Your Guide to Medical Assistant Online School

Top Programs, Curriculum Details, and Moving Your Career Forward

If you’ve had medical care over the last several years, chances are you’ve talked with a medical assistant. Medical assistants work in a wide range of healthcare facilities, and perform duties such as taking vitals, schedule appointments, giving injections, and administering medication. With the demand for medical assistants on the rise, more and more colleges are adding online programs to attract a wider student population. Hybrid and online medical assistant programs help students learn critical knowledge online, and hone patient-focused skills in-person. Read on to see top schools and programs and learn the ins and outs of cost, financial aid, and accreditation.

EduMed’s Best in Class: Online Medical Assistant Programs (2019)

With so many medical assistant programs out there, finding the right one can be difficult. To give students a closer look at quality medical assisting education, EduMed is highlighting accredited online medical assistant programs across the country. We’ve provided detailed information on cost, curriculum, and more so you can make an informed choice about which school is right for you. (Read how we chose our schools >>)

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To be considered for our college spotlight list, schools were required to have:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Medical assistant program(s) offered at least partially online

School Metrics Explained

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Financial Aid: Percentage of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant or scholarship aid.

About Our Data

EduMed’s college lists use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: May 2019

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School Name Location School Type Cost Online Programs Financial Aid School Information
Purdue University Global-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN Private for-profit $$$$ 1 80%

With numerous start dates, discount options for tuition, and a well-versed faculty, Purdue University Global’s Online Medical Assistant Certificate Program provides busy students with the opportunity to earn their credential when it’s right for them. The typical cost is $371 per credit hour in 2019; however, several opportunities for savings exist, such as grants, military tuition reduction, transfer credits, and corporate partner benefits.

Students must accumulate 57 quarter credit hours for graduation; they can expect to take a wide variety of courses that focus strongly on the skills and knowledge necessary to hit the ground running. A sample of courses students can expect include:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Medical Office Management
  • Medical Coding and Insurance
  • Clinical Competencies I, II and III
  • Professionalism in Health Care

Estimated time of study is 15 hours per week. This allows for students to continue working and handling other obligations while earning their certificate.

Students in the online program must complete the Clinical Competencies courses at an approved clinical site, as well as an externship of 160 hours in a physician’s office or clinic. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be eligible to sit for the CCMA, CMAC, RMA and NCMA exams. Graduates of the Des Moines program can also sit for the CMA.

San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA Public $$$$ 1 59%

San Francisco State University offers the Clinical Medical Assistant Online program through the College of Extended Studies. This professional development certificate is delivered as a self-paced eLearning course that is complete with six months of access to all learning materials, including online textbooks and workbooks. In addition to completing the required course, students must also complete a 160-hour externship at an approved location.

Students in this program can expect to learn several aspects of the medical assisting profession, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Pharmacology
  • Phlebotomy
  • Documentation of vital signs
  • Professional workplace behavior
  • Legal and ethical aspects of the job
  • Proper administration of medications
  • Routine laboratory procedures
  • Cardiac testing, such as proper lead placement

In addition to the program itself, students are provided with robust support services, such as 24/7 instructor support, animated simulations, online performance tracking, career guidance, resume writing advice and online healthcare content that supplements each course.

Tuition for the full program is $2,599 as of early 2019. The course must be completed within six months.

Upon completion of the course, students are qualified to sit for the CCMA exam. The course is also designed to provide a foundation of skills and knowledge for those who might one day pursue a nursing program.

San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia, CA Private for-profit $$$$ 1 72%

Students who enroll in the 9-month Clinical Medical Assistant program at San Joaquin Valley College receive a strong academic and clinical foundation, as well as extensive support from the college. In addition to a rigorous program, this support extends to the CCMA or NCMA (national examinations) or the CCMA (California Certified Medical Assistant) exams. San Joaquin Valley College will pay for the exams as long as a graduate takes them within six months of completing the program.

Students who finish the program are also awarded the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) certification, CPR and First Aid certification, and receive specific training in the use of electronic health records.

Students can expect numerous online courses up to 36 required credit units, such as those in laboratory procedures, pharmacology, medication administration and structural anatomy. Those in the program learn not only about patient care and laboratory work, but also about medical office procedures, from the proper way to answer the phone to the best practices in handling electronic health records.

In addition to online learning, students must also complete an externship; all required screenings and immunizations for the extern center will be paid for by SJVC.

In 2019, the cost of on-time completion of the program was $17,900; in 2017, 88% of students in the program chose student loans to help pay the cost.

Community Care College Tulsa, OK Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 78%

A private institution in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Community Care College offers more than 40 diploma and degree programs. Distance students can take advantage of its online medical assistant certification program. The school’s faculty deliver courses in a hybrid format for full- and part-time learners.

Students in the program learn to measure vital signs, assist medical providers during examinations, collect laboratory specimens, perform an electrocardiogram, handle insurance claims, and more. The curriculum also covers widely transferable skills such as inventory management, office accounting, and professional workplace etiquette. Online learners may complete the program requirements in as few as 10 months.

Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the medical assistant (RMA) exam and position themselves for careers in urgent care centers, rehabilitation facilities, doctors’ offices. Prospective students should possess a 3.0 GPA or higher. All incoming medical assistant students must participate in an interview with an admissions representative and the head of the department. Prospective students should contact the school for tuition costs.

Dakota College at Bottineau Bottineau, ND Public $$$$ 2 39%

Dakota College at Bottineau offers two medical assistant programs for distance learners: a two-year associate of applied science degree or one-year certificate program. Learners who complete the associate degree are eligible to sit for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam. Certificate holders are prepared to take the Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam.

Required courses for medical assistant students at DCB include clinical procedures, medical transcription, healthcare law and ethics, and an introduction to pharmacology. The certificate requires 38 credits and focuses on administrative office skills, procedure and diagnosis coding, and medical terminology. Students seeking the 60-credit associate degree complete an additional nine courses that focus on office management, clinical specialties, human relations, and public speaking.

All DCB online medical assistant students complete a 180-hour cooperative education externship at an approved medical facility. Alums move on to work in physician practices, surgical centers, outpatient clinics, and chiropractor healthcare clinics. Online applicants must submit an application containing their official transcripts, ACT and SAT scores, and immunization records for consideration.

Daymar College Bowling Green, KY Private for-profit $$$$ 2 92%

Daymar College offers a diploma and associate degree program in administrative medical assisting online. These programs prepare students for entry-level careers in medical office environments as medical assistants and medical office assistants. The entirely online programs features a competency-based curriculum and is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).

Diploma seekers need to complete 60 quarter credits to complete the program. In most cases, students need at least 12 months to finish. Associate degree students complete 92 quarter credits in total and take about 18 months. Required courses for both programs include medical office administration, medical dictation, pharmacology, and medical terminology. Students in the associate degree program complete additional credits in general education classes. Required general education classes include political science, psychology, public speaking, and computer applications.

Both programs prepare students to take three national certification exams: National Certified Insurance and Coding Specialist (NCICS), National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), National Certified Medical Office Assistant (NCMOA).

Daymar subscribes to an open admissions policy for applicants who meet the basic requirements. Incoming students need to possess a high school diploma or GED and successfully complete an admissions evaluation for consideration. For specific tuition costs, students are advised to contact the school.

Herzing University-Madison Madison, WI Private not-for-profit $$$$ 2 90%

Herzing University offers two medical assistant programs for distance learners: a hybrid associate degree in medical assisting services and a fully-online diploma in medical assisting. Distance learners need to complete 60 or 34 credits, respectively, for each program. Students can earn in the associate degree in approximately 20 months, while the diploma takes 10 months to complete.

Herzing students develop a variety of essential skills that position them for careers in today's modern doctor's offices. Students learn to handle various supporting roles as assistants in examination rooms and laboratories. They also acquire the necessary skills to manage daily correspondence, administrative functions, financial records, and insurance documents. Associate degree seekers complete at least 15 semester hours of hands-on lab experience and four semester hours of an externship. Upon completion of the program, alums often sit for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam or the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification.

To apply, students must schedule an appointment online or in person, submit an application and transcripts as well as any required exam results, and create a funding plan with an advisor.

Independence University Salt Lake City, UT Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 80%

Independence University is an online nonprofit institution located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), Independence offers an online associate of occupational studies in medical assisting program.

Upon completion of the 95-credit degree, distance students can carry out highly valued medical assisting and administrative tasks including medical billing, records keeping, first aid, and basic laboratory duties. Distance students also learn to take vital signs, give patients injections, and update medical history records. Independence alums typically move on to secure full-time positions in doctor's offices, hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.

All medical assisting students complete a residency and externship. Independence covers the cost of travel, food, and lodging for students to complete their residency in Salt Lake City. The residency is a weekend-long, hands-on training session that readies students for an externship at an approved medical facility. Students can complete all of these requirements in as few as 20 months. As an added bonus for medical assisting alums, Independence offers up to $500 to help them cover the cost of certification exam fees.

Prospective students should contact the school regarding tuition costs. Independence covers the cost of books and other supplies, including providing all students a tablet computer.

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale, FL Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 84%

Established in 1977, Keiser University is a private nonprofit school that holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Remote learners can pursue its associate of science degree in medical assisting science online. This program helps students develop their clerical, clinical, and administrative skills for work in today's modern medical facilities. Medical assisting students also learn to assist physicians with examinations, assist in laboratory testing scenarios, and perform electrocardiograms.

Over the course of 60 credits, Keiser associate students complete core classes such as medical law and ethics, medical office procedures, computerized medical office management, and pharmacology. Distance students also take 16 credit hours of medical assisting clinical courses including a five credit-hour externship. Students must complete all required coursework with a "C" grade or higher before entering the externship.

Most learners complete the medical assisting associate degree in two years. Interested students need to submit an application and their official transcripts for consideration. As of June 2019, full-time students at Keiser pay $792 per semester hour.

Rasmussen College-Florida Ocala, FL Private for-profit $$$$ 2 69%

Rasmussen College offers a medical assisting diploma that students typically complete in 12 months. The school holds programmatic accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

Rasmussen's hybrid diploma program helps students gain a foundational understanding of the healthcare industry and prepares them to sit for the medical assisting CMA or RMA certification exam. Students learn how to conduct routine diagnostic procedures, take patient's vital signs, perform first aid, and administer medications. Students also learn useful techniques such as collecting laboratory specimens and carrying out clinical lab testing.

Diploma students complete 12 courses for a total of 51 credit hours. Required classes include fundamentals of clinical techniques, clinical laboratory applications and diagnostic procedures, administrative medical assistant practices, and more. Incoming students must complete at least eight credits of designated coursework in Rasmussen's school of health sciences before they receive full acceptance to the medical assisting diploma program.

Entrance requirements at Rasmussen College vary, and students are advised to contact the school for details. In 2019, the estimated cost of earning this degree is $23,734.

Southeast Community College Area Lincoln, NE Public $$$$ 1 39%

Southeast Community College is a public institution with regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Distance students take advantage of its online medical assisting diploma, which holds programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Full-time students typically need 18-36 months to complete the program.

In the program, students finish up to nine asynchronous classes online at their own pace. These required courses include medical diseases, basic pharmacology, medical calculations, and communication in allied health. The remaining 240 training hours of in-person lab instruction and practicum must be completed in sequence. The practicum can take place in Lincoln, Nebraska, or most other cities upon the student's request. Diploma seekers must maintain a 2.5 GPA to remain in good standing.

For applicants, the program requires minimum standardized test scores on the ACCUPLACER, COMPASS, ACT, SAT, or ASSET exams in math, reading, and writing. Prospective students without a history of standardized testing can take the SCC placement test instead, which is offered through the school's testing center. As of June 2019, in-state and out-of-state students pay $102 and $123 per credit, respectively.

Sullivan University Louisville, KY Private for-profit $$$$ 2 77%

Sullivan University's medical assisting diploma prepares learners for successful careers in primary care facilities, clinics, physician's offices, and outpatient facilities. Diploma students train to handle the essential administrative tasks commonly required of professionals in medical offices, including scheduling appointments, updating medical records, handling billing and insurance processes, and registering patients. Additionally, students learn to carry out various clinical tasks such as performing injections, taking patient vital signs, drawing blood, and working closely with physicians during procedures.

Most online students complete the program in 18 months. Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), this degree requires students to complete a diverse curriculum with classes such as English composition, anatomy and physiology, medical software applications, and pharmacology. Distance students at Sullivan may take all general studies courses online. Medical science classes are completed in-person at the Lexington or Louisville campuses in Kentucky. In total, diploma seekers need 69 credits to graduate.

As part of the diploma requirements, Sullivan graduates must take the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam after completing all courses and practicums. Medical assistant diploma seekers pay $199 per credit hour, as of June 2019.

Vatterott College-Sunset Hills Sunset Hills, MO Private for-profit $$$$ 1 87%

Vatterott College offers a medical assistant occupational specialist diploma for online students. This program is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and helps distance learners develop basic medical office assistant and administrative skills to secure entry-level positions in the field.

Students take required courses in mathematics, psychology, communication, and English, as well as medically focused classes in essential terminology, medical assistant duties, and related skills. Required classes cover medication administration, insurance and billing, medical record keeping, pharmacology, and more. Students must pass an externship preparation exam before taking on an outside externship at an approved medical facility. Aside from the externship, online learners can complete all diploma requirements remotely.

Students can complete the medical assisting program in as few as 12 months. On average, part-time learners at Vatterott spend 40 months completing diploma requirements. Alums often seek out certification and sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), or Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exams. Prospective students should contact Vatterott to find out about tuition costs.

West Virginia Junior College-Morgantown Morgantown, WV Private for-profit $$$$ 1 95%

Established in 1892 and accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), West Virginia Junior College offers a medical assistant associate degree program for online learners. Most full-time students complete the program in less than two years.

Distance students take all required medical and general education classes online. Remote learners also work with skilled instructors in-person to learn essential medical office assistant skills such as phlebotomy, injections, various lab-based techniques, and EKGs. For in-person instruction, distance learners can attend any of WVJC's campus locations in Morgantown, Bridgeport, or Charleston, West Virginia.

Distance learners take advantage of 24/7 technical support, mobile access to course materials, interactive clinical labs, and online career services. During the 2017-2018 academic year, undergraduate students spent approximately $13,090 on tuition and fees. Upon completion of the program, alums often sit for various certification exams such as the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), Certified EKG Technician (CET), or Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) exams.

Why Online School for Medical Assisting?

There was a time when earning higher education meant sacrificing work and family obligations to sit in a classroom. But with online learning, students can get the education they need without uprooting their family, changing their schedule, or taking time off work. Here’s more on why online education for medical assisting might be right for you.

Flexibility

Online learning allows earning a certificate, diploma, or degree on a more reasonable timetable, which is great for those who have full-time jobs (or even part-time jobs!), family obligations and the like. Medical assistant programs teach a great deal of information that can be conveyed through online courses, thus making it one of the best options for those who want to work in the allied health field but don’t have the time to visit a campus multiple times per week.

Affordability

The relatively short nature of medical assistant programs online makes them affordable by nature. Instead of paying for 2 to 4 years for an associate or bachelor’s degree, some programs can be completed in as few as 3 months. Learning online can also take commuting, parking, and similar costs out of the equation, allowing you to focus your costs on the coursework and fieldwork exclusively.

Speed

In online medical assisting programs, students learn only what they need to enter the workforce with confidence. This focus on the most important knowledge and skills is why so many programs can be completed within months. Even after accounting for the time it takes to complete a certification exam and find a job, students might be looking at a total of one year from the start of the program to getting comfortable in their new profession.

Types of Online Medical Assistant Programs

There are three primary types of medical assisting programs, all of which can be taken mostly or partially online: the certificate, diploma, and the associate degree. How do you know which one to choose? That depends on a few factors, including your desired career trajectory. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the three types of online medical assistant programs available today.

Certificate

In most cases, certificates are the fastest way to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to move directly into the workforce upon graduation. Certificates can be completed in one year or less, and some programs require only a few months of study. However, they usually require an externship, which can add some time to the pursuit of the certificate. Certificates can often be earned through community colleges; if the program is accredited, students will be able to sit for a variety of exams to earn medical assisting certification.

Diploma

Associate degree

What You’ll Learn: Key Knowledge & Skills

When you take medical assisting courses, the knowledge you obtain is often applied directly to the job. That’s why each course in a program is vitally important. Since medical assistants are expected to hit the ground running when they start a new job, it’s critical to garner the knowledge and skills necessary through each course. Here are a few of the courses you can expect to take and why they matter so much.

Medical Front Office: Medical assistants handle a variety of tasks, including billing, scheduling, and other duties in the front office. Understanding how the front office works is the first step toward a smoother experience for patients.

Medical Records: Keeping up with medical records makes a tremendous difference, and the job often falls to the medical assistant. This course teaches students all they need to know to handle the electronic health records for a typical medical office.

Anatomy: Students might take several anatomy courses, all designed to give them a firm understanding of the human body and how the systems work together during times of health and illness. Knowing the basics can help graduates enter the workforce prepared.

Insurance and Billing: When dealing with front office tasks, medical assistants will often have to know the ins and outs of medical insurance, billing practices, and coding. Several courses might be devoted to this subject, although many of the detailed tasks may be reserved for certified medical billers and coders. 

Patient Examinations: Knowing how to handle a patient examination, from welcoming the patient to checking the vital signs to assisting the physician or nurse, are all important aspects of the job. Other courses might also relate to this one, such as courses in nutrition, vital signs, and common diseases.

Other courses might include phlebotomy, ethical and legal issues, a variety of laboratory tests, safety in the medical office, medical equipment and supplies, psychology, and administering medication.

How Much Does an Online Medical Assistant Program Cost?

The cost of medical assistant programs varies widely. Some programs charge by the credit hour, while others charge for the entire program from start to finish in one lump sum – this is especially true when the program is short and will be completed within the span of a typical college semester. For instance, our spotlight schools on this page range from $2,599 to $17,900 for their medical assistant programs.

To learn how you can finance your education, and for even more detail on cost, please visit our page on financial aid for online medical assistant programs.

How Long Is Medical Assistant Training?

The length of a medical assistant program depends upon the final outcome – whether you earn a certificate, diploma, or degree. Certificate and diploma programs usually take a year or less, with the certificate taking just a little less than the diploma. The associate degree often takes two years to complete, but might be finished faster if the student takes accelerated programs. To learn more about how long specific programs take to complete, check out the schools in our ranking list.

  • Does Accreditation Matter?

    Though many factors go into choosing the best online medical assisting program for you, accreditation might matter most of all. When a school or program earns accreditation, it means that school or program has been examined by an independent body and found to meet the rigorous standards of a quality education. In other words, accreditation ensures that your degree, diploma, or certificate teach you what you need to know.

    Why does this matter so much? First, it’s important to remember that federal financial aid is available only to accredited schools; attend a school without accreditation, and you will likely have to pay for it out of your own pocket. It also speaks to career advancement, as medical assistants must graduate from an accredited program in order to sit for the certification exam. And finally, employers will readily accept credentials from a person who has graduated from an accredited program, but maybe not from someone who attended a non-accredited institution.

    Medical assistant programs are accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). When learning more about a school, look for information on accreditation on the school’s website. If the accreditation is not stated there, look to one of the two agencies. If it’s still difficult to find information about accreditation, contact the school directly to get a solid answer.

  • Do I Need to Become Certified?

    In most states, certification is not a requirement. However, many employers prefer to hire those who have earned certification, as it proves that person has a strong working knowledge of all the things medical assistants need to know to begin their work. There are five certifications available for medical assistants:

    CMA

    The American Association of Medical Assistants provides the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential.

    RMA

    American Medical Technologists provides the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential.

    NCMA

    The National Center for Competency Testing offers the National Certified Medical Assistant option.

    CMAA

    The National Healthcareer Association is home to two options for medical assistants: The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)

    In most cases, an applicant must be 18 years of age or older to sit for an exam. They must have also completed certain guidelines, such as graduating from an accredited program or obtaining a certain amount of work experience. For more information, visit our page dedication to medical assistant certification online.

Financing Your Online Medical Assistant Program

Students who attend accredited medical assisting programs might be eligible for federal financial aid in the form of grants and loans. Grants are financial aid awards (often provided to those who demonstrate financial need) that do not have to be paid back. Student loans are often available for those who don’t receive enough grant money to cover their educational expenses. Loans can be subsidized, meaning the student will not pay interest until they are out of school, or unsubsidized, meaning that interest begins accruing immediately.

They might also be eligible for a variety of scholarships specifically designed for those in medical assisting or the allied health field in general. Scholarships, like grants, do not have to be paid back. However, sometimes scholarships can be quite competitive. For more info, read our full page on scholarships and financial aid options for medical assistants

Career Outlook for Medical Assistants

The career outlook for medical assistants is incredibly bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 29% employment growth rate from 2016-2026. To break that down a little more, the percentage translates to almost 184,000 new job openings for medical assistants across the United States. Many factors are driving the growth of medical assistant positions. Perhaps the biggest factor is an aging population; as U.S. residents get older, they require more medical care, which means busier clinics, hospitals, and private practices. Primary care in particular has a high demand for medical assistants as these practices grow to meet the influx of new patients. Though medical assistants will be needed everywhere, it’s important to remember that certification can increase your chances of getting hired, as can a strong familiarity with electronic health records.

Working as a medical assistant, you also get a thorough look at how medical offices work, as well as a peek into the jobs of others with similar positions. Medical assistants might choose to work for a while to hone their skills, and then build on their knowledge by taking more college courses – eventually moving into careers such as nursing. They might also have an opportunity to move into leadership positions, especially in a practice that might have numerous offices and a large staff to manage.

How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?

A medical assistant’s salary depends upon several factors, including the level of experience they have, whether they completed a medical assisting program (and whether it resulted in a certificate, diploma or associate degree), and the area in which a person chooses to work. The following table provides some pertinent information on medical assisting salaries.

Percentile
Hourly Wage
Annual Wage
10%
$11.46
$23,830
25%
$13.26
$27,580
50%
$15.61
$32,480
75%
$18.43
$38,340
90%
$22.07
$45,900

All numbers from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics