Online Medical Assisting Associate Degrees
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An online associate degree program generally provides an excellent option for those who wish to begin a new career as a certified medical assistant, yet who don’t have the urge or the ability to attend in-person classes on a physical campus. Many individuals choose to pursue a medical assisting associate’s degree online, which allows them to eventually join the ranks of the other 634,400 medical assistants nationwide. Furthermore, this is a high-growth industry. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Oct. 2017) anticipated that openings for medical assistants nationally would swell 29 percent between 2016 and 2026, much more robust than the seven percent average growth expected across all occupations in the country during that same decade.
Of course, while a medical assisting online degree program offers a level of convenience, determining whether or not this type of program is the right fit is the first step in the process. As such, the following provides information on these types of associate degree programs, as well as a comprehensive overview of what to expect, including the application requirements, coursework, and specializations.
Is an Online Medical Assisting Associate Degree Program Right for Me?
There are many reasons why more and more professionals and prospective students seek out and in some cases prefer online courses.
For some people, an online degree is the only option. The convenience of online course-work creates the possibility of pursuing an education while managing other responsibilities (e.g., full-time work, childcare), or if distance prevents students from attending an on-site campus.
Additionally, an online degree may be the perfect choice for students who work well with little supervision, who prefer to complete coursework at their own pace, and who do not thrive in a traditional classroom environment. These prospective students may benefit from the temporal freedom associated with online classes.
That said, aspiring students should note that support from professors in online programs is provided in different ways than brick-and-mortar programs. Students are also expected to maintain a regular schedule throughout the program in order to successfully complete their degree. In order to thrive in an online classroom, successful candidates are usually those who are self-motivated and disciplined without the supervision of professors, or in-person interaction with other peers.
Admissions Requirements for Online Medical Assisting Associate Degree Programs
While the specific admissions requirements for all online medical assisting associate degree programs will vary depending on the institution, many of the general prerequisites will be identical across the board. For example, aspiring students should expect to submit proof of a high school diploma (or GED) and GPA, letters of recommendation from current/past teachers or other reliable sources, and a personal essay detailing future aspirations in this field. SAT or ACT scores may also be required, although this will depend on the institution.
It is also important to note that most programs, while conducted online, will usually follow the same calendar as traditional, on-campus programs. One such program is conducted by Penn Foster College, which requires the completion of one semester of general studies, followed by three semesters of medical assisting coursework. Similar to this is Herzing University, which provides a specific start date for the medical assisting program classes. Of course, in some cases, a program may have varied start dates throughout the year. In light of these various requirements, it is best to reach out to the institution’s admissions department for more information.
Curriculum & Specializations in Online Medical Assisting Programs
In most cases, online medical assisting associate degree programs will have a similar curriculum, and will require enrolled students to take classes on the same types of subjects. Students enrolled in online medical assisting associate degree programs typically take courses that focus on the following topics:
- Introduction to allied health studies
- Medical coding
- Medical transcription and reimbursement methodologies
- Clinical procedures
- Interpersonal communication
Furthermore, many students will likely take a number of lab-based classes, and may also be required to complete an internship which provides practical experience under the supervision of other certified medical assistants. Of course, the curriculum of each school varies, but the above list provides a general idea of what classes you should expect to take should you pursue such a degree.
In addition, depending on the institution, there may be an opportunity to pursue an additional specialization as well. Aspiring medical assistants often have the chance to specialize in certain fields of medicine such as obstetrics, pediatrics, dermatology, internal medicine, and a number of others. Some programs may be specifically geared towards a specialty. For instance, students at Liberty University may pursue an associate of science degree specifically in medical office assisting, which may lead to a healthcare administrative position. Ultimately, those pursuing a speciality are recommended to contact the institution directly to determine if the desired concentration is offered.
Highly Regarded Online Medical Assisting Associate Degree Programs
Fortunately, for those wishing to pursue an associate degree online, there are a number of highly regarded schools available to choose from. Below is a representation of some respected online medical assisting associate programs.
Penn Foster College
Students at Penn Foster College may complete a medical assistant associate degree over the course of four semesters. The first semester is reserved for general credits (e.g., psychology, biology, computer applications), while the other three semesters focus on medical assisting-related courses such as pharmacology and medical coding, as well as a required internship. This is an ABHES-accredited program that involves 65 credit-hours. Upon graduation, the student is prepared to sit for examination to become either a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) or a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). Finally, although prices vary, the monthly cost can be as little as $49 for this self-paced program.
At Liberty University, students have the opportunity to pursue an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) in medical office assisting, which allows graduates the chance to work in an administrative medical setting. This four-semester program includes 61 credit-hours, with 22 hours specifically in the major field. Other credits are reserved for general elective courses, as well as a number of required courses on Christian thought and related subjects. It is important to note that this program does not include a required internship. In addition, this program has set start dates throughout the year, with the fall start date beginning towards the end of August. The cost of each credit-hour for full-time enrollment is $375.
Students at Herzing University have the opportunity to pursue an online A.A.S. in medical assisting services, or an A.A.S. in medical office administration. The former requires the completion of 60 credit-hours, which takes an average of 20 months of study. This specific program also requires the completion of a number of lab-based courses, as well as an internship during one semester, which gives students the chance to experience the life of a medical assistant. Students in this program must also take certain courses on professional development, as well as general elective courses in order to demonstrate their proficiency in a variety of different fields.
Other online medical assisting associate degree programs with similar requirements include:
As a final note, it is important to search for a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Not only does an accredited program demonstrate a commitment to high-quality education that has led to recognition by these organizations, but it is also a requirement to sit for the certification exam to become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Of course, while this is not a requirement for employment as a medical assistant, it is a mark of completion that demonstrates dedication to the healthcare field to future employers.