Online Medical Office Assistant Schools: How to Choose

Distance learning programs in medical office assisting are typically available at the certificate and associate's degree levels. Find out what else should be considered when selecting a school online.

Online medical office assistant programs usually result in a certificate or associate degree. Students looking to enter a program will want to consider the level of traininga they wish to seek and the area of medical office assisting on which they wish to focus.

How to Select an Online Medical Office Assistant School

Medical office assistants work in physician's offices and other healthcare facilities to ensure daily operations run smoothly. Along with the award level and program delivery, individuals interested in the medical field from an administrative perspective should consider online programs in medical office assisting and medical coding, available at a number of community colleges and private schools. Considerations when selecting a school should be the award level offered, program type and delivery.

Award Level

There are no formal certificate or degree requirements to become a medical office assistant, so a student's award level is completely up to them; however earning an associate's degree can prepare students for future bachelor's degree programs, if desired.

Associate's degrees usually take about two years to complete and provide in-depth instruction on a range of computer programs, daily office tasks, billing and insurance procedures and scheduling. While certificates also cover these areas, the curriculum is typically more condensed, as these programs are designed to be completed in less than a year.

Program Focus

Students should then think about what field they wish to concentrate on. General office assisting certificates and associate's degree programs generally cover an array of daily medical administrative duties and may be beneficial for those with minimal computer skills and administrative experience. Medical coding programs, meanwhile, focus more on billing coding techniques, preparing medical claims and other insurance related practices. Those with some office experience who want to become more familiar with medical billing and coding may benefit from this type of program.

Program Delivery

The majority of medical office assisting and medical coding programs can be completed entirely online. Students interested in completing at least a portion of their coursework in an on-campus classroom setting may want to look into hybrid programs which combine online classes with hands-on in-person instruction.

Common Online Medical Office Assistant Programs

Online Medical Office Assistant Certificate

Distance learning medical office assistant certificate programs are designed to give students the knowledge and skills needed to work in a medical office setting. Usually made up of 15-20 credits, this type of program offers courses in keyboarding, Microsoft Word and Excel, general office operations and billing. Basic core classes include:

  • Medical billing and accounting
  • Safety in the medical office
  • Managing correspondence and supplies
  • Medical transcription

Online Associate of Science in Medical Office Administration

Online associate's degree programs in medical office administration train students for entry-level careers as medical office assistants or office managers. These programs can usually be completed in one to two years. Course topics include basic computer usage, medical terminology, medical laws and ethics, patient billing and scheduling, and federal regulation compliance.

Some hybrid programs might also require a medical office assisting internship, where students will gain experience by working alongside a mentor in a medical office setting. Students may take additional courses in:

  • Pathophysiology and pharmacology
  • Patient care
  • Medical billing and coding
  • Keyboarding
  • Anatomy and physiology

Online Associate of Applied Science in Medical Coding

Distance learning associate's degree programs in medical coding provide students with a more in-depth look at the technical aspects of medical insurance, billing practices, coding, and state and federal insurance regulations. The curriculum for this type of program might include courses in human anatomy and physiology, computerized billing and medical terminology. Graduates can go on to work as medical office assistants, medical claims reviewers and patient account representatives. Other course topics can include:

  • Professional development
  • Insurance coding
  • Health information and confidentiality
  • Reimbursement methodologies

Schools with Online Medical Office Assistant Programs

Liberty University offers an Associate of Applied Science Medical Office Assistant program online, with a total of 61 credit hours. Courses in the program include medical terminology, systems and procedures, introduction to health professions, and billing and bookkeeping.

Virginia College's Associate in Medical Office Administration program goes over the use of computer technology and administrative skills, comment and order transcription from physicians, and the process of patient interaction, such as scheduling and greeting. An 11-week-long externship is required in order to earn the associate degree.

Grantham University has an online Medical Administrative Assistant Certificate. The program lasts for 17 credit hours, and can be finished in eight months. If transfer credits are available, the certificate could be earned in an even shorter period of time, and all graduates are eligible to sit for the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) Certification Exam.

Aspiring medical office assistants who wish to earn their degree online will find programs mostly at the certificate and associate level. Program lengths vary, and some programs call for in-person training.

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