Compare Medical Assistant Schools and Online Programs
Do you want to learn how to become a medical assistant? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Our aim is to give you as much information as possible about the medical assistant programs offered by schools and colleges in every state, so you can make an informed choice.
To help you decide which training program is right for you, we’ve provided useful career guides on the different types of medical assistant jobs, as well as information on certification credentials and salary expectations. If a campus-based degree course doesn’t fit with your busy lifestyle or budget then an online program could be ideal for you.
Training to become a qualified medical assistant on a degree, diploma or certificate program could be a great option if you’re looking for a rewarding new career in the healthcare field. Medical assistants play a vital role in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other facilities, performing essential administrative and clinical duties to ensure the practice runs efficiently and patients have a comfortable visit. Read on to explore your campus-based and online opportunities.
Top Online Medical Assistant Programs for 2016
Herzing University is a non-profit higher education institution that offers a range of career-focused online programs and also has 11 campuses in the US. Herzing offers both onsite and online medical assistant programs:
The diploma program teaches students the competencies required for entry-level medical assistant jobs. It can be completed in 12-16 months. The degree program has additional general education courses to the diploma program and takes 20 months to complete but offers most graduates the chance to advance further in their careers.
Upon completion of their training, graduates of the online Medical Assisting Services programs, as well as those from Herzing’s Kenosha, New Orleans and Toledo campuses, will be able to take the American Medical Technologists’ exam to gain the title of Registered Medical Assistant (RMA). Graduates from Herzing University locations where the medical assistant program is accredited by the ABHES or the CAAHEP will be eligible to sit the AAMA exam to be awarded the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification.
Keiser University is a non-profit university that offers both online and campus-based training programs. The Associate of Science Degree in Medical Assisting Science is an entirely online program that includes core courses in medical law and ethics, medical office procedures with insurance, and pharmacology, among others. The clinical courses include clinical and laboratory procedures and externship experience. This online program prepares graduates to take the AMT exam to earn the credential of Registered Medical Assistant (RMA).
The Associate of Science Degree in Medical Assisting can be completed online or at a choice of multiple campuses in Florida. This program includes courses in clinical and laboratory procedures, medical office management, and radiography, and also involves the completion of an externship at an approved site. Graduates who complete their training on this program will be eligible to sit for one of the medical assistant credentialing exams to gain certification, which should help them find employment in the medical assisting field.
Kaplan University offers a selection of online degree programs that give students flexible learning opportunities to suit their lifestyle and schedule, as well as traditional on campus study in some locations. Kaplan runs a Medical Assistant Certificate program that can be completed online or onsite. The program has multiple start dates, which allows students to begin their training at a time that fits around their individual work and family commitments.
The curriculum covers courses in the knowledge and skills required to start a career as an entry-level medical assistant, such as medical terminology, pharmacology, medical coding and insurance, and anatomy and physiology. Students also receive hands-on training in administrative and clinical procedures, including recording EKGs, taking vital signs and helping with minor surgical procedures. To prepare its students with real world experience, Kaplan requires them to complete 160 hours of externship at an approved healthcare facility.
Liberty University is a non-profit Christian university that offers an online-only Medical Office Assistant Associate of Applied Science Degree program. Students completing their training on this online program will take courses in medical office systems and procedures, insurance, billing and bookkeeping, coding, infection control and ethics and law. They will also be required to gain hands-on experience on an externship. Students will learn the skills needed to perform medical assisting duties in a medical office setting in healthcare facilities such as clinics and hospitals.
Ultimate Medical Academy specializes in healthcare career training programs and offers both diploma and degree level medical assisting programs at its Clearwater Campus. The diploma can be completed in 14 months and requires a total of 42.5 credits. Required courses include medical assistant office procedures, clinical lab procedures and phlebotomy, clinical procedures and clinical externship experience.
The Associate of Science in Health Sciences – Medical Assistant degree is approximately 21 months long. In addition to the courses required for the diploma, the degree program includes General Education courses and Electives such as accounting for managers, psychology and interpersonal professional communications.
Graduates of either program will be eligible to sit for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification exam. The diploma can be completed quicker than the degree and graduates can begin work sooner, or choose to continue their training to upgrade to a degree, which could result in higher earning potential.
UMA also offers online Medical Administrative Assistant programs. The online diploma is 10 months long and the degree 17 months. Students learning on the online training programs will be prepared to sit for the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exam to earn this additional certification credential.
Harrison College offers online medical assistant degree and diploma programs. The diploma can be completed in 62 credit hours and the degree in 90 credit hours. Both of Harrison’s medical assistant online programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). This means that after completing their training, graduates will be able to take any of the following certification exams to gain an additional credential that should enhance their employment prospects: Certified Medical Assistant (AAMA), Registered Medical Assistant (AMT), National Certified Medical Assistant (NCCT), Clinical Certified Medical Assistant (NHA).
San Joaquin Valley College offers two online medical assistant programs. The Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA) certificate-level program can be completed in around 7 months. Graduates will be eligible to take one of the following certification exams: California Certified Medical Assistant (CCBMA), National Certified Medical Assistant (NCCT) or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (NHA). San Joaquin Valley College’s Clinical and Administrative Medical Assistant (CAMA) Associate of Science degree program is approximately 14 months long and involves advanced training in medical office and clinical procedures. In addition to the certification exams mentioned above, graduates of the degree program can sit for the Registered Medical Assistant (AMT) exam.
There are different types of general, clinical and administrative jobs and once you have successfully completed your training you will be qualified to work in an entry level position in your chosen area. Your daily duties will depend on the job description of the practice where you’re hired.
A medical administrative assistant will focus on front office duties, include clerical tasks such as writing patient notes, updating patient records, billing and arranging appointments. Those specializing in clinical duties will perform tasks such as taking vital signs, giving shots, drawing blood, helping doctors or nurse with routine clinical procedures and preparing patients for examination.
According to the 2013 figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average medical assistant salary is $30,780 and average hourly wage is $14.80. The amount you will earn will of course depend on factors such as your area of employment, geographical region, your job description, how long you have worked there and your level of education and experience. More people work in physicians’ offices than in other facilities, and earn an annual average wage of $30,800. The highest paying sectors are insurance carriers, where the average yearly pay is $37,180 and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, where the average pay is $42,250.
Completing a diploma or degree program can be the first step to a satisfying career. There is currently a high demand for medical assistants throughout the US. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there to be an ever-increasing demand over the next few years, with a forecast growth of 31% in positions from 2010-2020. With the right education, you are likely to be able to find an entry level job as soon as you’ve finished your course.
Employment prospects are good and many people are satisfied with the job security and hours of a medical assisting role. However, having gained experience, knowledge and skills working in the healthcare field, you may in the future decide to go back to school to train as a nurse or lab technician. Earning a medical assistant degree or diploma can open up several career advancement opportunities.
In the past it has been possible to get a medical assistant job with just a high school diploma or equivalent and then receive on-the-job training. However, employers much prefer to hire applicants who are graduates of an accredited medical assisting program, as this shows they have the knowledge and competencies to perform the duties required of them.
Accreditation is important as it is a requirement if graduates wish to gain certification. This is not compulsory, but having a credential such as Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) in addition to a degree or diploma can improve your employability.
The first step is to enrol on an accredited training program that fulfils your requirements. The best medical assistant schools and colleges are those that include internships or externships as part of the coursework, enabling students to gain hands on work experience in a real clinic or medical office. Once you’ve completed your degree or diploma you may choose to take one of the certification exams to become credentialed. You can then update your resume and begin applying for jobs.
It can take around as little as 1 year to earn a certificate or diploma, or around 2 years to complete a degree program, depending on whether you study full or part time. The exact length of your medical assistant training will depend on the school you choose and whether you want to sit a certification exam upon graduation.
Both campus-based and online training programs will teach you to competently perform the clinical and administrative duties required of a medical assistant. Which courses you will study and classes you will attend will depend on the requirements of the school or college and the curriculum of the program you select, but during your training you are likely to learn about:
- Medcal ethics and confidentiality
- Medical terminology
- Customer service skills
- Anatomy and physiology
- Office skills such as record keeping
- Billing and coding
Advancements in technology mean it is no longer necessary to study for a traditional campus-based education in order to become a qualified medical assistant. The great advantage of taking an online program is that you can study from anywhere with an internet connection, at a time that suits you. Online courses provide an excellent opportunity for students with responsibilities, such as a full time job or a family, to study in their spare time. Classes, lectures and presentations will be made available on the web and you can take part in interactive discussions with other students via the internet.
Of course, to learn the skills necessary to be a medical assistant you will need to gain practical experience as part of your coursework, by completing hands on training in a laboratory setting. Clinical internships or externships are usually a compulsory part of a degree or diploma program and can be arranged at a hospital, clinic, doctors’ office or other healthcare facility local to you. An accredited online program can provide you with all the skills and training you need to begin work right after graduation.
When considering enrolling on a medical assisting program, the main thing to look for is accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If a program is not accredited your certificate, diploma or degree won’t be worth anything and your career options will be limited. To become Certified or Registered you must be a graduate from an accredited program, otherwise you will not be allowed to sit for the Certification (CMA) or Registration (RMA) exams. Although not essential, earning one of these medical assistant certification credentials can help improve your employment prospects.
Another essential consideration is the type of program. This will depend on your personal circumstances and future career goals. For instance, you may want to specialize in front office work and become an administrative medical assistant, or perhaps you prefer to focus on direct patient care by becoming a clinical medical assistant. The length of certificate and diploma programs is approximately 12-18 months. An associate’s degree program can require 18-24 months of training, but will include general education as well as medical assisting. A degree will give you a higher level of education, giving you more opportunities to earn more money and the option to study for a bachelor’s degree in the future.
If you want to become certified, it is important to find a program that offers the relevant preparation courses to the certification exams. Also, look for schools that offer internship or externship placement options, particularly if you plan to specialize. And of course, take into account the cost and admission requirements of the school before you enrol. Financial aid and scholarships are available to help with the costs of your education.
Online study is a good solution for people who need to fit training around busy schedules, whereas others prefer the structure of campus-based classes. Explore our site to find more in-depth information on how to become a medical assistant and learn about the different training programs on offer.
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