Accredited Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs

Becoming a medical assistant can be a rewarding choice for those interested in working in a medical setting and assuming a mix of administrative and clinical responsibilities. These healthcare professionals take on varied tasks such as taking vital signs; assisting doctors with basic patient exams; maintaining medical histories in charts; preparing samples for laboratory testing; and, depending on the state’s practice environment, even giving medical injections to patients.

Also, since medical assistants typically require only one to two years of postsecondary education, entering this role is relatively quick compared to other medical professions.

There’s also evidence that opportunities for medical assistants will increase substantially in the coming years. For illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) reported that positions in this field would swell 16 percent between 2021 and 2031, adding 123,000 fresh openings nationwide. This is much more robust than the average growth projected across all U.S. occupations during that same decade (5 percent).

So how does a person enter this in-demand medical career? 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.

These programs generally combine web-based lectures, assignments, and exams with in-person training or externships at approved facilities close to a student’s home. These program pathways boast greater convenience and flexibility, accommodating people in rural areas or those with specific time commitments preventing them from attending a traditional, on-campus program.

This guide explores online medical assistant programs, including the expected coursework, costs, and accreditation information.

Is an Online Medical Assisting Certification Program Right for Me?

To some, an online medical assisting program is appealing as it allows for the completion of a program without needing to attend all classes in person; to others, it may seem daunting since it lacks the structure of a traditional program. Before applying, aspiring medical assistants are strongly advised to consider their unique circumstances and whether an on-campus or distance-based program would be more appropriate for their training.

To begin, an online medical assisting program may be the best option for those rural students who wish to pursue an education yet who don’t live close enough to a physical campus. Also, online programs are more suitable for people with full-time employment, childcare responsibilities, or other time-intensive tasks, as many online programs allow students to work at their own pace and perform their duties around their own daily schedule.

However, those considering a web-based pathway should note that an online program will lack certain elements of a traditional classroom environment. For example, online programs may lack a structured daily schedule, and consequently, students in these programs must be highly self-motivated to succeed. In short, committing to an online medical assisting program takes discipline, independence, and strong organizational skills.

Admissions Requirements for Online Medical Assisting Programs

While admissions requirements to online medical assisting programs vary, they generally reflect similar criteria to their on-campus counterparts. Here’s a list of real admissions requirements drawn from online programs nationwide. Candidates must:

  • Submit a completed application and fee
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Send official transcripts from a high school or GED program
  • Show proof of prerequisite classes (e.g., biology, chemistry)
  • Have proof of immunizations to work in a healthcare setting

While uncommon, admissions committees may ask for additional materials such as a personal essay, test scores, or candidate interviews.

Curriculum & Specializations of Medical Assistant Programs

Although the specifics vary by medical assisting program, here are some common courses:

  • Anatomy, physiology, and pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Medical office software
  • Basic insurance
  • Medication administration
  • Office practices
  • First aid
  • Patient relations
  • Clinical and diagnostic procedures
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Medical law and medical ethics
  • Record-keeping and accounting
  • Career development
  • Medical terminology

Students can sometimes specialize in medical assisting to prepare them for specific medical environments. These include internal medicine, emergency medicine, podiatry, family medicine, geriatrics, OB/GYN, cardiology, urology, and other areas. Furthermore, some medical assistants may be more oriented toward administrative tasks, and others may lean toward clinical responsibilities.

Program Accreditation for Medical Assisting Certificates & Degrees

As mentioned in the introduction, while graduating from an accredited program may not be necessary to secure employment as a medical assistant, it is necessary to qualify for voluntary professional certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), a credential that can enhance one’s employment and salary prospects.

The two main accreditation entities for medical assisting programs are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). These organizations weigh several factors, such as the quality of program curricula, student outcomes, program administration, and other variables.

Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs

Most CAAHEP- and ABHES-accredited schools have traditional, on-campus programs, although a few exceptions exist. As of June 2023, here is a full list of accredited online programs in medical assisting.

Charter College

Charter College’s medical assistant certificate is offered in a blended format. Some courses are offered in a blended format, some completely online, while some are taught off-site at an externship facility. The program provides students with the work habits and technical skills required to seek entry-level medical assistant positions. The curriculum’s word processing and computer technology facets enhance students’ potential for employment.

Apart from preparing students for the national certification exams offered through NCCT, NHA, and CMA, the program allows students to complete a 180-hour externship at local clinics, physician’s offices, hospitals, health maintenance organizations, or other allied health ambulatory facilities.

The 64-credit curriculum includes courses such as compliance in healthcare environments; administrative procedures; specimen collection and analysis; pharmacology; medical office emergencies; medical terminology fundamentals; functions of health records management; and professional success strategies.

  • Location: Anchorage, AK; Wasilla, AK; Farmington, NM; Canyon Country, CA; Lancaster, CA; Oxnard, CA; Billings, MT; Missoula, MT; East Wenatchee, WA; Fife, WA; Lacey, WA; Pasco, WA; Vancouver, WA; Yakima, WA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Ten months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact the college for a tuition assistance

College of Health Care Professions

The CHCP of Houston, Texas, offers an ABHES-accredited online certificate in medical assisting. The program provides students with the foundational knowledge they need to succeed in healthcare, and it is a great starting point for their healthcare careers. With this certificate, students will be prepared to enter the workforce as skilled and knowledgeable medical assistants.

This program typically takes 48 weeks to complete and includes instruction in clinical medical procedures; medical insurance and managing medical records; medical law and ethics; human relations and patient interaction; medical terminology; anatomy and physiology; medical laboratory procedures; and other subjects. The program comprises 39 credits.

Graduates of this program will be prepared with the necessary skills to become quality medical assistants. The skills they’ll learn in this program include vital sign recording; phlebotomy; injections; routine examinations; patient history obtaining and recording; and insurance, billing, and managing medical records. They will be ready to take up work in several settings such as private physician offices, general medical hospitals, surgical hospitals, long-term medical care facilities, and clinical laboratories.

  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $22,325

Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts

Gurnick Academy of Medical Arts offers a blended medical assistant program with residential and online courses and labs, including hands-on demonstrations. Students in this program will practice and become adept at several clinical skills, including phlebotomy, performing first aid, and patient education. The program comprises 13 courses that must be completed in three modules.

The curriculum of this program provides students with the clinical, interpersonal, and technical skills necessary for succeeding in the medical assisting field. The program includes 231 hours of didactic instruction, 345 hours of laboratory instruction, and 180 hours of clinical externship. Made up of 44.5 quarter-credits, the program includes courses such as front-office records management; front-office finances; medical terminology; human anatomy and physiology; and back-office clinical foundations.

  • Location: San Mateo, California
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 30 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,195 

National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement

The National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement offers an online 29-week medical assisting program. Instruction in this program takes place online through recorded and live sessions, online discussion groups, and interactive materials in the learning management system.

At the same time, students in this program will observe and practice the skills they are learning online at externship clinics under the supervision of experienced medical professionals during instructor-led remote labs and in-clinic experiences with clinical staff. Graduates will take the National Healthcareer Association MA examination at the end of this program.

The curriculum covers topics such as taking vital signs; venipuncture; rooming patients; social determinants of health; health coaching; integrated team-based primary care; working in an interprofessional team; and managing a large panel.

  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight months
  • Estimated Tuition: $6,000

Purdue Global

Through Purdue Global, students can pursue a certificate in medical assisting that combines online classes with hands-on experience in onsite clinicals and a 160-hour externship. The university offers multiple start dates throughout the year, and the program requires 58 credits, which can be finished in 1.5 years. Furthermore, Purdue Global retains several skilled faculty members to help students during their online studies.

Comprising 58 credits, the program includes courses such as medical law and bioethics; medical terminology; pharmacology; diseases of the human body; medical office management; medical coding and insurance; introduction to medical assisting; survey of human structure and function; and professionalism in health care.

  • Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Higher Learning Commission (CAAHEP)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $371 per credit

Sentara College of Health Sciences

Sentara College of Health Sciences offers a hybrid medical assistant program that can be completed in just one year. Students in this program will learn in a hybrid environment by completing some online components at home. They will then join their instructors and classmates in labs and classes at Sentara College’s Chesapeake campus to demonstrate what they’ve learned. In total, students will gain 450 hours of hands-on experience. Clinicals will occur in real medical settings, with real healthcare providers and patients.

The program is split into two semesters consisting of 28 credits in total. Coursework covers everything from anatomy and medical terminology to patient care and recordkeeping. Graduates of this program will be eligible to sit for the national certification exam. Certification is required to work at Sentara facilities.

  • Location: Chesapeake, Virginia
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year
  • Estimated Tuition: $332 per credit

Other Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs

Here is a list of additional online medical assistant programs for aspiring medical assistants who want to join the field but aren’t interested in professional certification through the AAMA.

Ashworth College

Ashworth College also provides an online diploma program in medical office assisting, which teaches the fundamentals of administrative assisting. This program prepares graduates for the National Healthcareer Association’s (NHA) Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) certification exam.

The curriculum includes a medical office assistant orientation; medical and body systems terminology; an introduction to medical assisting; administrative medical assisting; and clinical medical assisting.

The program will prepare graduates for certification by introducing them to essential topics like laws and ethics, medical terminology, records management, medical office administration skills, billing, and coding. Lessons also touch on patient relations and basic clinical procedures.

  • Location: Norcross, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four months
  • Estimated Tuition: $999 if paid in full

Herzing University

The medical assistant online diploma program through Herzing University typically takes ten months of study and comprises 24 credits. The career-focused curriculum of this program includes didactic and in-the-field learning experiences enabling students to enter the workforce as entry-level medical assistants.

They will also be prepared to sit for the medical assisting certification exam as part of this program. This diploma program also includes hands-on clinical experience and an externship.

Courses include medical terminology; administrative skills for the medical office; ethics and professionalism; introduction to anatomy and physiology; medical clinical assisting; and externship and credentialing.

Please note that Herzing also offers a 60-credit associate degree in medical assisting which can be completed in 20 months.

  • Location: Milwaukee, WI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Diploma (10 months); associate’s degree (20 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Diploma ($12,640); associate degree ($441 per credit)

U.S. Career Institute

At the U.S. Career Institute, students can pursue a medical assisting certificate program on their own schedule in as few as four months. Students complete five separate units of study in this program, each covering a different subject in the field of medical assisting. The U.S. Career Institute also asserts that all examinations are open-book so that students have the necessary knowledge in front of them as they are tested.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as introduction to medical terminology; medical records; emergencies in the medical office; vital signs; safety in the medical office; electronic records; introduction to psychology; urine specimens; blood testing; pharmacology; minor surgical procedures; and patient therapies.

  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,239 if paid in full 

University of Arkansas Grantham

Aspiring administrative medical assistants may find the online program at the University of Arkansas Grantham to be one of the most flexible options. This certificate requires the completion of only 18 credits and has monthly start dates so that individuals may begin at any point throughout the year.

Students in this program will learn essential medical office functions, insurance procedures, medical coding, financial practices, and electronic records management. Additionally, They will gain access to the NHA (National Healthcareer Association) portal used to practice, prepare and sit for the Medical Administrative Assistant Certification Exam, allowing them to become Certified Medical Administrative Assistants (CMAA).

The curriculum will include courses such as computer software applications in healthcare; medical terminology; healthcare delivery systems; basic diagnosis coding systems; medical assisting; and medical administrative assistant preparation.

  • Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than a year
  • Estimated Tuition: $295 per credit
Jocelyn Blore
Jocelyn Blore Managing Editor

Jocelyn Blore has interviewed dozens of medical technology and healthcare professionals, and edited hundreds of articles related to this field since 2015. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Jocelyn traveled the world for five years as freelance writer and English teacher. After stints in Japan, Brazil, Nepal, and Argentina, she took an 11-month road trip across the US, finally settling into lovely Eugene, OR. When Jocelyn isn’t writing about college programs or interviewing professors, she satirizes global politics and other absurdities at Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). Thank you for being so interested.