Home » Program Types for Medical Assistants » Online Medical Assistant Programs


If you are considering switching into a new career, or are just starting out in the working world, the healthcare industry is the place to be. The industry is growing like crazy, and it offers a wide range of career possibilities for nearly everyone. One career path is that of medical assistant. These professionals work alongside doctors and nurses. They attend to both administrative and clinical duties.

In one moment a medical assistant might be answering telephones and scheduling patients, the next moment might find them taking blood or hooking a patient up to the EKG machine. They also do work in the lab, and can be found assisting minor surgeries.

You can learn all of this in an accredited online medical assistant program.

Should You Become a Medical Assistant?

Before you learn about online programs and the educational requirements for medical assistants, it’s vital to ask whether or not you should become a medical assistant in the first place.

If you enter into this profession, it is vital that it be a good fit for you. After all, the job can be quite stressful at times, and that stress is likely to be tenfold if the job is not to your liking. Before you embark upon an educational track for a medical assistant position, evaluate your goals, skills and personal qualities.

The job will require that you be very detail oriented. Patients will rely on you to get the exact codes right when you bill their insurance, and doctors will need precision when it comes to your clinical details. If you are meticulous and notice the smallest items, or remember details, you could have this quality. Keep in mind that you can train yourself to become more detail-oriented, but this can be a hard task if it doesn’t come naturally for you.

Life as a medical assistant also means that your patience will be tested. You will often encounter people who are in pain from their illness and will express that to you. It will be imperative for you to be able to keep your objectivity in these situations. A reactive medical assistant is not likely to last very long in the field, as patients and their health concerns are the very reason for being in the industry. You may be able to be more patient and empathetic to the plights of others but it takes practice and determination.

One key quality of medical assistants is the ability to multitask. Do you prefer doing one thing all the time without breaks, or do you like to juggle multiple things at once? Can you do this and still complete all of the things you need to do? If you thrive in situations where you can jump from one thing to the next, then the life of a medical assistant may be for you. Since your job will be at the core of healthcare administration and the clinic, you may be called away from working with patient records to take vital signs for patients in your clinic. From there, you might have to do work in the lab and then assist a physician or nurse practitioner with minor surgery.

As a medical assistant, you’ll need top-notch communication skills that include the ability to translate your knowledge of medicine and procedures into language anyone can understand. You will also need to communicate with doctors and nurses in more technical medical terminology.

Medical assistants also need to work well under pressure. You are likely to have a heavy workload day after day, and patients will depend on your expertise. Before you start, it might benefit you to practice a routine of exercise, good nutrition and other self-care practices that will help sustain you when you are faced with demanding days.

More than anything, you need the desire to work with patients. If you are driven to help people get well and will do whatever you need to help them find a happier and healthier life, then you’re halfway on the path to success. Very often you will need to put your duty to patients first.

Types of Online Medical Assisting Programs

There are two sorts of online program. One will issue a certificate, and the other will provide you with a two-year associate’s degree. Both will prepare you to start a career in the healthcare industry, so it is important to understand the differences between them so that you can make your best decision.

Online certificate programs will educate you on the issues pertinent to immediate medical assistant topics. If you are already working in the healthcare field, the flexibility of online education will enable you to learn both on the job and in your off-hours.

If you opt for a certificate, you can finish in approximately one year, though many programs take only nine months.

A two-year associate degree is very similar to a certificate program in that it will train you on the various subjects and skills needed in your field. However, it will also provide you with a background in the liberal arts. You might have more opportunity to take classes that will make you a more well-rounded individual. This can make a difference in the professional world.

With more education comes more responsibility and perhaps higher salary. The extra year it takes to graduate with an associate degree can pay off in the long run. The obvious benefit to finishing a two-year degree is that you will have solid credentials to build on later if you choose. If you decide to move on to a four-year institution, or decide to take more courses later, your credits from your associate’s program will transfer, provided they are earned from an accredited online program. With a two-year degree already earned, you lessen the chances that you will need to fulfill more core requirements in subsequent programs.

Accredited vs. Non-Accredited Online Programs

When you look at online certificate or associate’s degree programs, make certain that they have the appropriate accreditation. Proper accreditation will indicate that an independent agency has reviewed the courses and faculty of the program and found it to be worthy of high standards and meet their approval. In the case of medical assisting, any online program you choose should be accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

When you complete an accredited program, you will be eligible to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) professional examination. Once you earn a national certification such as the CMA or RMA, your chances of employment might increase. Further, you will be part of a group of medical assisting professionals who have the skills and credentials to provide the best patient care, and also provide the best service within their office or clinic.

How Online Programs Work

Online programs are much like other schools, but you don’t need to be physically present to attend. Online programs are there to provide the best instruction to students in the most flexible manner possible. Each program is a bit different, so pay attention to one key element – whether the program is asynchronous.

Asynchronous programs allow you to log into the virtual classrooms at your convenience. You will not need to be present for scheduled events such as lectures, chat-room discussions or any other event. Rather, you will be able to login to the classroom software to retrieve course materials or to submit homework when it suits you. You will need to meet deadlines for assignments and tests, and there may be times your instructors want to have a chat or Skype call to discuss coursework or your progress.

Sample Online Curriculum

To complete your education, you will take a variety of medical and administrative courses. If you choose an associate’s degree program, you might also take other core courses or electives. Here’s a sampling of some of the classes you may take:

  • Intro to Biology
  • Computer Skills
  • Intro to Allied Health
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Business Math
  • Medical Transcription
  • Medical Coding
  • Interpersonal Communication

The curriculum in your program should provide you with a well-rounded foundation that prepares you for the rewarding and demanding world of medical assisting. If you think this is the field for you, the time is now to find your accredited online program and get started on your future.