Online Hospital Unit Secretary Training with Program Information

In addition to performing regular office duties, hospital unit secretaries understand medical coding and the ethical and legal issues affecting medical administration. Online certificate and diploma programs, which meet the requirements to take national certification exams, prepare students for this role. Students may also enroll in online associate degree programs to train for secretarial careers in hospitals and medical offices.

Essential Information

Online medical office administration programs can prepare students to become hospital unit secretaries. These programs are common and typically lead to certificates, diplomas or associate degrees. Though most of these programs can be completed online, work experiences or externships are usually required.

Related Program Options

Individuals who want to perform clerical duties in medical settings may also want to consider online health information technology programs. These programs can be found at the same degree levels as medical office administration programs and may also require externships. It is possible to find fully online programs, however. Health information technology programs train students in medical coding, health information laws and health information data processing.

Online Unit Secretary and Medical Office Administration Certificate Programs

A variety of certificate and diploma programs are available for those aspiring to work as secretaries in a fast-paced hospital unit or medical office. Applicants must be at least age 18 and possess a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Students gain general clerical and computer skills in addition to learning about patient care and the upkeep of medical reports and charts.

Program Information and Requirements

A certificate or diploma in medical office administration can be obtained in one year. Coursework may be completed through distance learning, although a 1- or 2-month clinical internship in a medical office or nursing unit is often required.

Courses Offered

Coursework provides an overview of secretarial procedures pertinent to health care, from administering patients to adhering to privacy regulations. Students learn basic medical terms and how to understand medical coding for insurance and billing purposes.

Medical Accounting Course

Distance learners are introduced to the range of medical insurance coverage currently available to patients and the process for filing claims. Students learn the medical billing codes for various procedures.

Medical Records Course

Maintaining digital and hard-copy patient charts and files is an essential task of a health care secretary. The course emphasizes federal privacy regulations, which make the secure storage of patient medical and financial records a priority.

Medical Terminology Course

Students learn basic medical terms in order to properly transcribe doctor's orders and understand medical coding. They are introduced to medical procedures of diagnosis and treatment.

Career Information

Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions as secretaries in hospital units or clerks in medical offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, average salaries for medical secretaries were $31,450 in 2009.

Online Associate Degree in Medical Office Administration

For those interested in beginning an administrative career in a hospital unit or medical office, an associate degree in medical office management can be pursued online. Distance-learning programs are common and qualify graduates to take national certification exams. Students learn the organizational techniques to maintain patient medical and billing records. They also acquire valuable communication skills to greet patients and families, schedule appointments and assist the health care team.

Program Information and Requirements

Students can complete an associate degree in two years. Online classes are typically asynchronous, meaning that students do not have to log on at a particular time, although class assignments and online exams may have deadlines. At the completion of online coursework, students are required to gain hands-on experience through an internship.

Courses Offered

Core communication, computer and math courses provide skills necessary for effective office management and record-keeping. Major courses in anatomy, disease, medicine and medical administration prepare students for office careers in the health care industry.

Health Care Ethics Course

Legal and ethical concerns strongly influence health care practice. Students gain an appreciation of regulations governing liability and patient consent as it relates to their professional roles.

Human Disease Course

Distance learners study the symptoms and diagnosis of common diseases. Students also learn about treatments and pharmaceutical remedies.

Medical Information Systems Course

Increasingly, patient records are being stored digitally. Students are introduced to databases and software commonly used by health care professionals.

Career Information

An associate degree in medical office management prepares graduates for administrative jobs in hospitals, insurance agencies, pharmaceutical businesses and doctors' and dentists' offices. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that job opportunities for all types of secretaries would increase by 11% between 2008-2018, though the growth of medical secretary jobs was expected to be much faster than that due to the expanding health care industry (

Certification and Continuing Education Information

Graduates of hospital unit secretary and medical office administration training programs might want to consider obtaining voluntary certification to enhance their credentials. The National Association of Health Unit Coordinators offers a certified health unit coordinator (CHUC) designation, and the American Medical Technologists organization awards the medical administrative specialist designation. Both of these certifications require applicants to pass an exam.

For those interested in professional development or advancement opportunities, bachelor's and master's degree programs in health care management are available online. These programs focus on building business management skills as they pertain to the health care industry.

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