Online Medical Administrative Assistant Programs in 2020

Find the best and most affordable MAA programs to launch your healthcare career.

It’s exciting. Online medical administrative assistant programs offer a flexible way to become a medical office assistant in fewer than 12 months. Grads enjoy excellent job prospects and hold professional certifications. And the skills you learn by managing a medical office translate to key skills for roles in business and other professions. Taking the first step may seem tough, but we’ve researched and vetted the top online medical administrative assistant programs from schools across the U.S. with proper accreditation and an affordable price tag. See which schools can move your medical administrative assistant education forward.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State’s “Medical Administrative Assistant” program consists of a self-paced online course followed by a voluntary 40-hour clinical externship. Students learn how to navigate the practice and ethical responsibilities in the medical industry. The comprehensive online course covers the role of the assistant, legal and ethical issues (including compliance), terminology and technology in a healthcare setting, financial and practice management. Other studies include a HIPAA review and patient bill of rights, medical records management, and insurance coverage and billing/coding procedures. You can take advantage of the career center that provides job search resources, career guidance, cover letter and resume writing. Online courses have 24/7 instructor support, student exercises, videos, labs, and animated simulations. The voluntary externship places you in the heart of the healthcare industry and provides contacts and mentorship for employment. Students receive six months access, all textbooks, and related course materials when they register. Tuition is $1,399 for the full program and financial aid programs are available.

Inside Online Medical Administrative Assistant Programs

Before leaping into an online medical administrative assistant program, do your research. This page helps you discover the best path to the physician’s office and the best price. That means understanding the coursework, school accreditations, and financial aid resources to pay for your education. We’ll also outline career prospects and salaries and the differences between a clerical or clinical assistant.

What does an online medical administrative assistant program cover?

Each online medical administrative assistant program sets its own requirements, affecting the number and type of classes needed for graduation. However, the core subjects are based on medical industry standards. Make sure the curriculum at your target schools aim toward securing your certification. The following list identifies the core classes that most programs have in common:

Medical terminology

All allied healthcare workers must learn the basic vocabulary of communications between staff, physicians and patients. Interactive online lessons will help you to apply your learning to related physiology or anatomy. Understand the basic language of procedural terminology, abbreviations, and diagnostics. Students learn how use the language roots for analyzing and pronouncing medical terms.

The Profession of Medical Assisting

This course introduces students to the profession, its history, and options for career advancement in the allied health fields. Learn about administrative and clerical duties, certification requirements, and medical/surgical specialties. The course includes studies in law and ethics, informed consent, HIPAA requirements, the Hippocratic oath and the Patient’s Bill of Rights.

Medical Records

Students learn the fundamental procedures for charting with the SOAP charting methodology. Covers the range of cross-referenced systems in allied health and coding systems for numeric, alphabetic, and color-coded filing. Learn the required HIPAA compliance for electronic records and how to address procedural problems such as converting from paper to digital records.

Legal/Ethical issues

As a key member of the office, you’ll help ensure that both medical staff and patients are protected by laws relative to patient privacy and medical malpractice. Learn the different types of malpractice and burden of proof of the patient’s reporting responsibilities. We’ll also cover HIPAA compliance.

Insurance and claims

This course will navigate the different insurance and claims systems that may vary from provider to provider. Learn the distinctions between HMOs, PPOs, and traditional programs. Explore the differences between individual, group, and government-sponsored benefits. The course will focus on health insurance and medical claim forms currently used by allied health professionals.

The organizational and clerical skills you’ll learn at school can also be beneficial in pursuing jobs outside of a physician’s office. The use of office equipment, providing friendly customer reception, using billing software, multitasking and the ability to handle phones are all basic assets to have in a non-medical business environment. Here are Here’s a list of core skills you’ll develop in a medical administrative assistant program:

  • Customer service
  • Medical terminology and transcription
  • Insurance processing, billing and coding
  • Communications etiquette and empathy
  • Bookkeeping

How is a medical administrative assistant different than a medical assistant?

While the terms “medical administrative assistant” and medical assistant” are often considered to be the same, the key duties are not interchangeable. Medical administrative assistants keep the medical office or clinic functioning smoothly. Clinical medical assistants may undertake some clerical tasks, but their main responsibility lies in assisting the physician. The following table breaks out the distinctions:

Medical Administrative Assistants Medical Assistants
Schedules appointments Takes vital signs, administers injections
Maintains medical records Administers injections and medications
Codes procedures for insurance claims Assists physicians during examinations
Updates medical office inventory Prepares blood draws and x-rays
Coordinates visits to labs and other providers Creates and maintains medical histories

How long does it take to earn medical administrative assistant certification online?

Online MAA certification programs take about one year if the student can attend on a full-time basis. Some accelerated online programs can be completed in 9 months. It can take a few months following graduation to earn your formal certification by passing the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant exam (CMAA). The program may also offer a voluntary externship to build experience, so that program will last a week or two longer. If you go to school on a part-time basis, the additional time to complete the program depends entirely on how many courses you can take and complete at a time.

How much does an online medical admin assistant program cost?

Calculating the cost of your online medical administrative assistant training has many variables to juggle. Tuition can vary by the type of school (community college or private assisting school), any required commuting to voluntary externships, the length of the program and how many courses are required for completion. If cost is your number one issue, contact prospective schools to inquire about enrollment deals. For instance, you could sign up for your first semester for as little as a dollar and pay off your tuition in monthly installments. You may qualify for federal or state grants to offset the total costs. Monthly tuition is higher than if you pay it all upfront. For the cost of a specific online program, find a school in the ranking above and visit its tuition and fees page. To see the range of costs, here’s a sampling of five online programs and their in-state tuition rates:

Purdue University Global
$371 per credit

Penn Foster College
$79 per credit

Three Rivers Community College
$244 per credit

Pierpont Community College
$206 per credit

Paying for Your Online Medical Office Assistant Program

Lining up your financial aid can spare you needless worry about paying for your MAA program. But you’ll have to start applying for aid as soon as possible. There are fewer federal financial aid programs for undergraduate certificates than there are for undergraduate degree programs. Beware, not all schools will accept students dependent on federal financial aid or private student loans. But take heart: there are many ways to receive tuition assistance. Let’s look them over:

1 Scholarships

There are a number of scholarships that do not need to be repaid for medical assistant students. Some are offered by the college, some by allied health professional organizations, some by individual states and others from medical assistant associations. There are online search websites such as Fastweb that can direct you to the right MAA scholarships. For example, California offers scholarships to medical assistant programs through the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. On the national level, AARP offers scholarships for women 50-years or older go to college based on need. Applications for scholarships need to be made at least several months before school begins.

2 Financial aid

There’s a common way to will measure your ability to pay and send your results to your prospective schools. You start the aid process by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The process also evaluates your parents’ ability to contribute. Students should call the admissions or financial aid office of target program to see what’s available. Find out more at our financial aid page.

3 Loans

Don’t feel alone if you need to borrow money. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that 46 percent of first-time college students take loans. Loans have to be repaid, so borrow carefully. Loans are available from the Federal government, from banks and credit unions, and private lenders.

4 Grants

There are grants available from the Federal government, state governments, national associations or trade organizations. One of the most-common grants is the Federal Pell Grant that offers $6,195 to first-time college students. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) pays from $100 to $4,000 a year to supplement students that cannot afford school from a Pell Grant alone.

5 Tuition discounts

Depending on the institution, colleges offering an online MAA program offer discounts for enrolling students. These can be enticements to sign up near the application deadline for the school. Other deals include a small down payment plan for signing up for the program letting you pay off the balance. Others have interest-free installment plans, but the total repayment can cost more if you don’t pay it all upfront. Check with the allied health department or college that you have in mind.

What You Can Do with a Health Informatics Degree

It can be a mistake to attend a school or MAA certificate program that is not accredited. The right accreditation means a program’s curriculum has been approved by independent academic evaluators endorsed by the Department of Education. There are several types of accreditation: Institutional accreditation covers the entire school. Programmatic accreditation is offered to individual academic departments or specific programs. Employers in healthcare pay close attention to accreditation. They want to know that job applicants are fully prepared for their medical administrative roles before they hire them. There are other severe, negative implications. Students at schools and programs that are not accredited do not receive Federal financial aid of any kind. Moreover, graduates will not be eligible to sit for National Healthcare Association’s Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exams. Accreditation is voluntary. In exploring schools, be on the watch for a programmatic accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Online institutions and programs can be accredited as well, typically by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

After Your Medical Administrative Assistant Program Online

It’s important to understand the big picture. Before signing up for a certificate program, students are rightfully curious to know how to get a license, whether there will be jobs for them, and how much they can expect to be paid. Can you continue your education to assume roles with greater responsibility and better pay? That’s what this section is all about.

Do I need certification or licensure to work in as a medical admin assistant?

According to the Department of Labor, medical administrative assistants are not required to hold certification in most states. But you can increase your hiring potential to gain certification and you can find even more opportunities by earning optional certifications. The most-common certification employers are looking for is offered after you pass the CMA Certification Exam from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Grads can also receive certification as a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists. Optional certifications can also give your career a boost. For example, the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association tells employers that you have a special aptitude for handling clerical tasks.


How much can you earn as a medical administrative assistant?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that medical assistants earn a median annual wage of $33,610. Your pay increases with experience. The lowest salary nationwide is $24,790, with a top-end of more than $47,250. The variables that can affect your salary is your education level, your certifications, and your experience. It may be worthwhile to complete a voluntary externship. The cost of living for your community also matters.

The following table shows estimated salaries for medical assistants and medical administrative assistants by experience level across the United States:

Area Name Employment Entry-Level Early Career Mid-Career Experienced Late Career
Alabama 9,180 $20,840 $23,890 $27,980 $31,800 $37,870
Alaska 1,820 $34,360 $38,520 $44,230 $49,700 $57,410
Arizona 18,250 $25,900 $28,660 $32,880 $37,470 $40,850
Arkansas 3,790 $21,860 $25,520 $29,330 $34,150 $39,180
California 92,960 $25,600 $29,820 $36,080 $45,150 $55,830
Colorado 11,150 $26,590 $30,900 $35,640 $40,460 $47,960
Connecticut 7,700 $27,880 $32,640 $36,950 $42,440 $50,900
Delaware 2,560 $23,770 $27,810 $32,560 $38,410 $45,000
District of Columbia 1,970 $29,160 $34,330 $41,500 $48,080 $55,320
Florida 55,330 $24,700 $27,790 $32,170 $37,510 $41,960
Georgia 24,570 $23,040 $27,100 $31,790 $37,080 $41,160
Hawaii 3,600 $27,360 $31,900 $37,420 $44,530 $50,240
Idaho 3,170 $25,340 $28,900 $33,850 $38,190 $41,570
Illinois 23,830 $25,700 $29,270 $34,640 $40,150 $48,730
Indiana 14,810 $25,300 $27,970 $32,110 $37,040 $40,490
Iowa 5,090 $26,350 $29,810 $34,700 $39,200 $46,130
Kansas 4,240 $22,880 $26,490 $30,540 $35,930 $40,420
Kentucky 8,970 $23,230 $26,990 $31,290 $36,670 $40,900
Louisiana 8,490 $20,040 $23,460 $28,120 $32,850 $38,570
Maine 4,180 $27,260 $30,510 $34,940 $39,300 $45,250
Maryland 12,630 $26,840 $30,500 $35,270 $40,030 $47,830
Massachusetts 13,710 $30,700 $34,410 $39,240 $46,010 $51,120
Michigan 23,680 $25,250 $27,980 $31,900 $37,170 $40,940
Minnesota 10,010 $32,060 $35,180 $39,880 $46,280 $50,610
Mississippi 3,160 $21,810 $25,280 $28,770 $32,540 $39,250
Missouri 10,260 $22,770 $27,080 $32,200 $37,290 $41,110
Montana 1,120 $26,480 $29,470 $34,070 $38,610 $44,890
Nebraska 2,630 $25,000 $28,290 $33,660 $40,200 $47,750
Nevada 6,220 $25,590 $28,500 $32,950 $38,020 $43,740
New Hampshire 2,550 $28,790 $32,670 $36,400 $40,160 $46,400
New Jersey 19,110 $26,300 $29,960 $35,290 $40,650 $48,400
New Mexico 5,960 $22,560 $26,500 $30,050 $35,420 $39,880
New York 26,080 $27,280 $31,340 $36,640 $43,490 $49,940
North Carolina 18,340 $24,940 $28,160 $32,710 $37,350 $40,820
North Dakota 580 $28,100 $32,800 $36,480 $40,130 $46,730
Ohio 23,930 $23,690 $27,290 $31,680 $36,730 $40,180
Oklahoma 8,310 $22,620 $26,330 $30,200 $35,600 $39,740
Oregon 12,960 $27,120 $32,880 $38,200 $44,720 $49,540
Pennsylvania 27,590 $24,310 $27,720 $31,830 $37,450 $43,100
Rhode Island 2,390 $28,290 $32,320 $35,880 $39,360 $43,550
South Carolina 9,800 $23,480 $27,290 $31,220 $36,630 $40,700
South Dakota 950 $24,150 $26,870 $29,660 $33,110 $37,510
Tennessee 14,070 $23,390 $27,110 $31,220 $36,930 $41,710
Texas 59,930 $22,080 $26,340 $31,030 $36,950 $41,240
Utah 7,020 $25,970 $28,420 $32,320 $37,340 $40,860
Vermont 850 $29,070 $32,840 $36,300 $40,150 $48,240
Virgin Islands 60 $24,350 $27,090 $30,250 $35,650 $41,990
Virginia 14,170 $24,820 $28,560 $33,710 $39,670 $48,700
Washington 14,450 $31,490 $35,210 $40,620 $47,560 $52,920
West Virginia 3,520 $21,500 $24,330 $27,810 $31,110 $36,240
Wisconsin 11,350 $27,980 $32,430 $36,430 $40,440 $46,840
Wyoming 660 $24,950 $28,330 $33,430 $38,390 $44,610
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Continuing Education & Related Degrees

As with most careers involving certification or licensing, medical administrative assistants are required to renew their credentials by completing additional education. The American Association of Medical Assistants requires working assistants to complete 60 continuing education points in a three-year period to remain certified. But there are other significant reasons to continue your education. Perhaps you want to add an undergraduate degree to create more healthcare opportunities that offer higher wages. Or you can pivot from assisting directly into another branch of healthcare. Many schools offer credit for your previous college courses, shortening your time to complete the program. If you’re already working as an assistant, online allied health programs allow you to tailor your schooling around your daily commitments. Here’s a look at a few of the degree options that may be a good fit, even if you’re still in your MAA program:

Continuing Education

Continuing Education

Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN):

Medical administrative assistants often find themselves called to the nursing profession. With the two-year Online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can complete your coursework from the location of your choice, but typically must attend clinical labs at a designated location. The programs take from 2 to 3 years to complete. Some employers seek graduates of four-year baccalaureate nursing programs, but a registered or licensed ADN can find ample opportunities at hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offices. You must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Online Associate Degree in Health Science:

Graduates from a two-year associate program in health science are prepared to serve in a variety of roles in healthcare assisting in specialties including patient care, health information management, insurance, and patient communication. Students increase their core knowledge in the health sector, including the fields of compliance, human resources, licensing, and community health. The degree might be suited for people changing fields or licensed practical or vocational nurses who want to complete a non-nursing degree in the business of healthcare.

Related Degrees

Related Degrees

Online Medical Assistant Programs:

Medical assisting certificate programs are designed for those who want to help in the examination room in concert with the physician. It is not a front-office specialty. It takes about a year to finish these programs that are offered at community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates of accredited online programs can sit for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam offered by the National Healthcareer Association.

Online Medical Billing & Coding Schools:

The online certificate programs are designed specifically for MAA’s who want to focus on the business side of healthcare. They take approximately 10 months to complete. Students are prepared to work with invoicing, coding for medical procedures, and insurance claims. Upon completion of the program, graduates can take the Certified Professional Biller (CPB)  or Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam from the American Association of Professional Coders.