If you want a job that’s in demand and makes a difference for others, you might be interested in getting your medical assistant certification.
Certified medical assistants have the knowledge and skills to take care of clinical and clerical duties in healthcare facilities. It can be a fulfilling role that gives you the opportunity to make a real difference for other people.
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For a flexible college program that suits your busy life, you could look into taking medical assisting classes online.
Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs
Healthcare facilities are busy places where many patients receive care. If doctors and nurses tried to take care of everything, they’d have to either work 24/7 or see only a handful of patients each day. Instead, they depend on the work of medical assistants.
Medical assistants take care of many of the essential jobs in doctor’s offices and other facilities. For example, they may answer phones, greet patients, schedule appointments, and update records. They might also measure vitals, conduct patient interviews, run simple tests, and give doctors a hand during more complex procedures.
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If you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant, it’s beneficial to get official training through on-campus or online medical assistant programs. That way, you can be better prepared for the many responsibilities this job brings. Training could also help you qualify to become certified. Certification could assure potential employers that you would be a competent hire.
In a medical assistant program, you’ll likely study:
- Clinical procedures
- Electronic health records
- Medical coding
- Patient communication
- Prescription drugs
- Privacy laws
Undergraduate certificate programs that prepare students for national certification often include practicums, sometimes called externships. During that experience, you can do clinical work under the supervision of a medical professional.
Once you’ve completed an accredited medical assistant certificate program—a process that might take less than 1 year or up to 1.5 years—the next step is to take a certification exam. Several national organizations offer medical assistant exams and credentials. One title used in this industry is certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA).
As a certified medical assistant, you might work in a doctor’s office or an outpatient care center. Other jobs may be available in hospitals or chiropractor’s offices.
Medical Assisting Careers & Salaries
Medical assisting programs prepare students for one main career path: being a medical assistant. In that role, you might have a variety of responsibilities. The job might include doing clerical work in the office and performing basic medical tasks in patients’ exam rooms.
Medical assistants work in a variety of healthcare settings. Some are employed by hospitals or outpatient centers. Others work in doctor’s offices. That includes specialty offices—such as working alongside chiropractors, optometrists, or podiatrists.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for medical assistants is $37,190.
|Annual Median Salaries
|Medical Records Specialists
|Medical Assistants (Outpatient Care Centers)
|Medical Assistants (Hospitals)
|Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
|Medical Assistants (Physicians’ Offices)
|Nursing Assistants and Orderlies
|Medical Assistants (Chiropractors’ Offices)
|Physical Therapist Aides
Your background in medical assisting might make you a good candidate for other jobs as well. For example, you may qualify to work as a medical secretary.
After finishing your medical assistant program, you might want to go through an additional training program. Examples include learning to be a dental assistant, a medical records specialist, a nursing assistant, a physical therapy aide, or a pharmacy technician.
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You could draw on your medical assistant training as you prepare for those careers. In some cases, you may not even need to complete a second program. Some on-the-job training might be all it takes. Certification or licensure requirements for some of these jobs may vary from state to state.
Medical Assistant Certificate Curriculum & Courses
In about 1 year, you could take all the classes you’d need for becoming a trained medical assistant.
Your courses might include:
- Anatomy and Physiology: By the end of this class, you’ll know the organs and systems of the body and how they work together.
- Clinical Practices: There will probably be a few different classes in which you learn how to collect information about patients and carry out basic medical tasks.
- Ethics and Law: You’ll not only learn about rules that govern healthcare practices but also discuss what it means to provide ethical care.
- Externship: You may wrap up your program with a hands-on experience in a local healthcare facility, where you’ll put everything you’ve learned into practice.
- Healthcare Coding: To prepare you for billing and insurance matters, it’s necessary to learn the classification and coding systems used in healthcare settings.
- Infection and Disease: You’ll learn about illnesses and diseases, including how they are acquired, treated, and prevented.
- Medical Offices: This class will introduce you to software programs used in medical offices so that you can schedule appointments and look up patients’ records.
- Medical Terminology: You’ll learn words and phrases that are used in medical settings, including terms related to illnesses, treatments, and tests.
- Pharmaceuticals: During your program, you might study how prescription medications can make a difference in treating acute illnesses and chronic conditions.
- Professional Practices: The focus of this class will be on conducting yourself as a professional who communicates well, maintains patient privacy, and strives for excellence.
To complete the program, you may be required to earn at least a C in all the core classes.
How to Become a Certified Medical Assistant
The proper training can help you develop the skills and qualifications to work as a medical assistant.
Here’s how the certification for medical assistant process might look:
- Graduate from high school. You’re required to hold a high school diploma or a GED to enroll in most medical assistant programs.
- Sign up for medical assistant training. Colleges offer short certificate programs in which students learn to become medical assistants. Some take less than 1 year to complete, and others are closer to 2 years. You can look for a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
- Complete an externship. Accredited college medical assistant programs include practicum experiences. You could work in a local medical facility under the supervision of an experienced professional.
- Prepare for the certification exam. After finishing your program, you can prepare to pass an industry exam. The options are the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam, the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) test, or the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam. After applying for the exam, it’s helpful to do plenty of studying.
- Take the exam. On test day, you can do your best to answer the questions accurately. You may find out right away whether you’ve passed.
- Receive your documentation. After passing the test, you can receive documentation that proves your CCMA certification.
- Complete continuing education units as required. This will help you maintain your certification status.
Once you become certified, you can start applying for medical assistant jobs.
If you want to become a medical assistant, applying to college programs can help you get started. The admission process for an undergraduate certificate program might require the following:
- Application form and a small fee
- Entrance exam to determine academic readiness
- Official high school transcripts with a GPA of 2.0 or higher
- Test scores from the SAT or ACT (only required by some schools)
Some medical assistant programs may have a limited number of open spots, so the admissions process could be selective.
Regional accreditation is an essential factor to consider when evaluating potential colleges for your medical assistant training.
Accreditation is a sign that you’re going to receive a high-quality education at that school. If you need to switch colleges partway through your program, your credits are more likely to transfer if you’ve earned them at a regionally accredited college.
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If you want to continue your education after graduating from medical assistant training, you may also appreciate your accredited studies, as some of your coursework might count toward your new program. Also, a regionally accredited education may be a requirement for industry certification programs.
Medical Assisting Licensure and Certifications
Three organizations certify medical assistants:
- The National Healthcareer Association has the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) credential.
- CMA (AAMA) certification is issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
- American Medical Technologists gives its certified professionals the title of Registered Medical Assistant (RMA).
In most places, you don’t necessarily have to be certified before working as a medical assistant, but it’s still a strategic move. Many employers may prefer hiring CCMAs, so this credential can help you become more marketable.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
There might be opportunities to get help with paying for your medical assistant certificate program. You can learn more about your available options after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you take enough credit hours at a time, you might be able to use federal aid, such as grants and student loans. Your state might offer those options too.
There may be scholarships you can apply for as well. Some students get scholarships from community organizations and national programs. Others receive scholarship money directly from their schools. If you’re working, you can see if your employer includes college assistance in your benefits package.
What Can You Do with a Medical Assistant Certificate?
If you have a medical assistant certificate, you could play an important role in healthcare settings. Medical assistants help doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals with a variety of tasks. They work in office settings and provide patient care.
Jobs for medical assistants are often available in outpatient clinics, physicians’ offices, and hospitals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that some medical assistants work in healthcare subfields like podiatry and ophthalmology. After getting your medical assistant certificate, you could choose to do additional study to expand your professional options. Related jobs include being a dental assistant or a medical records specialist.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Certificate in Medical Assisting Online?
It can generally take between 9 months and 1.5 years to receive your certificate in medical assisting. Medical assisting is usually a fairly short program, but online courses can make the process even faster. That’s because the classes are usually structured in 8 week terms, and they might be available throughout the year.
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Your externship will probably be the same length whether you go through an online or on-campus program. If you choose to get a medical assistant associate degree online or on-campus instead of completing a certificate program, you can expect to spend 2 years in school and take more general education classes.
What Is a Medical Assistant Certification?
A medical assistant certification is a credential for someone who wants to work in healthcare facilities in an assisting capacity.
Medical assistants take care of jobs like scheduling appointments, measuring temperature and blood pressure, entering patient data, and helping with procedures. To become certified, a would-be medical assistant should go through an accredited training program. That experience includes coursework and a practicum. After completing the program, an applicant has to pass an industry exam.
Taking the classes, completing the practicum, and preparing for the certification test all contribute to a certified medical assistant’s readiness for healthcare employment.
What’s the Difference Between a CMA vs. CNA?
Many different professionals work in healthcare. You can choose to enter the field as a certified medical assistant (CMA) or a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
|Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
|Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
The type of path you prepare for will likely depend on your preferred responsibilities and work setting. The median salary data for each position comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Is a Medical Assistant Certificate Worth It?
Yes, a medical assistant certificate is worth it for many students. Medical assistants play an important role in healthcare practices. They work in the offices and the exam rooms to assist in the comprehensive care that patients need.
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In light of the country’s aging population, the demand for medical assistants is expected to increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 16% growth rate over the next ten years, which is much faster than average. Much of that growth will come from an increasing number of positions in doctor’s offices.
Universities Offering Online Medical Assistant Certificate Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Baker College offers a Certificate for Medical Assistants. This program aims to equip students with administrative skills essential to clinics and medical offices like billing, patient assessment, and administering injections. Most students can complete this program in 1 year of full-time attendance. Classes can be completed on-campus or synchronously online.
Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Borough of Manhattan Community College offers a 100% online program for a Certificate in Medical Administrative Assistant Training. This curriculum is designed to prepare students for Certified Medical Administrative Assistant licensure. Potential classes include Law, Ethics, and Healthcare, Medical Terminology, Computer in the Ambulatory Care Setting, and Medical Billing and Coding.
BMCC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
California State University—San Bernardino offers a Medical Administrative Assistant with Electronic Health Records Certificate program. Accepted students can begin at any point in the quarter and attend classes entirely online. Graduates of the program often pursue administrative roles in settings like outpatient clinics, hospitals, dental offices, and insurance companies.
California State University – San Bernardino is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Cerro Coso Community College offers a Certificate in Administrative Medical Assisting. Students often pursue state medical assistant certification upon graduation. The program utilizes a convenient, fully online learning format. Classes cover essential topics like computer literacy, healthcare communication, medical terminology, electronic health records, and medical law.
Cerro Coso Community College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Davenport University offers a Certificate in Medical Assisting. This program boasts flexible online and in-person learning environments and faculty members who are certified within medical and allied health fields. Students must complete at least 33 credit hours to graduate. Potential courses include Pharmacology, Anatomy and Physiology, Healthcare Law, and Laboratory Procedures.
Davenport University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Franklin University offers a Medical Assistant Certificate. The program’s fully online curriculum covers skills like taking vitals, patient care, communication, and bedside manner. On average, students can complete the program in 5 to 6 months. Upon graduation, students often pursue careers in clinics, hospitals, outpatient facilities, and other settings within the field of healthcare.
Franklin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Herzing University offers a Certificate for Medical Assistants. The program’s convenient online learning model provides flexibility for busy working students. Most students can complete the program’s 24 required credits in just 10 months. The program allows students to transfer in up to 18 approved credits from outside institutions.
Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Lehman College offers a continuing education certificate for medical assistants. The program utilizes a fully online learning format that is designed with working students in mind. The curriculum covers topics like business practice, terminology, anatomy and physiology, and administering first aid. In addition to coursework, students must complete a 100 hour internship to gain hands-on experience in the field.
Lehman College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Purdue University offers a Medical Assistant Certificate. The program seeks to help students develop essential skills in taking vitals, administering injections, phlebotomy, laboratory testing, and assisting in minor medical procedures.
Students may be able to obtain credits toward the certificate for previous professional or educational experiences. Upon graduation, students may pursue licensure for one of several medical assistant certifications.
Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Rockhurst University offers a Certificate in Medical Assisting. This program boasts expert faculty and hands-on clinical learning experiences. On average, it takes 9 months to obtain this certificate. Students interested in continuing on to the associate degree in this discipline may finish it in just 16 months.
Rockhurst University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
San Francisco State University offers a Clinical Medical Assistant Certificate. Courses can be attended fully online or in a hybrid in-person and online model. Students must complete a minimum of 160 clinical hours in addition to their coursework. On average, students can finish the program’s requirements in 3 to 9 months depending on their chosen course load.
San Francisco State University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission.
Spokane Community College offers a Medical Assistant Certificate. This program is designed to help students develop the necessary skills needed to assist healthcare providers in diverse settings. Students can attend courses on campus or in a blend of online and in-person courses. Most students can finish in 1 year of full-time attendance.
SCC is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The University of Alaska—Southeast offers a Certificate in Medical Assisting. Students interested in developing the expertise needed to assist in administrative and clinical tasks in the field of healthcare field may find an excellent fit in this program.
The program requires the completion of 36 credits. The majority of the coursework can be completed online, though skill checks and clinical practicums must be completed in person.
The University of Alaska – Southeast is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The University of Providence offers a Medical Assistant Certification program. The curriculum covers essential skills like procedure preparations, taking medical histories, removing sutures and dressings, laboratory testing, and blood draws. Students must complete 160 practicum hours at an approved healthcare facility in addition to their online classes. The program can typically be completed in 10 months.
The University of Providence is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Wake Technical Community College offers a Medical Assisting Certificate. The curriculum is designed to prepare students to serve as successful assistants in clinical and administrative roles within the healthcare sector. The program’s classes utilize a blend of online, on campus, and field experience models. The certificate can typically be earned in 1 year of full-time attendance.
Wake Technical Community College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Getting Your Medical Assistant Certificate Online
Earning your certificate for medical assistant could help you qualify for a promising new career. As a medical assistant, you could make a difference in the care that patients receive. It’s a rewarding job path in a growing field.
Online classes could be an important step toward earning your certificate for working as a medical assistant. With online study, you could spend 9 months to 1.5 years taking courses from the comfort of your own home. Then, after completing an in-person externship, you might be ready to start your new career as a medical assistant.
You could take the first step of your educational and professional journey today by exploring the medical assistant certificate programs available from accredited schools.