On this page

Back to top

Avatar photo
WRITTEN BY: Taylor Cromwell
Avatar photo
REVIEWED BY: Edumed Editing Staff

Last Updated: 11/22/2023

Editorial Values and Practices

Medical assisting is one of the fastest-growing careers in healthcare, with an estimated 114,600 job openings predicted each year over the next decade. Whether you’re interested in medical assisting as your ultimate career goal or as a stepping stone to something more, an online degree or diploma can help you become certified and enter the allied healthcare field quickly and affordably. But how do you know whether an online medical assistant degree is right for you?

Like any other opportunity, you’re likely asking yourself a lot of questions: Can I take medical assistant classes online? What does it take to become certified? What sets a good medical assisting program apart from a bad one?

Keep reading to have these questions (and more) about medical assistant programs answered. We’ll give you the inside scoop on what these programs entail, some of the best schools offering them today, and the pros and cons of enrolling in one. Let’s get started!

How Do Online Medical Assistant Programs Work?

Online medical assistant programs offer a convenient path to a fulfilling career in healthcare, but what exactly are the steps you need to take to get started down that path, and how can you be sure it’s the right one for you? There are several milestones that you should be aware of and ready to meet before embarking on your studies. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones below.

Research and Choose Your Online Program

The answer to the question “Can I take medical assistant classes online?” will depend heavily on the program you decide to attend. To find the answer and determine if this path is right for you, start by researching accredited online programs and their course offerings. Consider factors like curriculum, scheduling, learning outcomes, admissions requirements, costs, program duration, student services, and potential career outcomes.

If you’re on the fence about committing to a lengthy program, keep in mind that you can choose to earn either a diploma (in as few as 10 months) or an associate degree (in roughly 20 months) in medical assisting. Schools like Herzing University allow you to choose the pathway that fits your career needs best. CHCP also offers a helpful guide for choosing which medical assistant certification is right for you.

Make the Time Commitment

Choosing to pursue an education is a major time commitment no matter which path you choose. However, this commitment varies according to whether you’re pursuing a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. Medical assisting programs also offer full and part-time options, so you can balance your studies around your schedule — or complete a program as fast as possible.

Study at Your Pace or Embrace Structure

Choosing the online medical assistant degree program for you also means choosing whether you prefer a self-paced or structured course of study. Some programs can be completed in just a few months, however most quality programs should take between 11 weeks to 18 months.

Complete Your Clinical Placement

Medical assistant programs typically require students to take clinical labs and externships outside of regular classes. At Herzing University, for example, you can complete your coursework online and then meet with a proctor at a healthcare facility to demonstrate your mastery in medical assisting skills.

Graduate & Get Certified

Upon successful completion of your program, you’ll be eligible for graduation and national certification as a medical assistant. Certification, such as the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential, can significantly enhance your job prospects and earning potential. Additionally, if you’d like to pursue further nursing education, having this certification is essential.

Look Into Licensure & Continuing Education Requirements

Medical assistants are not required by law to hold licensure or certification — but specific requirements vary by state. Employers, however, generally prefer to hire medical assistants who are certified. Becoming a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) will give you access to better career opportunities, maximize your earning potential, and enhance your knowledge and skills. Visit the NHA website to learn more about certification for medical assistants.

Take a Closer Look at Real Online Medical Assistant Classes

A great online medical assistant program will teach you how to provide care safely, prevent emergency situations, engage in infection control, and more. It’s one thing to read the broad strokes of what to expect from this degree and another entirely to see a detailed breakdown of what a school offers.

That’s why we’ve highlighted three standout programs for you to begin (or revamp) your research. Keep reading to learn more.

The College of Health Care Professions

The College of Health Care Professions offers an online Medical Assisting Certificate Program that is designed to quickly prepare you to become a medical assistant.

This online program is designed to provide you with the foundational knowledge you need to embark on a career in healthcare.

CHCP’s medical assistant certificate program can be completed in 40 weeks or fewer. Students take courses over the course of 5 modules in topics including Medical Assisting Anatomy and Physiology, Human Relations, Patient Interaction, and Office Administration, Medical Clinical and Lab Procedures, and more. The program places particular emphasis on preparing students to perform EKGs, injections, routine exams, and vital recording. These courses emphasize professional versatility and prepare students for both front-of-office role and back-of-office roles and tasks.

With campus locations across Texas and online, students have the option to choose a fully online or hybrid program according to their preferences. If you choose to build on your education after completing this program, you can transfer your hard-earned credits to a Health and Medical Administrative Services Associate Degree Program, opening the door for a role in management.

Penn Foster

Penn Foster offers an extremely flexible medical assistant program that allows students to earn their associate degree in as few as five months. Some key perks of Penn Foster’s program are that its self-paced curriculum, affordable tuition, and wide range of student resources. The school offers discounts on tuition as well payment plans as low as just $59/month. These options mean you can easily find a payment option that fits your financial needs.

The curriculum emphasizes hands-on training and interactive courses led by expert instructors, and is supplemented by live support and digital textbooks. Online medical assistant students must complete an in-person externship under the supervision of a certified medical assistant, nurse, physician assistant, or medical doctor to graduate. Upon completing this program, students are fully prepared to take and pass the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam and begin their careers as medical assistants.

To learn more about the career outcomes of Penn Foster students, you can browse their student success stories.

Western Nevada College

Western Nevada College is another excellent option for students looking for a 100% online medical assistant program that will prepare them to work as certified clinical medical assistants (CCMA), as designated by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

This program focuses on clinical medical assistant training and is designed for those seeking a strong foundation in patient care. The curriculum is designed to empower students to function as vital members of a healthcare setting, understand ethical behavior and patient privacy, identify and possess the professional traits of a medical assistant, and learn the administrative and clinical job duties they will be expected to perform.

This short-term, cost-effective option is ideal for individuals looking to enter the field as quickly is possible. The course is offered in a flexible, asynchronous environment format.

Pros & Cons of Online Medical Assistant Degrees

The quality and curriculum of MSN programs can vary a lot, so be sure to evaluate the different components before you commit your money and time. Are you looking for a robust on-campus experience, or do you value the flexibility and convenience of online courses? How will your program prepare you for life after graduation (i.e., clinical experience, licensing exam outcomes)? Everyone’s preferences and priorities will be different, but the following qualities are generally hallmarks of a quality program.

Pro: Flexibility

Online medical assistant programs offer unparalleled flexibility, allowing you to balance your studies with personal and professional commitments. With the ability to set your own study schedule at schools like Penn Foster, you can tackle coursework when it suits you best. This flexibility is a significant benefit — especially if, like many students, you need to work while pursuing your education.

Pro: Geographical Freedom

Enrolling in an online program means your options aren’t limited by where you live — or how far you’re willing to commute. Instead of being bound by location, you can select your medical assistant degree program according to your interests and needs. This is particularly beneficial if you live in a rural or remote area where healthcare education options may otherwise be limited.

Online learning also saves you money on relocation costs, while also giving you the ability to study from the comfort of your own home.

Pro: No Commuting Costs

Speaking of studying from the comfort of your home, online medical assistant degrees also save you from commuting costs, both in terms of time and money. Whether it’s public transportation, or the cost of fuel and parking, etc., these costs really add up, especially in larger metro areas where schools are typically located. The absence of this financial stressor can be a significant selling point for students on a budget. Although, it is important to note that the abundance of medical assistant programs with financial aid make them fairly affordable regardless.

Pro: Self-Paced Learning

One of the key advantages of online medical assistant programs is the opportunity they give you to tailor your learning experience to your unique needs and desired pace of study instead of being constrained by a fixed classroom schedule.

This adaptability means you can delve deeper into challenging topics or speed through familiar ones,. If you’re a self-motivated student who prefers autonomy in your education, this could be a great option for you.

Pro: Specialization Options

Some online programs offer specialized tracks that allow you to focus on specific areas of medical assisting, such as administrative or clinical roles. This flexibility allows you to align your education with your career goals.

Whether you aspire to work in a specialized medical role or simply want a well-rounded medical education, these options are designed to meet your individual needs. The ability to choose a specialization enhances your qualifications and job prospects, making you a more competitive candidate in the healthcare industry.

Con: Fewer Available Clinical Sites

While online programs offer numerous advantages, finding clinical sites can be challenging for medical assistant students in rural or remote areas. In addition, programs not associated with specific schools or facilities may require extra effort to secure clinical placements. Clinical experience is vital for practical training and skill development, so it should be something you consider in your studies.

Con: Isolation & Reduced Interaction with Peers

Online learning limits the amount of face-to-face interaction you have with your peers. Putting faces to names can be difficult in a virtual environment, let alone building lasting professional relationships and connections.

This may result in feelings of isolation or the sense that you lack an adequate support network. As an online student, you’ll need to take the initiative to find alternative ways to connect and network with your peers. Though challenging, it’s possible to find the camaraderie and collaboration commonplace in traditional classroom settings.

Con: Limited Hands-On Labs

While online programs provide a strong foundation of theoretical knowledge, hands-on labs can be limited in a virtual setting. Gaining practical experience may require creative solutions and additional effort from seeking local facilities for hands-on training to utilizing simulation software. Although not impossible, this limitation necessitates resourcefulness on the part of students to ensure they acquire the practical skills needed for their future roles as medical assistants.

Con: Networking Challenges

Networking while taking medical assistant classes online can be more challenging than in a traditional educational environment. Building professional connections and relationships with your peers and instructors requires a proactive approach. You can do this by engaging in online forums, discussion boards, office hours, and study groups.

Con: Tech and Troubleshooting Challenges

Enrolling in an online program requires you to rely heavily on technology to stay connected and complete your coursework. It’s likely that you will encounter technical issues from connectivity problems to software glitches or hardware failures along the way, all of which could affect your ability to complete assignments and exams. With enough forethought and