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Best Online Medical Assistant Programs in Tennessee

If you’re itching for more information about Tennessee’s best medical assistant programs, what they have to offer, and how to find them, you’ve come to the
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WRITTEN BY: Genevieve Kane
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REVIEWED BY: Edumed Editing Staff

Last Updated: 12/05/2023

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Medical assistants play a vital role in an allied healthcare team. They provide critical, often unsung, support in both patient care and office management. Whether you’re interested in dermatology or obstetrics, there is a medical facility that can benefit from having you as a medical assistant.

Becoming a medical assistant can provide a fulfilling career in and of itself or serve as a steppingstone to other healthcare careers. Working as a medical assistant is a great way to gain the experience many nursing, physician assistant, and other medical programs require for admission. And it all starts with the right online medical assistant program. If, like many students, you have personal and professional obligations, you’ll be glad to know that these online programs are designed with you and your needs in mind, making it possible for you to earn your certificate on your time.

Keep reading for an inside look at some of the most popular programs in Tennessee, a breakdown of what makes a program worth attending, the steps you need to take to launch your career, and so much more.

South College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, and the University of Tennessee-Martin are just three of the many online medical assistant programs available in Tennessee today. We’ve highlighted them for their flexibility, affordability, and overall quality. Get a feel for what top programs have to offer by reading our profiles on these schools below.

South College

South College is a well-respected institution with physical campuses throughout the United States, including Tennessee. At South College, prospective students can choose to pursue a nine-month Certificate in Medical Assisting or an Associate of Science in Medical Assisting, according to their goals, availability, and needs. Both tracks utilize online coursework in combination with real-world practicums and on-campus laboratories to help students gain the knowledge and skills they need to perform administrative and clinical tasks in medical offices and clinics.

Admissions to the medical assistant certificate program at South College follow the general admissions criteria to the college, along with several requirements specific to the medical assisting program. These include but are not limited to recognizing and accepting the various occupational hazards they may face in a medical laboratory or clinical setting; demonstrating the requisite level of physical and/or emotional fitness; and producing evidence of vaccinations and CPR training. General requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, such as the GED, or an associate degree in another field.

The medical assistant programs at South College are all accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and are eligible for financial aid.

Tennessee College of Applied Technology

Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) offers a fully remote Online Medical Assistant and Electronic Health Records Course designed to prepare students to sit for the National Healthcareer Association’s (NHA) CCCMA (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant) and CEHR (Certified Electronic Health Records) certification exams, the latter of which is unique to this program. In addition to learn the basics of clinical medical assisting, students obtain specialized training in electronic health record (EHR) management.

Administered through ed2go and is considered non-credit, meaning it does not qualify for federal financial aid. TCAT encourages students to contact state workforce development boards to see if funds are available and to inquire about financial assistance. This program is self-paced, and students can begin at any time.

Note that while a high school diploma or its equivalent is not required to enroll in the program, one is required to sit for the CCMA exam.

The University of Tennessee, Martin

The University of Tennessee-Martin offers another top-tier online Certified Clinical Medical Assistant program in Tennessee. Like the program at TCAT, students have 12 months from the date of their enrollment to complete the self-paced course.

The course tuition, which totals $2,795, includes a voucher for the CCMA exam. Keep in mind that while there are no prerequisites to enrolling in this program, the CCMA exam requires test takers to have a high school diploma or its equivalent to sit for certification.

In addition to coursework on medical terminology, diagnostic procedures, nuclear medicine, and pharmacology, students receive instruction on preparing for their careers and the opportunity to earn clinical experience. The clinical experience requires a separate application that program administrators recommend students complete roughly two weeks before completing their online coursework. Although clinical placement is not guaranteed, the program maintains affiliations with several clinical sites to help facilitate placement.

Since this program is not for credit, students are not eligible to receive federal financial aid, however funding may be available through state-based programs or private organizations.

The Ultimate Checklist for Online Medical Assistant Programs in TN

It is essential to attend a quality program that provides the foundation for your future career and sets you up for success should you ever decide to continue your education. As you begin to apply to online medical assistant programs in Tennessee, keep your eyes peeled for the following program qualities.

Accreditation

In addition to your eligibility for financial aid, school and program accreditation affect which of the three available certifications you are eligible to sit for. More than anything, attending an accredited program signals to your future employers that you received the quality of education necessary to take on the day-to-day responsibilities of patient care and office management associated with being a medical assistant.

Eligibility for Certification Exams

Students at each of the programs we featured above are eligible for certification exams, provided they also complete the requisite clinical experiences. However, not all programs are created equally. Before hitting enroll, be sure to read the fine print regarding the certification exams you will be eligible and equipped to sit for after graduation.

As we mentioned above, knowing which certification, if any, is preferred at your desired workplace can play an important role in helping you determine the right school for you.

Faculty Qualifications

It is essential to learn from instructors who know both the material and the ins and outs of the role they are preparing you for — and who can draw on their real-world experience to answer your questions. Most programs feature faculty biographies on their website. Read through these to gain insight into the experience and qualifications of your instructors.

State-Specific Considerations

Different states have different requirements regarding medical assistants’ need to be certified. In Tennessee, medical assistants do not need to be certified. However, individual workplaces have the right to require applicants to hold certification, and many do.

Keep in mind that state certification laws are subject to change, so it is best to monitor requirements as you move through each phase of your career.

Student Success Rates: Graduation and Certification

Many schools will post data about completion rates and employment after graduation. For example, a program may state that, on average, they have an 80% completion rate, 95% pass rate for certification exams, and 92% employment rate in the year following graduation.

If a school doesn’t advertise this data, it’s a great question to ask the admissions team. While success in any program is primarily up to the student, it can be a red flag if a school won’t share this data or has low numbers. In this case, exploring the school’s reputation further would be wise.

Transferability

Your ability to transfer credits from your online medical assistant programs in Tennessee can make a big difference in your life should you ever pursue an associate degree in medical assisting or another allied health field. Being able to transfer credits means you will not have to retake the classes you’ve already worked so hard to pass once.

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

Applying to and graduating from one of Tennessee’s online medical assistant programs is just the first of several steps to obtaining and maintaining the training and certification you need to make a career in this field. Keep reading for an overview of the milestones you’ll need to hit to get your career off the ground.

Complete a Clinical Externship

A clinical externship is not always required but can help you stand out among a sea of candidates and land a more competitive role. Luckily for you, most programs require clinical hours as part of their curriculum. For example, the clinical practicum at South College consists of 180 hours of hands-on training. While many are unpaid, it is possible to land an externship that provides a small sum of money in addition to practical skills and invaluable connections with potential mentors and employers.

Graduate From an Accredited Program

Accreditation means that a school or program meets a certain educational standard. Various accrediting bodies can accredit schools; medical assistant programs are accredited by either the Commission on Accredited of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health education Schools (ABHES). The CAAHEP accreditation at South College allows graduates of this online program to sit for either the CMA (AAMA)®, RMA, or CCMA certification.

Pass the Certificate Exam

Once you have completed the necessary coursework and clinical requirements at an accredited program, you will be eligible to sit for one of three certification exams:

While your course of study should prepare you for the exam, you can also find exam prep books to help you practice test questions. If you know the organization you hope to work for after graduation, you can determine their certification requirements and work backward to find a program that prepares you to earn it.

Renew Your License and Take Continuing Education Credits

No certification is required to work as a medical assistant in Tennessee. However, if you do become certified, you will want to keep that certification active. While you can recertify by retesting, completing the designated number of continuing education credits (CE) is often easier.

Each certification varies in its renewal requirements, all of which include an associated fee and a certain number of CE credits. For CCMA, CMA (AAMA)®, and RMA, the requirements are as follows:

  • CCMA requires a fee and 10 CE credits every two years.
  • CMA (AAMA)® requires a fee and 60 CE credits every 60 months.
  • RMA requires an annual fee and 30 CE credits every three years.

Your employer may pay or reimburse you for the cost of your continuing education credits or your recertification, especially if they require certification as a condition of your employment.

Online Medical Assistant Programs in TN: Your Questions Answered

Pursuing any career training is a big decision. As you explore online medical assistant programs in Tennessee, it is normal to have questions about everything from the application process to program costs to your career prospects, and more. We’ve addressed some of the most common concerns among prospective medical assistant students below to help you feel confident as you take this next step.

Do online medical assistant programs in Tennessee have prerequisites?

Medical assistant programs prepare students for entry-level jobs in allied healthcare. As such, few, if any, programs have prerequisites. In fact, some online medical assistant programs in Tennessee, such as the one offered through TCAT, allow students to register for and begin their program in as few as 24-48 hours. Regardless of your program’s prerequisites, or lack thereof, certification as a medical assistant requires a high school diploma or equivalent.

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

Networking during your program can help you land your dream job after graduation. Although it can be slightly more difficult to do so while completing an online program, you can network by building professional relationships with peers in your program; engaging in discussions with your instructors; establishing rapport with staff at clinical sites; and joining a professional organization like the Tennessee Society of Medical Assistants.

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

In short: no. While nearly all online medical assistant programs in Tennessee require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED, few have GPA or prerequisite requirements. The more advanced the degree or certificate program, the more stringent their application requirements are bound to be. For a more detailed breakdown of what it takes to get into a medical assistant program, you can check out our dedicated guide.

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

Federal financial aid is always a good place to start, particularly if you are enrolled in an accredited, for-credit program. If you attend a program that does not offer or accept federal financial aid, you may be able to receive funding through workforce development programs, hospital or healthcare organizational training programs, or scholarships. Schools like South College accepts federal financial aid and partners with state and local organizations and initiatives to offer scholarships.

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

The cost of an online medical assistant program varies according to its length, type, and fee structure. Tuition at South College, for example, depends on a student’s credit load. Quarterly tuition for students taking 10-20 credits is just under $4,000. In contrast, the programs at TCAT and the University of Tennessee-Martin offer a flat fee of roughly $3,000, although students can incur additional fees if they exceed the 12-month program timeline.

What subjects do medical assistant programs in Tennessee cover?

While the specifics will vary from school to school, online medical assistant programs in Tennessee generally cover medical terminology, legal and ethical issues in medical assisting, and the fundamentals of health insurance and medical coding and billing, among other related topics.

Part of working successfully as a medical assistant is having the hard and soft skills to keep a medical office running efficiently while providing the care and attention each patient wants and deserves. A robust program offer a curriculum that helps you develop both.

Salary Expectations and Career Prospects for Medical Assistants in TN

Understanding your job outlook and earning potential is an important part of deciding what to do with your life. This section can serve as a reference point of what you can expect to make and where. Use it as a way of determining if an organization’s offer approaches or exceeds the median salary for the area you’re applying in.

Medical assistants across the United States, and particularly in Tennessee, can expect job growth that is much higher than average through 2032, with more than 2,000 positions becoming available year over year. And the good news doesn’t end there; medical assistants in the Volunteer State can earn up to $45,000 annually. If you think this sounds low compared to what your peers make in states like California or New York, you’d be right, but you’d also be remiss not to consider factors like cost of living. Tennessee is regarded as the 10th most affordable state in the United States. So, while you may not make the same salary as someone who lives in California or New York, the odds are high that your dollar will stretch further.

Likewise, both the cost of living and the average salary vary across the state. Those in larger cities like Nashville earn a higher median salary than those living in rural areas, which is 93% of Tennessee. However, rent and property costs are generally lower in rural areas than urban areas.

Occupation NameNew Jobs (2020-2030)Job Growth Rate (2020-2030)Average Annual Openings (2020-2030)
United States853,50018.40%104,400
Tennessee18,80021%2,310

Source: Projections Central

Area10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
Tennessee$28,640$36,280$45,840
Chattanooga, TN-GA$28,690$35,520$45,240
Clarksville, TN-KY$27,040$34,220$45,550
Cleveland, TN$28,400$30,380$44,160
Jackson, TN$27,810$33,520$48,160
Johnson City, TN$27,180$33,650$43,230
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA$28,140$32,770$43,930
Knoxville, TN$28,820$35,750$39,210
Memphis, TN-MS-AR$28,950$36,360$46,780
Morristown, TN$27,290$29,830$43,690
Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN$29,570$37,340$46,960

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics