According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California leads the nation in the total number of medical assistants employed – more than 111,000 work in the state. This is almost double the number in Texas, which comes in at a distant second.
Despite having so many medical assistants already, California still needs more to accommodate the expansion of its healthcare services for an aging population. To meet this demand, many California schools are offering online medical assistant programs that make it quicker and easier for students with busy schedules to become certified medical assistants. While many medical assistant programs in California have online curriculums, no two schools are the same — some offer diplomas or certificates while others offer associate degrees; some may make online courses available at all times while others may only be offered on a preset schedule.
We’ve created this guide to help you figure out which online program is best for you. In addition to helping you learn more about how online medical assistant programs work, we’ll lay out what to look for when researching programs, how to move through the medical assistant certification process, what to expect after you’ve enrolled, and the job and salary prospects waiting for you after graduation.
Spotlighting Top Medical Assistant Programs in California
There are a multitude of online medical assistant online programs in California. To help you begin to sift through them and get a feel for which is right for you, we’ve profiled three top schools. These programs stand out for their affordability, a streamlined admissions process, flexible learning options, and student services. Even if these schools aren’t perfect for you, they can give you a solid grasp of what to look for as you search for the one that is.
American Career College
The Medical Assistant Training Program at the American Career Collegeis accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) andoffers one of the fastest path to a career as a medical assistant in California. Students can earn their diploma in as few as nine months after completing the hybrid online and on-campus curriculum.
Students complete the majority of their coursework online supplemented by two days of in-person training per week at one of the school’s three Southern California campuses: Los Angeles, Ontario, or Orange County. Students must also complete a 200-hour supervised clinical externship. While most, if not all, online medical assistant programs in California require clinical externships, few prepare students with as many training hours as American Career College.
Another benefit of this program is its streamlined admissions process; there are no prerequisites and the primary eligibility requirement is proof of a high school diploma, GED, or comparable credential.
California State University, Long Beach
The Self-Paced Online Clinical Medical Assistant Certificate Programat California State University, Long Beach is the perfect starting point for high school graduates or GED-holders looking to break into the allied healthcare field. This hybrid program consists of 140 hours of online didactic instruction and a clinical externship. Graduates of the program earn a certificate of completion are eligible to take the National Healthcareer Association’s Certified Clinical Medical Assistant exam.
Unlike many other hybrid medical assistant programs in California, this program’s lecture components are not only offered remotely, but asynchronously students can move through coursework at their own pace and “attend” class not just from anywhere, but at any time.
Just because the program is self-paced program, however, doesn’t mean students learn without assistance. On the contrary, students have full access to a program coordinator to address their questions and concerns when they arise. Students who prefer live online learning and additional hands-on training, can elect to participate in real-time Zoom classes and on-campus lab sessions.
San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University’s Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA) Online Courseis uniquely accessible and flexible, ideal for students with busy schedules and other obstacles to traditional education. There are no perquisites to this program — in fact, students may register without a high school diploma or GED.
Students must choose from two available tracks: a 10 to 12-week in-person program held in downtown San Francisco or a 100% asynchronous online program that students can complete quickly or as slowly as they wish over the course of nine months. Regardless of the track they select, students must complete a 160-hour clinical externship to gain valuable hands-on experience and apply what they learned in class to a real-world clinical setting, including the clinical responsibilities of the medical office, proper patient preparation, examination, and treatment, medical terminology, and more.
After completing the program, students will be ready to take the national Certified Clinical Medical Assistants certification exam administered by the National Healthcareer Association.
Must-Haves in a Medical Assistant Program in California
The perfect online medical assistant program in California will be different for everyone. Program characteristics that are important to you may not be important to other prospective students and vice versa. However, there are still some universal must-haves; let’s take a look at important qualities you want your California medical assistant program to have.
Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant in California
You may already have the skills you need to complete the didactic learning components of your online California medical assistant program, but you’ll still need to meet additional conditions before you become certified. We’ll walk you through what else goes into earning your credentials below.
Answering Your Questions About CA Medical Assistant Programs Online
As eager as you are to apply to a CA medical assistant online program, you might still have questions. Read on to see answers to the questions we hear prospective students ask most frequently about online medical assistant programs in California.
Are scholarships or grants available for online medical assistant students in CA?
Yes, there are plenty of gift-based financial aid options available. Many of these grants come from private organizations, such as corporations and nonprofits. Others come from the state of California, such as the Cal Grant. Then there are the schools themselves, like MiraCosta College, which offers scholarships to eligible students. You can also complete the FAFSA to be eligible for federal financial aid.
Are there professional organizations or networking opportunities for California medical assistants?
The most prominent professional organization for medical assistants in California is the California Society of Medical Assistants. This state affiliate of the AAMA offers networking and continuing education opportunities to medical assistants in all phases of their careers.
Do I need to complete any prerequisites before applying?
It depends on the school. Some online California medical assistant programs like that at MiraCosta College require applicants to complete basic courses in medical terminology and biology, while others like that at the Cal State University, Long Beach do not require students to complete any prerequisites prior to admission or enrollment.
How much should I expect to pay for my program?
The exact cost of your online medical assistant program will depend on several variables, including the type of school (public or private) and type of program (certificate/diploma or associate degree). Programs that provide graduates with a certificate or diploma are shorter and generally less expensive — you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars in tuition and fees for these programs. Online medical assistant programs in California that culminate in an associate degree are often more expensive overall, as they typically take two to three times longer to complete.
What are the admission requirements for California medical assistant programs?
Admission requirements vary by school and program. At a minimum, you should expect to submit an online application and provide official copies of your high school transcript or comparable credentials. Additional requirements will depend on the school. For instance, the Bay Area Medical Academy requires applicants to pass an English test and complete an interview while Gurnick Academy requires applicants to submit an essay about why they want to become a medical assistant and the qualities that will help them succeed in the program.
What does an online medical assistant curriculum in California cover?
Most medical assistant online programs in California offer similar curricula, all designed to prepare students to pass certification exams and gain skills and knowledge that the typical California healthcare employer expects new hires to possess. As such, you should expect to learn the fundamentals of human anatomy and physiology, medication delivery, dosage calculation, healthcare ethics and legal requirements, billing, insurance processing, medical terminology, and office administration.
Salary and Career Insights for California Medical Assistants
After graduating from an online medical assistant program in California, you can expect potential employers to be more than ready to hire you. You can’t, however, always expect them to be ready to pay the highest salaries.
As indicated in the below table, the projected job growth for medical assistants is strong — almost two percentage points higher than the estimated national average growth rate. So, finding a job shouldn’t be a challenge. Finding one that pays as much as possible will be a little bit more difficult and will involve weighing your salary goals, your local cost of living, and your willingness to relocate to balance the two.
The median annual salary for California medical assistants is slightly higher than the national average of $38,270, however the cost of living in California is roughly 50% higher than the national average. This discrepancy can be offset somewhat in some of the larger metropolitan areas, like Napa, San Francisco, and San Jose, where medical assistants can expect to earn significantly more than their more rural counterparts, with Los Angeles being a notable example. Take a look at the tables below for a more detailed breakdown of what you can earn and where.
Source: Projections Central
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics