The Best Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs
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Medical assistants help improve patient quality of life by assisting with care and ensuring accurate record-keeping.
Medical assistants take vital signs, communicate with patients and physicians, and maintain medical records in healthcare settings, including hospitals and doctor's offices. A medical assistant certificate teaches the clinical and administrative skills necessary for careers in medical assistance. Accredited online medical assistant programs also meet the requirements for certification.
Medical assistants have high career demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this profession will see faster-than-average projected job growth from 2019-2029.
Our ranking lists the best online medical assistant certificate programs for students seeking a fast, flexible route to a healthcare career. Prospective students can use this list to find the right program for their scheduling, budgetary, and career needs.
This article also explores common medical assistant courses, career and salary outlook for medical assistants, and the online medical assistant certification process.
|#1||California State University – San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA|
|#2||Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro, GA|
|#3||Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome, GA|
|#4||North CarolinaA &T State University Greensboro, NC|
|#5||University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, AK|
|#6||Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI|
|#7||Renton Technical College Renton, WA|
|#8||University of Providence Great Falls, MT|
|#9||Southwestern Community College Sylva, NC|
|#10||Spokane Community College Spokane, WA|
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs
Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
What Is an Online Medical Assistant Certificate?
An online medical assistant certificate prepares learners for entry-level healthcare careers. After completing a one-year certificate program, graduates can apply for medical assistant certification and pursue roles at hospitals and doctor's offices.
During a medical assistant program, students learn to read medical charts, interpret medical terminology, and create and maintain medical records. A certificate also builds clinical skills, teaching students to use clinical instruments like heart rate and blood pressure monitors. Many online programs also incorporate internships or practicums to help learners develop their skills under supervision.
While studying medical terminology, anatomy, and medical office assisting, certificate students also strengthen their interpersonal and clinical abilities. Coursework encourages a detail-oriented approach, and the online learning format can make a medical assistant certificate more accessible.
What's the Difference Between a Medical Assistant Certificate and an Associate Degree in Medical Assistance?
Both a medical assistant certificate and an associate degree in medical assisting offer clinical and administrative training. During a certificate or associate degree, students complete courses in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and medical office assisting. Both options meet the requirements for certification as a medical assistant.
However, a certificate program does not award a degree and typically takes less time to complete. While a medical assistant certificate generally spans one year, an associate degree takes two years. In addition to medical assisting coursework, associate programs often include general science courses.
Some employers prefer candidates with degrees, and associate graduates can more easily transfer into a bachelor's program, having already met general education requirements. This makes career advancement easier for associate degree-holders than certificate-holders.
What Can You Do With a Medical Assistant Certificate?
Medical assistance professionals can specialize in clinical or administrative assistance, taking courses like medical terminology, office administration, and anatomy. Depending on specialization, certificate holders can pursue opportunities like ophthalmic technician, medical administrative assistant, or medical coder. Graduates can also work in education, emergency services, and social services.
Ophthalmic technicians assist ophthalmologists with administrative and clinical duties. They work in eye doctors' offices, where they maintain patient files, administer eye exams, and provide instructions to patients regarding the use of corrective lenses and contacts. Ophthalmic technicians also perform clinical functions, like administering diagnostic tests.
Most ophthalmic technicians complete specialized training through a certificate or diploma program. A medical assistant certificate provides clinical training in healthcare functions, which can benefit ophthalmic technicians.
Medical secretaries, also known as medical administrative assistants, perform administrative duties in healthcare settings. They submit billing information, manage medical charts, and help patients schedule appointments. Medical secretaries also greet patients and check them in for appointments.
Most medical secretary positions do not require a certificate or degree. However, a medical assistant certificate provides foundational training in medical terminology and healthcare procedures, which can help applicants stand out among the competition for these roles.
Medical coders manage health information data in hospitals and doctor's offices. They review medical notes from physicians and use classification systems to file insurance reimbursement claims. They also maintain medical histories and review medical records to identify patient conditions or procedure codes.
Careers in medical coding require training in medical terminology, healthcare privacy rules, and insurance reimbursement systems. A medical assistant certificate program teaches many of these skills.
Choosing an Online Program
Online programs offer a flexible schedule, but how can students find the best online program for their unique goals and needs? First, prospective applicants should research whether programs offer classes through live sessions, provide online tuition discounts, or accept transfer credits. Learn more about how to choose an online program at the links below.
Accreditation for Medical Assistant Programs
Graduates of accredited medical assistant programs meet the requirements to pursue more advanced professional certifications. Most employers also prefer to hire candidates who attended accredited programs. Thus, prospective medical assistants should always research the accreditation status of potential programs before applying, and should only attend regionally accredited institutions.
Students can also look into programmatic accreditation. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools accredit medical assistant programs. Learn more about why accreditation matters in our accreditation guide.
What to Expect From a Medical Assistant Certificate
The standard medical assistant curriculum includes courses in medical terminology, human anatomy, and administrative assisting. Most programs incorporate internships or practicums, which help enrollees gain practical experience.
This section introduces common courses in an online medical assistant certificate. While each program sets its own unique curriculum, many offer the following courses.
Medical Assistant Curriculum
This course considers the human body by emphasizing the development of anatomical structures and physiological processes. Learners explore topics like sensory and nervous systems, tissue classification, cell structure, and the skeletal system. The class also includes laboratory activities on urinary, reproductive, and digestive systems.
Enrollees develop an understanding of medical terms by studying the origins of the vocabulary, including suffixes, prefixes, and roots of words. Students also examine commonly used abbreviations, symbols, human anatomy vocabulary, and jargon. This helps them better support medical professionals and improve communication in the workplace.
In this class, students explore common diseases and disorders of bodily systems. They consider pathologies that affect each system and lern to recognize signs and symptoms, develop management and treatment strategies, and design diagnostic protocols. They also learn the basic steps for disease prevention.
Learners delve into the details of medication, focusing on safety, actions and adverse reactions, side effects, and interactions with food and other medications. The course also covers how to calculate doses and administer medicines, along with the various forms of medications and medication classifications.
This course builds the social and technical competencies necessary to assist doctors in professional practice. Students learn to sterilize equipment and prepare sterile instrument trays. They also study infection control, electrocardiography, and gender-specific examinations. Coursework in advanced studies include radiology, nutrition, and collecting and analyzing patient specimens.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Medical Assistant Certification?
A medical assistant certificate typically takes 1-2 years, depending on the program and the student's enrollment status. Online programs often allow learners to complete requirements in a flexible scheduling format, which appeals to working professionals and students balancing school with other responsibilities.
After completing a certificate, medical assistants often pursue professional certification. Certified medical assistants (CMAs) and registered medical assistants (RMAs) stand out on the job market.
Medical Assistant Certifications
A medical assistant certification helps certificate graduates compete for available jobs. While most states do not require certification, many employers prefer to hire CMAs. Several organizations offer certifications for medical assistants.
To qualify for certification, candidates typically need to pass an examination that tests their knowledge and skills. Certified professionals must complete continuing education requirements to maintain their credentials. An online medical assistant certificate from an accredited program meets the eligibility requirements for the following certifications.
What Is the Difference Between a Certified and Registered Medical Assistant?
Both CMAs and RMAs must pass a national certifying examination to receive their credentials. Both typically complete an accredited medical assistant program, and some certifying organizations also require professional experience to receive a credential.
However, a CMA receives their credential from a different organization than an RMA. Neither credential is necessarily "better" than the other. Within the field of medical assisting, several organizations provide credentials for professionals, leading to different titles. Check with potential employers when deciding which credential is right for you.
Medical Assistant Organizations
Professional organizations help medical assistant students prepare for the workforce. They also help working medical assistants renew their certifications, network with other professionals, and advance their careers. For example, the American Registry of Medical Assistants and the American Medical Technologists offer certifications.
The American Association of Medical Assistants offers continuing education opportunities. Organizations like the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management and the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals both help medical assistants connect with others in their specializations.
Medical Assistant Careers
After completing online certificate programs, graduates can pursue medical assistant careers in healthcare. Medical assistants work in many different settings, including hospitals, doctor's offices, outpatient care centers, and chiropractor's offices.
The salary for medical assistants varies depending on the setting, with those working in hospitals and outpatient care centers tending to earn the highest salaries. However, these workplaces often require shift hours, while a doctor's office usually operates on a typical work schedule.
|Workplace||Median Salary (2019)|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$36,810|
Frequently Asked Questions
Aspiring professionals can complete certificates and pursue certification to become medical assistants. The process can take as little as one year, although actual time varies by program.
Most states do not require certification to work as a medical assistant. However, many employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified, so medical assistants often benefit from earning CMA certification.
Medical assistants earn a median salary of around $35,000 per year, according to BLS data. They also benefit from faster-than-average projected job growth: a projected 19% growth between 2019-2029.
Some certifying bodies will award credentials to medical assistants who have several years of professional experience, even if they do not attend medical assistant programs. However, earning a certificate is often the best way to prepare for the exam and certification.
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