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Online Administrative Assistant Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Online administrative assistant certificate and associate degree programs are fairly common. These 1- and 2-year programs offer options to students who want to learn from home or complete a course or two. Programs are even available to students who want careers in the medical or legal fields.

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When selecting an online administrative assistant school, students should first consider what field they want to pursue, as there are specific programs for administrative assistants who work in the medical or legal fields. They should also consider what level of study is right for them, with most programs offered at either the associate's degree or certificate level, and can be found in online and hybrid formats.

How to Select an Online Administrative Assistant School

A number of online schools, as well as traditional colleges and universities, offer online options for those interested in becoming an administrative assistant. Students should weigh the field of study and award level with the program delivery.

Field of Study

Students interested in administrative assistant school or college programs might want to first consider whether they would rather work in the business, medical or legal field. Some programs prepare graduates for administrative assistant positions in accounting departments, government agencies or insurance firms. Other programs are geared toward students who want to work in doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes or public health agencies. Programs are also available to those interested in working in law offices as legal administrative assistants.

Level of Award

Generally, both certificate and associate degree programs prepare graduates for entry-level positions. However, an associate degree program usually contains additional general education course requirements that take an extra semester or two to complete. According to some schools, graduates of these programs may need less on-the-job training upon employment. The additional curriculum can also prepare students to transfer their credits to a 4-year program, if they're so inclined. Students might want to consider their career goals before enrolling.

Program Delivery

Another consideration when choosing a school is whether the program is available in an online or hybrid format. Students interested in business administrative assistant programs may find that both certificate and associate degree programs can be completed entirely online. Medical and legal administrative assistant certificate programs are also available entirely online. However, associate degree programs in these fields are more commonly available as hybrid programs.

List of Common Online Administrative Assistant Programs

Online Administrative Assistant Certificate of Completion

Certificate programs generally include coursework in the areas of computer technology and basic office procedures. Students can learn to use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint software. Students can download materials for these programs via course management systems, such as Blackboard. This software also allows them to participate in online chats. Students may also gain skills in the areas of:

  • Document production
  • Employment strategies
  • Keyboarding
  • Customer service

Online Medical Office Assistant Certificate of Completion

Students in medical office assistant programs learn keyboarding and word processing skills. In administrative and records management courses, they focus on procedures for filing medical records, coding diagnostic procedures and submitting insurance claims. Online delivery systems used by these programs allow students to conduct research, send e-mails and take part in online discussions. Additional topics include:

  • Medical law and ethics
  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Electronic health records management

Online Legal Administrative Assistant Certificate of Completion

These programs include coursework in legal research, legal terminology and legal documentation in addition to keyboarding and computer software courses. Students may access online materials for these courses through instructional software, such as Desire2Learn. Some programs also include introductory courses in:

  • Business law
  • Civil and criminal law
  • Document formatting

Online Administrative Assistant Associate of Applied Science

Associate degree programs include general education courses in math, composition, communications, social science and the humanities are also included. These programs also use course management systems, such as Blackboard. The major-specific coursework covers areas such as:

  • Business communication
  • Human relations
  • Quality digital transcription
  • Information management

Online Medical Administrative Assistant Associate of Applied Science

Students in these programs take medical law and records management courses and study computer software applications, such as Excel and Access. Before participating in a program's discussion groups or message boards, students may have to undergo online orientations to become familiar with a course management system. Many of these programs offer students the opportunity to select concentration areas in:

  • Infection control
  • Medical systems and procedures
  • Billing and bookkeeping

Online Legal Administrative Assistant Associate of Applied Science

This 2-year associate degree program delves into advanced topics in legal proofreading and legal transcription. Students may also enroll in project management or office accounting electives. Online course materials, such as lecture notes or exams, are generally available through course management programs. Coursework includes:

  • Transactional law
  • Civil procedures
  • Family and criminal law
  • Legal editing and proofreading

Schools with Online Administrative Assistant Programs

At Liberty University, students can enroll in a medical office assistant program at the associate's degree level. This program gives students the administrative tools to work in health care environment, offering classes on topics such as medical office systems and procedure and medical bookkeeping.

Alexandria Technical and Community College offers administrative assistant programs for students looking to work within the legal or medical fields, offering an associate's degree program for both legal administrative assistants and medical administrative specialists. It is recommended that students applying to the legal administrative assistant program have previous keyboarding training or experience.

You may also want to consider Central Texas College, which offers an online office technology specialist certificate program that includes classes on administrative office procedures. An up-to-date computer is required in order to meet the minimum technical requirements.

Administrative assistant programs can be found online at many different schools, available in both certificate form and as associate's degree programs. Technical requirements tend to be minimal, although prior typing experience may be beneficial.

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