The Best Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs

by TBS Staff
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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.

Top 10 Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs 2021
#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

  1. California State University – San Bernardino
    Location

    San Bernardino, CA

    Tuition

    $8704

    Established in 1965, CSUSB sits at the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains. The university serves an enrollment of more than 20,000 students in Inland Southern California and online. CSUSB offers hundreds of programs across seven schools and colleges, including five 100% online degrees, five hybrid programs, and dozens of courses delivered through distance learning formats.

    The College of Extended Learning at CSUSB offers a medical assistant certification online through a partnership with CareerStep online professional training services. The certificate for medical administrative assistants comprises 200 hours in coursework, including healthcare structure and organization, healthcare reimbursement, and medical office management. Graduates qualify for the certified medical administrative assistant credential.

    Students may complete the certificate entirely online, with no campus visits required. Distance learners may begin the certificate program at any time during the quarter-semester. While CSUSB charges a set rate for the online certificate, CareerStep offers several payment plans and supplemental funding options for qualifying students to offset the program cost. The certificate is authorized by the National Healthcareer Association and features a curriculum developed by medical professionals.

    Learners can complete courses through the Blackboard learning management system. The certificate program may require both synchronous and asynchronous learning formats. In addition to comprehensive tech support, CSUSB offers resources for distance students, including online advising, tutorials, online orientation, and an introduction to the Microsoft Windows Suite.

  2. Ogeechee Technical College
    Location

    Statesboro, GA

    Tuition

    $5991

    Opened in 1986, Ogeechee Tech’s inaugural class had only 25 nursing students. Today, the college serves an enrollment of more than 2,800 throughout Georgia’s Bulloch, Evans, and Screven counties. With an emphasis in medical and healthcare career training, Ogeechee Tech offers more than 30 professional academic programs.

    Ogeechee Tech’s program provides students with the opportunity to earn medical office assistant certification online. The medical front office certificate suits students aspiring to entry-level or receptionist positions in hospitals, clinics, or physician’s offices. The curriculum explores the core professional skills needed in medical office assisting, including document production, medical terminology, and medical administrative procedures.

    Applicants (at least 16 years of age) must submit official high school or college transcripts and meet ACCUPLACER, Compass, SAT/ACT, or GED score requirements. Enrollees must complete a total of 22 semester credit hours to earn the certificate, and most students complete the program in two semesters. An applicant may enter the program in the semester of their choice.

    Online students can complete courses through Blackboard, primarily via asynchronous learning. While Ogeechee Tech charges a set rate for tuition for the medical office assistant certificate, qualifying students may apply financial aid, including the Pell Grant, toward their online certificate programs. Resources for distance learners include career services, tutoring options, and an academic enrichment center.

  3. Georgia Northwestern Technical College
    Location

    Rome, GA

    Tuition

    $3774

    With a nine-county service area, GNTC represents the largest college in northwest Georgia and one of the largest technical colleges, statewide. Since its merger with Coosa Valley Technical College in 2009, GNTC now occupies six campus locations across the state. The college serves a student enrollment of more than 4,000 and offers more than 200 academic programs.

    Students can complete online medical front office assistant certificates at GNTC. The program requires completion of a minimum of 22 credit hours in topics such as medical terminology, healthcare administrative procedures, and introduction to computer literacy. Enrollees can also choose electives specific to this occupation with the help of student advisors. Students must earn a grade of “C” or above in each course to complete their certificates.

    Applicants must submit official transcripts for high school or college coursework and SAT or ACT scores for GNTC admission consideration. Students who do not meet general education prerequisites may need to undergo placement testing through GNTC’s testing center. Learners may apply for admission to the medical assistant certification online program during the fall, spring, or summer semester.

    Online students can complete courses through Blackboard, aided by a variety of learning resources, including tutoring, advising, and tech support options. GNTC charges in-state per-credit tuition rates to residents of Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee; resident-students of all other states pay out-of-state rates for distance learning coursework.

  4. North CarolinaA &T State University
    Location

    Greensboro, NC

    Tuition

    $11049

    Set on a 200 campus, A&T opened in 1891 as a land-grant university. The school boasts a rich cultural history, serving at the forefront of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and now ranking among the nation’s top Carnegie-classified research institutions. N.C. A&T offers 54 undergraduate programs across eight schools and nearly 50 master’s and doctoral degrees through the Graduate College.

    N.C. A&T offers a certified clinical medical assistant program in conjunction with Health Ed Today. The program requires completion of 140 credit hours in skills that prepare patients for exams, understanding HIPAA and patient confidentiality, and taking vital signs. Students can also learn to assist in the administration of medications, performing EKGs, and obtaining lab specimens.

    Applicants must complete or be in pursuit of a high school diploma or GED for admission consideration for the medical assistant certification online program. The program suits prospective nurses seeking certification as an LPN or those planning to pursue formal certified medical assistant credentials. Graduates can qualify to sit for the certified clinical medical assistant or National Healthcareer Association exams.

    Students complete courses online through the Blackboard platform. N.C. A&T offers distance learners a wealth of resources, including 24/7 mentoring opportunities, career advising, and tech support. Prospective students may apply in the spring or summer semesters.

  5. University of Alaska Southeast
    Location

    Juneau, AK

    Tuition

    $10451

    Established in 1987, UAS maintains a scenic campus in Juneau, as one of four campuses in the University of Alaska system. The school serves more than 4,800 students in over 75 degrees and certificate programs. Additionally, UAS offers dozens of programs available on campus and online.

    UAS enables students to take 100% online classes for medical assistant certification. The medical assistant certificate encompasses clinical and administrative skills, preparing students for allied healthcare practice in many settings. Each student must complete general and program requirements, including a practicum in medical assisting, to earn the certificate. Courses explore topics such as medical records management, insurance processing, taking vital signs, and specimen collection.

    Each applicant must undergo placement testing to determine potential prerequisites needed in math and English before beginning the program. A prospective medical assistant certificate student must also undergo a health exam and criminal background check as part of the application process. Additionally, students must produce current TB tests, immunizations, and CPR/first aid certification.

    Students enrolled in the online medical assistant certificate at UAS can complete courses through the Blackboard learning management system. The university offers resources for distance learners, including a virtual orientation, career services, veterans’ services, and tech support. Though each student can complete most of the coursework online, the program requires an in-person capstone practicum component.

  6. Concordia University-Wisconsin
    Location

    Mequon, WI

    Tuition

    $25849

    Occupying campuses on both sides of Lake Michigan, CUW complements the university’s Ann Arbor, Michigan location. In total, the university maintains nine regional education centers and offers dozens of degrees and certificates across five primary areas of study. CUW enrolls more than 9,000 students in academic programs in the Lutheran tradition.

    CUW delivers its medical assistant certificate in a hybrid format, combining face-to-face and online coursework. The program requires completion of 42 credits across three primary training areas: lab procedures, administrative procedures, and clinical procedures. All courses follow a liberal arts curriculum in the Christian tradition. The medical assistant certification online program culminates in a practicum experience.

    Students complete most coursework online, with a six-credit course requirement on campus once a week. The program offers students a choice of full- or part-time enrollment and features both daytime and evening track options. Full-time students can complete the medical assistant certificate in 15 months.

    Each applicant must possess a high school diploma or GED, earn a score of at least 18 on the Wonderlic test, and pass a physical exam. Additionally, students must sit for an interview with admissions personnel or an academic advisor. Incoming students receive assignments for their own online student success advisors, and CUW offers a variety of online learning styles, including self-paced and cohort-led courses.

  7. Renton Technical College
    Location

    Renton, WA

    Tuition

    $6396

    RTC’s online medical assistant certification emphasizes a career-oriented program with an accelerated completion time. The certificate of completion in medical assistant comprises 71 credits over four quarters. Each student must complete a practicum and practicum seminar to conclude the certificate. Coursework explores medical office management and billing, as well as skills such as performing an EKG, administering medication, and drawing blood for lab tests.

    Graduates can qualify to sit for one of four nationally recognized credentialing exams for professional medical assistants. The program offers day and evening course delivery options in a hybrid learning format. Each applicant must possess or be in the process of earning a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, prospective students must pass a criminal background check, meet health and vaccination requirements, and maintain health insurance for admission consideration.

    Students can complete courses in the Canvas learning management system. The program offers entry points in both the fall and spring semesters. New students can complete a Canvas orientation online and engage with career services, the RTC library and bookstore, and veteran advisors.

  8. University of Providence
    Location

    Great Falls, MT

    Tuition

    $19367

    UP maintains a 44-acre campus between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone. The university aligns itself with the Roman Catholic Church and enrolls nearly 1,000 students to offers more than 60 liberal arts programs. UP features 10 online programs in science, liberal arts, and healthcare, including an online medical assistant certification test.

    The medical assistant certificate at UP emphasizes a combination of administrative and clinical career skills. Each student must complete a total of 15 credit hours to earn the certificate. The curriculum encompasses online coursework and occasional face-to-face lab requirements at campus locations in Renton, Washington; Wilsonville, Oregon; or Great Falls, Montana. Additionally, students must attend a one-day immersion experience on campus before starting their coursework.

    Enrollees may complete one, eight-week course at a time to earn the certificate in 10 months. Distance learners can complete courses sequentially through a cohort learning format. UP forms new cohorts to begin the certificate program in January and August of each year. Each applicant must possess a high school diploma or GED and submit a personal essay for admission consideration.

    Distance students can complete courses through the Moodle platform. The program offers a variety of resources to online learners, such as a student success center, disability services, plus an online library and bookstore. UP charges a set per-credit tuition rate for the online medical assistant certificate, regardless of a student’s state of residence.

  9. Southwestern Community College
    Location

    Sylva, NC

    Tuition

    $6586

    Established in 1964, SCC serves a tri-county area surrounding its main campus in Sylva, North Carolina. The college maintains additional Macon and Swain locations, along with a public safety training center. SCC offers dozens of associate degrees and certificates in the arts and sciences, career technologies, and health sciences disciplines, including more than 30 online programs.

    The medical assistant certificate at SCC requires a student to complete a minimum of 13 credits. The curriculum provides a broad introduction to the medical assistant profession, preparing graduates for administrative medical office management positions. Coursework explores topics such as medical law and ethics, medical terminology, and administrative office procedures.

    The program trains students to process insurance claims, manage medical records, and maintain phone and email communications; however, graduates do not qualify to sit for the national medical assistant certification examination. Each applicant must submit a high school diploma or GED and SAT or ACT scores with their application.

    SCC plans to transition its online courses from Blackboard to Moodle in 2019. Upon enrolling at SCC, students can receive a complimentary version of the Microsoft Office Suite. The university maintains a mobile app featuring select resources such as student accounts and limited course access. SCC offers comprehensive tech support through a ticketed help desk system. The program encourages students to complete the online Blackboard orientation upon course registration.

  10. Spokane Community College
    Location

    Spokane, WA

    Tuition

    $4880

    The online medical assistant certification at SCC combines training in clinical and administrative medical assistant tasks, such as performing diagnostics, assistant with exams, preparing medical records, and finance management. Each student must complete a clinical internship in their final quarter to earn the certificate. The college enables students to apply completed certificate credits toward applied science associate degrees in medical assisting.

    The program does not accept advanced placement or transfer credits, and prospective students must earn all credits toward their medical assistant certifications at SCC. Applicants must satisfy prerequisites in subjects like math, English, and computer skills to qualify for admission into the certificate program. Students may enroll in the fall, winter, spring, or summer terms.

    Each student must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA in all courses before proceeding to the next quarter-semester. The certificate requires enrollees to complete a total of 67 credit hours. Distance students can complete courses through Canvas, and coursework may require synchronous or asynchronous learning styles. SCC offers 24/7 tech support for Canvas by phone and through an online chat tool.

Best Online 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 Technician

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 Secretary

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 Coder

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

Anatomy and Physiology

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.

Medical Terminology

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.

Human Diseases

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.

Pharmacology

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.

Medical Assistant Skills

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.

The American Association of Medical Assistants awards the CMA credential to candidates who attend accredited medical assisting programs. Qualifying candidates must take a certification exam that covers general, clinical, and administrative knowledge. Applicants complete the 200-question exam in four 40-minute sections. Offered by the American Medical Technologists organization, the RMA credential recognizes experienced medical assistants. Applicants must attend an accredited medical assisting program with at least 720 hours of instruction and 160 hours of externship. Alternately, candidates can apply with at least five years of work experience in clinical and administrative duties. Aspiring RMAs must pass a 210-question exam on anatomy, administrative medical assisting, clinical medical assisting, and clinical patient interaction. The National Center for Competency Testing offers the NCMA credential to both current students and recent graduates of authorized medical assisting programs. Candidates can also apply with at least two years of full-time medical assistant experience. Aspiring NCMAs must pass a 150-question test. Offered by the National Healthcareer Association, the CCMA credential recognizes professionals who complete a medical assistant training program or those with at least one year of supervised work experience in medical assisting. Candidates take a 150-question exam to complete the certification. The National Healthcareer Association also offers the CMAA credential for professionals who complete medical administrative assistant programs or hold at least one year of professional experience in the field. Candidates take a 110-question exam, which takes two hours and 10 minutes.

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)
Chiropractors' Office $30,870
Physicians' Office $34,870
Hospitals $36,080
Outpatient Care Centers $36,810
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Become a Medical Assistant?

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.

Do I Need To Get Certified as a Medical Assistant?

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.

What Is the Salary for a Medical Assistant?

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.

Can You Take the Medical Assistant Exam Without Going to School?

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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