuable as traditional degrees?

Accelerated associate degrees in healthcare hold the same cache as traditional programs. The only difference is that they take less time to complete. Whether a student completes their degree online or in person, their actual diploma will not reflect either.

That said, students must carefully consider whether they have the bandwidth and commitment required for accelerated programs. While these pathways allow learners to graduate more quickly, they also require students to take on more demanding coursework and homework loads than traditional programs.

Is an accelerated healthcare program right for me?

Every student considering this path must answer this question for themselves. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the healthcare sector to grow by 16% between 2020 and 2030, signaling this field will continue expanding and evolving in the coming years. That said, many roles require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree.

While an accelerated associate or certificate in healthcare helps many individuals qualify for entry-level and support roles, individuals looking to potentially continue growing their careers, increase their salaries, and build managerial skills will likely need a bachelor's degree or higher.

Are accelerated degree programs affordable?

Associate degrees typically cost substantially less than a bachelor's degree. And certificate programs are generally even cheaper. According to the NCES, tuition and fees at public in-district community colleges cost an average of $3,501 per year during the 2020-21 academic year. Learners enrolled at a public four-year school spent an average of $9,349 during the same year.

Additionally, completing an accelerated program rather than a traditional degree makes it possible for students to avoid some semester-based fees since they graduate more quickly.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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