Although many medical assistants learn through on-the-job training in a physician's office or through diploma or certificate programs, an associate's degree may help with career advancement and job opportunities. These degree programs take two years to complete. Students gain more advanced training in anatomy, medical terminology and procedures and learn how to run a medical office, receiving training in insurance coding and record keeping.
Prerequisites for these programs include passing grades in math and science courses. A number of technical requirements, including PowerPoint or other presentation software, speakers or a headset, word processing software, video software and a scanner, allow students to complete most work remotely. While courses can be completed online, most medical assistant programs have laboratory requirements that must be done on campus or an internship that must be completed in a doctor's office.
Graduates of online medical assistant associate's degree programs are eligible to take the Registered Medical Assistant exam offered by American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the Certified Medical Assistant exam offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants. Additionally, graduates may consider pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management.
Associate's Degree for Medical Assistants
Students are introduced to the clinical and administrative duties required of a medical assistant. This program is designed to prepare students for careers as medical assistants or medical secretaries. Both clinical and administrative topics make up the curriculum. Clinical subjects include medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, specimen gathering, medical instrument sterilization, vital sign reading and medical history taking. Administrative topics covered include patient examination prep, medical office procedures, medical insurance codes, medical records filing, pharmacy and healthcare professional correspondence, patient scheduling and insurance form completion.
Program Information and Requirements
Application to an online medical assistant associate's degree program is open to working adults and high school graduates with passing grades in math and science. Because medical assistants deal with the public on a day-to-day basis, candidates should be at ease working with the people and possess the skills necessary to effectively manage anxious patients. Many courses can be taken online; however, preparation for this career field requires hands-on training through practical lab work and internships or clinical rotations. Programs range from 65-92 credit hours and can be completed in 2-3 years depending on the school.
Technical requirements may include high-speed Internet connection, PowerPoint or other presentation software, speakers or headset, word processing software and video software. Additionally, some schools require that students have a scanner for homework assignment submission.
Common Medical Assistant Courses
Coursework includes a blend of online classes and on-campus lab work. Online course delivery involves the use of forums, e-mail, live tutors, chat sessions, streaming video, downloadable documents, prerecorded training sessions, telephone sessions and materials shipped via U.S. mail. Assessments may be timed online in an open book format, non-proctored or taken at a local testing facility.
Introduction to Medical Law
This introductory course covers the fundamental doctrines and principles of medical law. Studies include basic legal terms, ethics, legal aspects of the doctor-patient relationship, liability issues and medical confidentiality.
This online course provides an overview of common and rare human diseases. Topics covered include disease origins, disease symptoms, diagnostic testing and treatment options.
Introduction to Medical Terms
This online course provides students with an overview of medical terms. Topics covered include word origins, spelling, pronunciation and grammar as they relate to medical terms.
Career Information for Graduates
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 23% increase in employment opportunities for medical assistants between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the national average (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the median annual salary for medical assistants was $30,590 in 2015. The majority of medical assistants work in physicians' offices.
Associate's degree programs for medical assistants are available in blended formats, combing online courses with in-person labs and internships. Students take courses in medical law, human diseases and medical terminology to prepare for employment and/or certification.