Associates Degrees in Medical Assisting

Going back to school could sometimes be necessary when pursuing a new career. However, it’s often inconvenient for busy adults. Fortunately, you may find online medical assistant programs that may allow you to fit career prep into your hectic life.

Students interested in medical assisting used to be limited to campus-based community colleges, trade schools, vocational schools, and other institutions. Online medical assistant programs are now a path that may be worthy of consideration. 

The advent of online extension programs from traditional universities, as well as recent innovations in e-learning to meet the needs of diverse students, have helped to lead to the growth of online learning opportunities from accredited schools.

These programs may not supplant traditional methods of education. Online programs may be an alternative for students desiring to learn from home. This could be if you need flexibility because of work. Family commitments or your geographic location may not permit you to attend school in person. E-learning could be one way to prepare for your medical assisting career goals.

What is a Medical Assistant Associates Degree Program?

Medical assistant associates degree programs aim to provide students with necessary skills to work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, outpatient care centers, and chiropractic offices. They may be able to find employment in nursing homes and assisted living communities as well. Students may learn skills needed such as entry level administrative skills. They may also learn clinical roles within these locations. 

Some people begin their education here. They may then go on to complete a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.

This type of program often teaches fundamentals in medical care. This may include things like pharmacology and psychology. It aims to teach the basics in medical coding and reimbursement. As an associates degree, students often use it to get a feel for educational options. They may use it as a way to determine what type of career or focus is right for their needs.

Students in either course format learn core topics. They may learn:

  • Computer healthcare applications
  • Healthcare industry standards
  • Anatomy and psychology
  • Specimen collection and prep
  • Basic clinical procedures
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical billing and insurance
  • Medical laws and ethics
  • Patient safety protocol

In an associate’s degree, students may also take other courses such as:

  • Sociology
  • English
  • Math
  • Speech
  • Communications
  • Psychology

Many students could learn hands-on skills. This may include tasks such as how to complete medical records. It may include procedure skills like giving an EKG. They may learn how to read health records.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

A medical assistant is often the first step into the medical field. Those who work in this field typically handle minor clinical tasks and administrative work. They typically work to support other health care professionals. They may provide some basic services based on the field they work in as well. For example, they may help with specific chiropractic skills or ophthalmic procedures.

Medical assistants may work in a range of facilities and centers. They may work in state, local, and private hospitals and medical centers. They may play a role in a healthcare facility providing some aspects of patient care and medical support. Some work in physicians’ offices. Others work in assisted living centers, rehab centers, and nursing centers. Those who work as a medical assistant may work under the direction and supervision of a physician. Some of the tasks they perform may include drawing blood, completing patient record updates, and setting appointments. Many may also receive training to take vital signs of a patient. They may also take medical histories. Some could gather information and help patients complete insurance forms. Typically, they gather information that a physician then uses to make decisions or provide treatment. Some also perform basic tests, such as an electrocardiogram. They could then update patient records to reflect visit notes and other details obtained from the appointment.

What Degree Does a Medical Assistant Need?

Many students may need a degree or certification to work as a medical assistant. The type of degree often depends on state regulations. Students could check their state’s healthcare board to determine this. Some employers may also require specific degrees or certificates. They may not hire those who do not have one.

An associates degree is an entry level degree in healthcare. Some states may allow students with a professional certificate to work as a medical assistant. This may still require a student to sit for a state licensing exam.

What kinds of online medical assistant programs and degrees are available?

If you are preparing to pursue a career as a medical assistant, you typically have three choices: a diploma program, a certificate program, or an associate’s degree in medical assisting. A diploma or certificate program usually takes around one year to complete. 

Usually, earning an associate’s degree takes an average of two years for full-time students. Your choice may depend on your budget and how much time you have to devote to career preparation. Many reputable colleges, universities, and trade or vocational schools may offer one or all of these program options in an online format.

All three program types could include both theoretical and practical study of topics. These topics may include human anatomy and medical terminology. First aid and other subjects related to the clinical and admin responsibilities of medical assistants may be covered as well.  Most of these programs may include a practicum that allows you to experience a real medical environment. However, most of your coursework could be completed from your home or anywhere with an internet connection.

Associates Degree vs Certificates

Some programs may provide an associates degree. Others offer just a certificate. Both may indicate a student has completed a specific track of education. A person could qualify to be a medical assistant through both programs.

One difference in these programs may be the length of time they take to complete. Most medical assistant associates degrees take about two years. A certificate may take just one year. The programs provide different levels of education and training. Both programs typically teach the basic concepts in the field. This may includes topics such as drawing blood, anatomy, completing diagnostic screenings, and physiology.

Those completing the certificate program may need to then work in an externship for some time before they can sit for the certification exam. This is not often a requirement if you complete an associates degree instead.

The two year degree program aims to teach more of the management and administrative components of the job. It may lead to more general education inclusion as well. An associates degree may provide more of a well-rounded education. After completing this program, students could sit for the certification exam.

Certificate programs may be a good place to start for those who are interested in completing a degree and starting to work. For those who plan to go on to a bachelor’s degree, an associates degree may be a good starting point overall.

Students who complete either of these programs may meet the qualifications for earning their certification. That means they may have the skills necessary to work as a medical assistant. Also note that some schools may have an accredited certificate program. That often allows students who complete it to sit for their exam. They may not need additional training and support.

How does a certificate program cut down course length, then? A certificate program may provide the very basics for how to do the job. Many courses are streamlined. They aim to provide just basic administrative and clinical skills. They may lack the same depth of education. They are often shorter because they do not provide as much content. However, they may also be shorter because of their intense format. Students typically have to learn more in a shorter time. That may mean more studying and more demands.

Another factor may be the difference an associate’s degree offers in the type of classes. This is typically a general liberal arts degree. That means there may be more board subjects. The perspectives are different, too. Students may learn more areas but sometimes with less intensity. That may help to give students more areas of some information. This may encourage the student to go on to more educational opportunities.

Which one is best for you?

There may be advantages to an associate’s degree. Students may learn more areas of the healthcare industry. They may spend more time learning in depth content in core subjects, too. This often gives students a broader level of experience. It may help them qualify for other positions in concentrated fields.

An associates degree may also help with future learning. Students who know they wish to work in healthcare may use it as a stepping stone. That may let the student continue their education. The student could apply what they learned and earned in an associate degree towards their bachelor’s degree. This could help speed up that secondary level of education.

Some employers may require an associates degree over a certificate. This may play a role in where you want to work. For those who want to get into the job field faster, a certificate may provide a way to do that. Students may wish to continue their education at that point, too. That may make this a good option for who want to work and study.

How Long Do You Have to Go to School to Be a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant associates degree could take about two years to complete. A certificate program may be possible to complete in as little as 12 months. Multiple factors may play a role in this. Some programs take longer. This is especially true if the student takes classes part time. Some schools may offer a program that is faster. This often depends on the track, previous education, and the amount of time a student puts into the program.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified Medical Assistant?

A student with a GED or high school diploma may enter into this type of program if they meet any necessary prerequisites. From there, students could begin the process of earning either a certificate or an associates degree. This process may take between a year (for a certificate) and two years (for an associates degree). Many programs are about 18 months.

After completing their education, students then must sit for a certification exam. They cannot become a certified medial assistant until they pass this exam. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) provides this type of examination. Other organizations may as well. Another provider is the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). It often provides the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Certification. They may also need to register for the state board before they can hold a position in this field.

What are the benefits of online medical assistant programs?

Some students may prefer campus based medical assisting programs. They could prefer these because they enjoy in-person instruction and the ability to socialize with classmates. For many adult learners, however, campus based class times may conflict with responsibilities. These may include work or caring for children. 

A benefit of learning online may be the ability to complete coursework at the times of day that are most convenient for you. For example, you may be able to view a lesson during your lunch break, in the evening, or on the weekend. Being able to fit your schoolwork into your limited spare time could be the difference between putting off your career change. These options may allow you to get started right away on your goals for a better future.

Online medical assistant programs often  offer support from instructors similar to on campus programs. You may even get to know your classmates on a personal level. Most importantly, a reputable program may offer the same or similar curriculum as an in-person program. That way, you may not miss out on any essential prep. 

How could I find reputable online medical assistant programs?

When evaluating online medical assistant programs and degrees, accreditation may be important to consider. This ensures your prospective program meets professional standards. Accreditation may be preferred by employers. An organization such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is one. 

Our list of online medical assistant colleges consists of programs accredited by agencies. They may be recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and/or an international accrediting body. Regional vs. national accreditation could be a consideration if you need to transfer credits from the general education you have earned. This could be now or in the future. Some of the featured programs may also have concentrated accreditation. This could be necessary if you decide to pursue licensure or certification following graduation.  For example, to pursue CMA certification, you may need to have graduated from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

Can You Get Your Medical Assistant Degree Online?

Students may be able to enroll in a medical assistant degree program online. There are both certificates and associate degree programs available in this format. Many programs may completed fully online. Others require students to go into the classroom

Here are some schools that offer the program online:


Visit School

Address:  14300 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 125, Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Time to Complete: 4 semesters as little as 18 months.

Program Highlights: School has been accredited for over 40 years by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) in Washington, D.C. 


Visit School

Address: W140N8917 Lilly Road Menomonee Falls, WI 53051

Time to Complete: The average time to complete this program is 20 months to earn the associates degree.

Program Highlights: Program provides assistance in finding a job as soon as possible following graduation. Assists in passing the certification exam.


Visit School

Address: 1813 East Main Street, Salem, VA 24153

Time to Complete: program can be completed in as little as 18 months.

Program Highlights: The school currently carries an exam passage rate of 95% and job placement at 72%. The school is also fully accredited


Visit School

Address: 6630 East Highway 290, Suite 180, Austin, TX 78723

Time to Complete: This program can be completed in as little as 48 weeks.

Program Highlights:  The school is fully accredited and prepares students to pass the certification exam. The cost of taking the exam is included in tuition.


Visit School

Address:  100 Hobart Drive, Hillsboro, OH 45133

Time to Complete: This program will take 5 semesters to complete.

Program Highlights: This program is fully accredited and offers courses to aid in passing the certification exam as part of the curriculum.


Visit School

Address: 7777 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043

Time to Complete: The degree can be completed in 15 months.

Program Highlights: The program is available online and in person. The school is fully accredited in the medical assisting program.

Our Partner Schools