Online Medical Assisting Associate Degrees

Becoming a medical assistant can be a rewarding career for those who wish to work in medical settings and assume clinical and administrative responsibilities. Healthcare professionals in this field take on several tasks. They assist doctors with basic patient exams; take vital signs; prepare samples for laboratory testing; maintain medical histories in charts; and, depending on the state’s practice environment, even give medical injections to patients.

Also, entering this profession is a relatively quick process compared to other medical professions since this typically requires only one to two years of postsecondary education.

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 743,500 medical assistants nationwide.

Furthermore, this is a high-growth industry. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) anticipated that openings for medical assistants nationally would swell 14 percent between 2021 and 2031, much more robust than the 5 percent average growth expected across all occupations in the country during that same decade.

So how do students enter this in-demand medical profession? While certification is not required everywhere, some aspiring medical assistants enroll in a program that takes one to two years to complete; it’s important to note that completing an accredited program is a prerequisite to qualifying for the certification exam through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). A medical assistant can only use the designation CMA (i.e., Certified Medical Assistant). Also, most accredited medical assistant programs are offered on physical campuses, but there’s a growing number of distance-based options in this field as well.

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 and 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 sometimes prefer online courses.

For some people, an online degree is the only option. The convenience of online coursework 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, prefer to complete coursework at their own pace, and 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 complete their degree. In order to thrive in an online classroom, successful candidates are usually self-motivated and disciplined without the supervision of professors, or in-person interaction with 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, depending 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. Herzing University, which provides a specific start date for the medical assisting program classes, is similar to this. Of course, in some cases, a program may have varied start dates throughout the year. Given these various requirements, it is best to contact 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 require enrolled students to take classes on the same subjects. Students enrolled in online medical assisting associate degree programs typically take courses that focus on the following topics:

  • Biology
  • Introduction to allied health studies
  • Medical coding
  • Medical transcription and reimbursement methodologies
  • Clinical procedures
  • Interpersonal communication

Furthermore, many students will likely take several 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. Aspiring medical assistants often have the chance to specialize in certain fields of medicine such as obstetrics, pediatrics, dermatology, internal medicine, and many 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 specialty should contact the institution directly to determine if the desired concentration is offered.

Highly Regarded Online Medical Assisting Associate Degree Programs

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Rasmussen University - Online
Penn Foster

Fortunately, for those wishing to pursue an associate degree online, there are several 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 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 program requires 60 credits.

Upon graduation, the student is prepared to sit for the examination to become either a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) or a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). Finally, although prices vary, this self-paced program’s monthly cost can be as little as $59.

The curriculum includes courses such as reimbursement methodologies; medical coding; electronic medical records; medical surgical procedures; clinical procedures theory; music appreciation; nutrition; and medical terminology.

  • Location: Scottsdale, AZ
  • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Five months
  • Estimated Tuition: $99 per credit

Liberty University

At Liberty University, students can pursue an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) in medical office assisting, which allows graduates to work in an administrative medical setting. This four-semester program includes 61 to 64 credits, with 25 hours in the major field. Other credits are reserved for general elective courses, and 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 curriculum includes courses such as medical office systems & procedures; medical office insurance; medical office billing & bookkeeping; medical office coding; medical office infection control; medical office ethics & law; introduction to the health professions; and medical terminology.

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $390 per credit

Herzing University

Herzing University students can pursue an online AAS in medical assisting services or an AAS in medical office administration. The former requires the completion of 60 credits, which takes an average of 20 months of study. This specific program also requires the completion of a number of lab-based courses and 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 to demonstrate their proficiency in a variety of different fields.

The curriculum of the medical assisting program includes courses such as introduction to healthcare management; introduction to billing and coding; patient privacy; pathophysiology and pharmacology; administrative skills for the medical office; ethics and professionalism; insurance claims, processing, and adjudication; and introduction to anatomy and physiology.

  • Location: Milwaukee, WI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 20 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $464 per credit

Keiser University

Keiser University offers an online associate of science degree in medical assisting science preparing graduates for several clinical duties such as measuring vital signs, taking patient histories, giving injections as directed by physicians, assisting physicians with examinations, performing CLIA-waived laboratory tests, performing electrocardiograms (ECG), and venipuncture.

In addition, graduates will learn administrative and clerical tasks such as maintaining patient records, preparing insurance claims, and scheduling appointments.

Made up of 60 credits, the program includes courses such as medical law & ethics; medical office procedures with insurance; computerized medical office management; introduction to healthcare; pharmacology; anatomy & physiology with terminology & disease process; and laboratory procedures. The program also includes an externship in medical assisting.

Notably, Keiser University also has an associate of science degree in medical administrative billing & coding, preparing graduates to assign accurate medical codes for diagnostic procedures and other services offered by healthcare practitioners.

  • Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the university for details

American National University

American National University offers an online or hybrid associate degree in medical assisting. Students in this program will participate in clinical laboratory classes using the university’s at-home lab kits to apply their knowledge in the classroom and build real-world skills that today’s employers are looking for. Graduates will also participate in a mandatory externship. The program’s hands-on medical assistant classes will give students the experience and confidence to succeed.

In addition to providing students with the techniques and skills needed for employment as medical assistants, this accelerated program also serves as a solid foundation for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medical and health services management.

The curriculum comprises 96 credits and includes courses such as diseases of the human body; dosage and calculation of medications; health care law and ethics; pharmacology for the medical assistant; clinical medical assisting; medical office procedures; communication for the healthcare professional; invasive clinical procedures; medical office finances; and electronic health records. The program includes a clinical externship of 162 hours of real-world work experience.

  • Location: Salem, VA; Louisville, KY
  • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC); Louisville, KY Campus (ABHES-accredited); Salem, VA campus (CAAHEP-accredited)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to three years
  • Estimated Tuition: $26,208 total

South University

South University offers an associate of science degree in medical assisting, emphasizing mastery of administrative and clinical competencies. These competencies are validated through terminal performance objectives, a clinical externship, and test performance. The program’s training culminates in a required 160-hour, supervised, unpaid practicum at a local medical practice during the last quarter of study.

The curriculum consists of 92 credits and includes courses such as musculoskeletal, nervous, and integumentary systems; cardiovascular and respiratory systems; endocrine, urinary, and reproductive systems; lymphatic, immune, and digestive systems; medical asepsis and electrocardiography; medical insurance and coding; medical office procedures; and professional development for healthcare professionals.

  • Location: Montgomery, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); the on-campus program is CAAHEP-accredited
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to three years years
  • Estimated Tuition: $400 per quarter credit

Northwest Shoals Community College

Northwest Shoals Community College offers an associate in applied science degree in medical assisting technology preparing graduates to assist physicians in providing patient care in minor emergency centers, physician’s offices, long-term care facilities, and other freestanding medical clinics.

The curriculum includes online as well as on-campus courses. Laboratory or clinical sections must be completed on campus, or at the clinical site. Laboratory section assignments will be made based on space availability, whether day or evening. Comprising 69 to 78 credits, the program includes courses such as medical coding systems; pharmacology for the medical office; management of office emergencies; medical law and ethics for the medical assistant; medical administrative procedures; clinical procedures for the medical assistant; and medical terminology.

  • Location: Muscle Shoals, AL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to three years
  • Estimated Tuition: Alabama resident ($168 per credit); non-resident of Alabama ($295 per credit)

Arkansas Tech University

Arkansas Tech University offers a CAAHEP-accredited associate of applied science degree in medical assisting, offering students a strong foundation in medical assisting skills. Courses are offered in a blended format. Most classes are offered through video recordings, digital mediums, or online classrooms. However, most procedures/skill checks must be completed in person during labs with the class members, a team/partner, or individually. The program also includes a required internship with a minimum of 160 clock hours in a medical facility.

This intense program requires approximately 30 to 36 hours per week of theory/lab/fieldwork. The 60-credit curriculum includes courses such as medical terminology; human anatomical structure; basic pharmacology with an overview of microbiology; medical office computer systems and insurance; medical assistant administrative practice; coding principles for the medical office; medical assistant role in emergency preparedness; medical assistant practice; and legal and ethical practices of the medical office.

  • Location: Ozark, AR
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $136.01 per credit

Henderson Community College

Henderson Community College’s medical assistant program prepares graduates to become key members of healthcare teams who work in administrative offices, examining rooms, and laboratories. Twenty-three to 25 out of the 60 required credits in this AAS degree program involve classroom instruction. The remaining courses are offered in an online format.

The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to medical assisting; medical assisting laboratory techniques; medical assisting clinical procedures; administrative procedures for the medical assistant; dosage calculations; pathophysiology for the medical assistant; and pharmacology for the medical assistant.

  • Location: Henderson, KY
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($186 per credit); non-resident ($250 per credit)

Daytona College

Daytona College offers an online associate of science degree in medical assisting providing graduates with core general education courses complemented by medical assisting focused courses preparing them for entry-level employment in medical settings. Though this is an online program, students will still have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in real-world settings during externships in actual medical facilities as the program contains a mandatory externship.

Made up of 90.5 credits, the program includes courses such as administrative practices; medical office procedures; medical terminology; clinical procedures; electronic medical billing; medical insurance and billing; computer technology; and anatomy and physiology.

Notably, graduates of Daytona College’s medical assisting diploma program (in the hybrid and online format) are eligible to transfer into this medical assisting associate of science degree program.

  • Location: Ormond Beach, FL
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 70 Weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: 18,900 total tuition

Program Accreditation

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 demonstrating dedication to future employers to the healthcare field.

Farheen Gani
Farheen Gani Writer

Farheen Gani has immense knowledge about medical technology schools, having researched topics such as medical billing and coding, health information management, nursing informatics, and biotechnology degree programs since 2018. She is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about healthcare, technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).