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Best Online Medical Assistant
Programs in Pennsylvania

A guide to learning all about earning your medical assistant diploma or degree
in Pennsylvania. Read on to learn about program recommendations,
certification requirements, and salary expectations.

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WRITTEN BY: Kyra Sutherland
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REVIEWED BY: Edumed Editing Staff

Last Updated: 12/04/2023

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Medical assistants play an integral role in improving the efficiency of hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices all over Pennsylvania. And while their significance isn’t determined by their certification, the National Healthcareer Association estimates that 81% of employers and institutions require or encourage certification. Becoming a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant shows potential employers you are a caring, responsible professional committed to your career. Before you earn your certification, however, you need to learn the ins and outs of the profession, and online medical assistant programs in PA can help you do just that.

We’ve created this guide for students in Pennsylvania like you who are looking to become certified medical assistants. Below we’ll show you snapshots of high-quality, local online medical assistant programs in PA, discuss the attributes of a good program, list the steps you need to take to become a certified medical assistant, answer some FAQs, and top it all off with salary expectations post-graduation.

We’ve featured three medical assistant programs online in Pennsylvania in the section below that provide a high-quality online curriculum and have strong track records of preparing and empowering their graduates to embark on successful careers in medical assisting. While these are by no means ranked, they do help paint a picture of what you can expect from a top program.

Bloomsburg Commonwealth University

Online medical assistant programs in PA, like the one offered at Bloomsburg Commonwealth University, prepare students to work directly with patients and support other healthcare professionals. Bloomsburg’s 100% online program can be started at any time and prepares students to sit for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification. It is also supported by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Prospective students do not need to complete prerequisite courses to apply.

Bloomsburg, like several other universities in Pennsylvania, partners with ed2go to bring this training to students in an affordable manner — the total cost for the program is only $2,890. As they go through the program, students learn medical terminology (body systems, diagnostic procedures, nuclear medicine, pharmacology), medical office practices (telecommunication, computers, insurance, patient scheduling), and medical assisting procedures (vital sign monitoring, medication administration, diagnostic imaging procedures, minor office surgeries). Students are expected to complete the program in less than 12 months.

Community College of Philadelphia

The Community College of Philadelphia offers students a 27-credit Medical Assistant Proficiency Certificate that they can complete in as few as two semesters. This partially online medical assisting degree in Pennsylvania offers online learning for at least 25% of the required coursework. Course content includes basic knowledge of communication skills, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, laboratory procedures, administrative procedures, and patient care techniques. These content areas are presented in the classroom, practiced in the laboratory, and applied in a 6-week supervised practicum experience in an ambulatory setting.

Students wishing to enroll must be at least 18 years old by the time the practicum portion of the program begins and must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. If students have attended college classes previously, they are also required to have a minimum GPA of 2.0. Students can transfer all completed credits toward an associate degree in health care studies should they choose to continue their education. To earn the medical assistant proficiency certificate, students must receive a “C” grade or better in the required courses. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for both a national medical assistant certification exam and a phlebotomy certification exam.

Penn Foster Community College

Penn Foster Community College provides students with either a diploma in medical assisting or an online associate degree in medical assisting. It takes around four semesters (roughly two years) to complete the associate degree and as few as 9 months to earn the diploma. Since both programs are self-paced, students can work as fast as they want and dedicate as much time as they have each week. Both programs are available entirely online and require an externship which students arrange with Penn State’s externship coordinator. Students can expect to learn about topics including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, clinical procedure theory, medical surgical procedures, and medical coding, to name a few. The total cost of the 60-credit associate degree program is roughly $5,800 ($99/credit). Students may choose from among multiple payment plans, which may affect the total cost.

The Ultimate Checklist for Online Medical Assistant Programs in PA

If you like checklists, then this section is for you. Now that you know what online medical assistant programs in Pennsylvania look like, we’ll dissect them and pull out the parts that make a program great. Keep these points in mind as you continue your search.

Accreditation

Accreditation is essentially the process of an authoritative body in a given field vouching for the quality of a school and/or program. An accredited school meets certain requirements determined by an accrediting body. Medical assisting programs in PA can earn accreditation from bodies like the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). A medical assisting program’s accreditation dictates the certification tests you are eligible to take. For example, students in programs accredited by the CAAHEP or ABHES are eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. Those not in an accredited program can certify as RMAs by working with the American Medical Technologists (AMT).

Eligibility for Certification Exams

There are several tests that you can take to receive certification as a medical assistant. We’ve listed the requirements for each one below.

  • CMA (AAMA) – Students must have graduated from or be about to complete a medical assisting program accredited by the CAAHEP or ABHES. If a student has not graduated from an eligible program, they must have graduated from a program that meets certain requirements listed on the AAMA website and submit, at minimum, a transcript and attestation form for review before they are approved to take the test.
  • RMA – Students must have graduated from an MA program approved by the US Department of Education, the CHEA, or by the AMT Board of Directors within the last 48 months; graduated from a military MA program in the last four years; or earned a high school diploma plus CPR certification and three years of relevant experience in the last five years.
  • NCMA – Students must have a high school or GED; two years of supervised, full-time experience as a medical assistant in the last 60 months; and have graduated from an accredited medical assistant program within the last five years.

Faculty Qualifications

Choosing to attend an online medical assistant program in Pennsylvania separates you from your professor, but not from their expertise. Faculty with the right academic and professional backgrounds have the experience to impart vital information and techniques to their students regardless of the delivery format. Teachers should have experience as working medical assistants so they can personally and comfortably guide you through both the theoretical and the practical portions of your program.

State-Specific Considerations

The state of Pennsylvania only requires medical assistants to have a high school diploma or the equivalent GED. However, the Pennsylvania Society of Medical Assistants strongly recommends that students looking to become medical assistants attend an accredited program and receive relevant certification. Doing so will boost your future employers’ confidence that they are hiring a competent professional when you enter the workforce.

Student Success Rates: Graduation and Certification

Attending a PA medical assisting program online with high graduation and certification rates proves that that a program adequately prepares its students for their certification test and, more importantly, their work in the real world. Both can help you determine the quality of education being provided and serve as benchmarks for your likelihood of success.

Transferability

Since medical assisting programs online in Pennsylvania are relatively short, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to transfer from one to another — guaranteeing that your credits can transfer is more about setting yourself up for success should you choose to continue your education with an associate or bachelor’s degree at a later time. Since, there is currently no certification exam that medical assistants must have to work, your qualifications in Pennsylvania are equally valid in any other state you may relocate to. Though individual states have laws that dictate what duties medical assistants can and can’t perform, most only require a high school diploma or GED. As we’ve mentioned though, earning a certification through one of several professional organizations (AAMA, NHA, or NCCT) will increase your chances of getting hired, regardless of where you study or live.

How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant in PA: The Next Right Step

You know how to get the ball rolling on your education, but where do you go from there? We’ve listed the most critical steps to certification and career success below to make the process as easy and straightforward as possible. Keep in mind that these are meant to be used as a general framework; you’ll likely need to adjust according to your unique situation and circumstances.

Graduate From an Accredited Program

Though not required, we highly recommended that you choose to attend and graduate from an on-campus or online medical assisting program in PA. Not only will doing so help you feel more confident and prepared to fulfill your future job requirements, it will make you eligible to sit for one of several nationally-recognized certification exams — many employers prefer to hire medical assistants who have done the work of earning their certification.

Complete a Clinical Externship

They say practice makes permanent, and that’s exactly why most medical training programs, including medical assisting programs require students to complete some kind of clinical externship. Whether it is built into your online medical assisting program in PA or you have to find one on your own, completing a clinical externship is imperative. Doing so will help you put everything you learned in the classroom into practice and will earn you valuable experience that will help you feel prepared to put yourself out there when the time comes to apply for jobs.

Pass the Certificate Exam

After you’ve completed all the prep work necessary just to be eligible to sit for the medical assisting certification exam, you actually need to pass it. Take advantage of your program’s review sessions, make flashcards, study with classmates, review your notes, and consider taking a practice test (or a few). Looking up information specific to your test, like the NCMA or CMA (AAMA) exam, will help you know what to expect. Don’t sweat it if you don’t pass on the first try. Keep reviewing and studying and try again in 30 days (or later if you need more time).

Renew Your License and Take Continuing Education Credits

Once you pass your exam, your certification is valid for five years. At the end of those five years, you’ll need to recertify through continuing education units (CEUs) or by retaking the certification test. Both options require a fee, but the amount depends on which certification you are renewing. To renew a CMA certification, you’ll need to obtain a total of 60 recertification points through CEUs.

Online Medical Assistant Programs in PA: Your Questions Answered

Having additional questions is a good sign that you’re interested, so we’ve researched the most common questions about online medical assistant programs in Pennsylvania and answered them below. These questions address funding options, networking opportunities, curricula and prerequisites, and more.

Do online medical assistant programs in Pennsylvania have prerequisites?

Most medical assistant programs in Pennsylvania, online or otherwise, don’t require prerequisites, although some require students to be at least 18 years old. If you plan to take a certification exam, then you’ll also need a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition to requiring students to be 18 by the start of the program and to hold a high school diploma, the Community College of Philadelphia requires students to demonstrate readiness for general education courses in English and math.

How can I network during my program, and does it matter?

Networking opens doors to job and mentorship opportunities both before and during your career. You can network in your online medical assistant program program by getting to know your classmates, professors, and the professionals you work with during your externship. Another way to network is by joining professional organizations and groups focused on the medical assisting industry, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

Is it difficult to be accepted to Pennsylvania online medical assistant programs?

No. In fact, most medical assisting programs online in PA have few admission requirements given that they are designed to prepare you for entry level positions that require neither academic or professional experience in the field.. Some programs, like that at the Community College of Philadelphia, require students who have taken college courses prior to applying to demonstrate a minimum GPA of 2.0.

What funding is available for online medical assistant students in Pennsylvania?

The type of funding available to you depends on the program you choose to pursue. Several colleges in Pennsylvania partner with ed2go to administer their online medical assisting program. These programs have a set course cost that is not eligible for financial aid. However, you can always apply for private scholarships that are neither program- nor school-specific. If you attend an online medical assisting course in PA that’s administered by a school, then you may be eligible for scholarships and other government financial aid.

What is the average cost of an online medical assistant program in Pennsylvania?

As can be expected, costs vary between medical assisting programs. Schools that partner with ed2go for their medical assisting diplomas have students pay the company-set tuition, which typically hovers between $2,700 and $2,900 total. Schools that provide their own private medical assisting curriculum, like Penn Foster Community College, generally charge between $2,400 and $4,200. If you choose to pursue an associate degree in medical assisting, you can expect to pay more due to the greater number of credits required for graduation.

What subjects do medical assistant programs in Pennsylvania cover?

Since medical assistants wear so many hats at work, they need to be prepared with basic knowledge across several areas. Online medical assistant programs in Pennsylvania, therefore, cover subjects in medical billing and coding, the revenue cycle, communication, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, pharmacology basics, CPR, outpatient procedures, medication administration, and rehabilitation and nutrition.

Salary Expectations and Career Prospects for Medical Assistants in PA

Once you graduate from your online medical assistant program in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to find a job that meets your needs in terms of location and salary. The tables below will show you that medical assisting is a high-growth career in Pennsylvania. In fact, it is estimated to grow 18.5% by 2030, slightly faster than the national growth rate of 18.4%.

However, just because job growth in Pennsylvania is high doesn’t mean that the salaries in every city are. The median pay for Pennsylvania-based medical assistants is $36,680 per year on average, with the lowest 10th percentile earning $29,650 and the highest 90th percentile earning up to $46,930. In Philadelphia, Chambersburg-Waynesboro, Lancaster, and Lebanon, medical assistants can make up to $47,000 annually, while those in Johnstown, East Stroudsburg, and Bloomsburg-Berwick make roughly $10,000 less.

Occupation NameNew Jobs (2020-2030)Job Growth Rate (2020-2030)Average Annual Openings (2020-2030)
United States853,50018.40%104,400
Pennsylvania33,16018.5%4,060

Source: Projections Central

Area10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
Pennsylvania$29,650$36,680$46,930
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ$29,990$36,360$44,990
Altoona, PA$27,680$33,850$43,110
Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA$28,060$30,540$37,120
Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA$29,490$35,470$47,470
East Stroudsburg, PA$28,690$30,180$37,800
Erie, PA$27,740$30,580$41,880
Gettysburg, PA$29,580$35,600$45,810
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA$29,800$36,650$45,370
Johnstown, PA$23,000$29,890$37,880
Lancaster, PA$29,210$35,600$46,180
Lebanon, PA$28,820$35,260$46,500
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD$30,210$37,670$47,500
Pittsburgh, PA$29,880$35,560$38,750
Reading, PA$29,340$36,360$45,850
Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA$28,820$34,210$38,220
State College, PA$28,830$35,260$45,120
Williamsport, PA$28,600$34,450$41,630
York-Hanover, PA$29,340$36,080$45,850

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics