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Overview of an Associates in Medical Assisting

A medical assistant associate degree is a great way to launch a career. In fact, for those who can't quite decide whether to pursue a career in the clinical or administrative side of the medical world, this degree may be optimal. Trained, degreed medical assistants can work alongside the doctors and nurses in their offices as they work with patients. They may help prepare for minor surgeries and manage the medical equipment so that the doctors and nurses can easily access it.

Medical assistants also work on the administrative side of medicine. They manage appointment schedules, take transcriptions, and manage medical records. Thus, medical assistants may start a career in healthcare administration with their online associate medical assistant degree.


An online platform is a great place to complete a two-year associate medical assisting degree. Online course delivery offers students the opportunity to study when it makes sense for them and their schedule. Thus, allied health workers can earn their medical assisting degree without interrupting their daily work lives.

Online associate degrees also bring the very best medical assistant program options to any laptop in any town. While many community colleges do offer a traditional medical assisting program, not all do, so if there's no good option nearby, students don't need to move away just to learn a profession. Students might even find an online medical assistant program stationed in another state, and it may be worth investigating these because some don't charge extra for online students from other states. Furthermore, since online learning is not bound by the usual restrictions placed on traditional degree programs, students can keep learning while others are taking breaks. This can shorten the time required to graduate and get to work.


Online learning is not easy. It does offer students many conveniences, but it also requires that students exert a bit more effort. This is because the schedule is so flexible and open that students need an extra level of motivation and discipline to complete the work. After all, after a hard day of work at your job, it's not always easy to shift gears and do homework, write a paper, or complete a weekly quiz.

Some students also feel disconnected from their peers and instructors. And this is indeed a problem, but it's not insurmountable. Students who reach out and start a dialogue with their instructor will soon gain extra insights into the coursework and will likely learn more and have a better overall academic experience.

There's also a stigma associated with online learning. Some may feel that it's not as rigorous or that online students are somehow not as engaged as those in traditional classrooms. However, these opinions are mostly unfounded. Studies have shown that outcomes for online students are the same or better than for their traditional peers. Students also have the ability to use email, or chat functions, to connect one-on-one with their instructors.

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Certificate Vs. Associate in Medical Assisting

Students of medical assistance have a choice. They can pursue either a certificate or a medical assistant associate degree. Certificates are a great option because they take a year or less and allow students to get to work immediately. Further, they also focus solely on medical assisting classes. Either option can end with a certification exam to become a certified medical assistant.

A full medical assistant associate degree, on the other hand, requires that students take all of the core, general education college classes required for a bachelor's degree. Thus, an associate medical assistant degree will take two years of full-time study. The main advantage here is that students will have a full academic degree on their resume, as well as ample preparation for a bachelor's degree should they choose that route. It should also be noted that those core college courses provide valuable skills and knowledge that help students reach new heights that may not be available to certificate students.

What Medical Assisting Associate Degrees are Available Online?

  • Associate of Science:
    This is a full, two-year medical assistant associate degree that is heavy on analytical and scientific courses. The difference between this and an associate of arts is nominal, but often medical offices like to see an AS, which seems to indicate a more scientific emphasis. This option may be a better choice for those who have more of an interest in the clinical side of medical assisting.
  • Associate of Arts:
    This type of two-year medical assistant program is very similar to an AS, but it has more of a focus on critical thinking and communication skills. The differences between an AA and an AS degree are often nominal and many degree programs offer students the option of which to put on their diploma. This might be a good choice for aspiring medical assistants who are more interested in the administrative aspects of the profession.
  • Associate of Applied Science:
    This degree is very similar to other online medical assistant programs in that they take two years to complete and include the full, core college curriculum. However, an AAS degree is less focused on scholarly research and focuses more on practical applications. That is, this degree is directed towards the workplace more than the academy. This may work fine for someone who wants to get right to work but may hinder someone who is certain they want to continue their education.

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Medical Assisting Educational Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for an online associate medical assistant degree program are usually not very stringent. Most community colleges require that students only have a high school diploma or passing scores on their general equivalency exam (GED). Upon admission, some colleges will have students take a battery of tests to determine their fitness for college courses, though others will want to see ACT or SAT scores instead.

Students who score lower on these tests must then take remedial courses before they are allowed to take the required college level courses. For instance, those who may have been out of school for many years often need a brush-up course in mathematics or college level composition. On the other hand, some students use these tests to bypass certain entry-level courses and skip ahead to a higher math or composition course.

How long Does it Take to Earn an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting Online?

Assuming students take a full load of classes, an associate medical assisting degree should take no longer than two academic years. However, students who take courses over the summer break may be able to shave a bit of time off the total. Since students are often eager to earn their degree, some programs offer accelerated programs that may take time off the degree. The online option doesn't often take any more or less time. However, it does enable many students to work while learning.

What Can I Do with an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting?

  • Medical Assistant:
    This position combines work on both the clinical and administrative side of a doctor's office. Medical assistants may also work in hospitals or any other healthcare environment. Many medical assistants who hold a medical assistant associate degree work as a certified medical assistant and, later, move on to earn a nursing degree or a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration. Medical assistants have an average wage of $17 per hour.
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN):
    LPNs work with patients to help ease their experience. They often act as a liaison between the clinical team and the patient's family. LPNs need strong communication skills on top of extensive nurse training. LPNs often specialize in areas such as maternity, geriatric care, or even hospice care. Their average wage is $23 per hour.
  • Radiologic Technologist:
    This is a great path for those with an associate degree in medical imaging. Their work is helpful in diagnosing disease and injury in the body; they are experts at taking images using X-rays, PET scans, CAT scans, and MRI devices. The average wage for a radiologic technologist is $25 per hour.
  • Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA):
    This is the entry-level for nurses. CNAs assist patients with tasks such as moving around the hospital by way of a wheelchair or wheeled bed. They also change bedpans and clean patients with sponge baths. CNAs can work in facilities such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, or neighborhood clinics. Their average wage is $15 per hour.
  • Dental Assistant:
    Every dentist needs an assistant to help prepare patients, assist with procedures, and generally act as a second set of hands. Dental assistants may also have clerical duties and may manage patient files and appointments for cleanings or regular check-ups. Dental Assistants earn an average wage of $18 per hour.

How to Choose the Right Program for You

Choosing the right online medical assistant degree program is a very important process. One of the primary concerns for any student should be the accreditation of the program. While many bad actors were weeded out of the online education world in recent years, students should still affirm that their program holds a CHEA-approved regional accreditation. This way, they can be sure that their degrees will be honored in the professional world.

Students should also investigate whether the program offers any way to gain practical experience by way of an internship or other experiential learning program. They might even look for hybrid programs that offer practical lab courses in a physical classroom. In fact, some online science degrees require that students attend certain courses in the traditional setting. Students should determine this prior to enrolling.

It's also important to determine what sort of support systems are in place from their online degree program. Students will want to have access to the same sort of resources as their traditional campus peers. These include counseling services, tutoring services, and career placement offices that can be a boon to one's early career.

Since medical assistants balance their training between the clinical and administrative sides of healthcare, students who have a firm preference should seek programs that favor their proclivities. With that in mind, they might also investigate how previous graduates have fared in terms of salary outlook and subsequent degrees. That is, how well do the program's credits transfer to other clinical degree programs or other healthcare degree programs.

Courses in Online Medical Assistant Associate Degree Programs

  • Composition and Rhetoric:
    This core college class helps students sharpen their written communication skills. This is an invaluable skill for any profession, including medical assistants.
  • College Algebra:
    This is another core college class that picks up where high school math left off. Advanced mathematicians may be able to exempt this course and take Calculus I instead.
  • Clinical Phlebotomy:
    This course covers basic puncture techniques used for drawing blood.
  • Medical Office Clinical Procedures:
    This course covers best practices for patient interactions including patient preparations, diagnostic tests, and more.

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Best Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Programs

  • Penn Foster
    Scranton, PA

    This program will help students launch a healthcare career as a medical assistant. The degree program covers both clinical and administrative aspects of the medical assistant profession. Penn Foster prepares students for NHA certification with preparation materials.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Certificates Available
  • South University
    Savannah, GA

    South University was established in 1899 and continues to this day, providing online degrees to aspiring medical assistants, among other degree programs. Their associate of science degree program prepares online students to succeed in today's fast-paced healthcare workplace.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Medical Assisting
    • Bachelor's Degrees
  • Liberty University
    Lynchburg, VA

    Liberty University is a Christian institution that offers aspiring healthcare professionals the opportunity to learn and grow via the online medium. Their Medical Office Assistant degree program has started many on the path to success in healthcare administration, among other fields.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Arts
    • Associate of Science
  • Daytona College
    Ormond Beach, FL

    Daytona College prepares students to succeed by qualifying them to take the Registered Medical Assistant certification examination. Daytona also prepares students for certification as EKG Technicians and Phlebotomy Technicians. Their MA program takes a mere 70 weeks.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science – Medial Assistant
    • Associate of Science – Nursing
  • Forsyth Tech
    Winston-Salem, NC

    Forsyth Tech offers students the opportunity to earn an associate degree at an affordable rate. They strive to support students who aspire to a bachelor's degree. They even offer students the opportunity to study abroad.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science – Campus Only
    • Certificate – Campus Only
  • American National University
    Salem, VA

    ANU offers online medical assisting degree programs to any student with an internet connection. Their program includes a 162-hour clinical externship that prepares students to thrive after graduation. This program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science
  • Herzing University
    Milwaukee, WI

    The medical assistant degree program at Herzing includes both clinical laboratory courses as well as externships. Their externship program is a 180-hour experience taken in the final term. Students are prepared for their RMA certificate upon graduation.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science
  • Kent State University
    Burton, OH

    Kent State offers online and hybrid courses to its medical assisting students. This certificate program prepares students for success in their first healthcare position. Their program seems geared towards local students, but distance learners are encouraged to inquire about learning opportunities.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Certificate – Medical Assistant
    • Associate of Applied Science – Respiratory Therapy Technology
  • Rasmussen University
    Multiple Campuses

    Rasmussen offers certificate programs to its medical assistant students. They support students in preparation to take either their Certified Medical Assistant or Registered Medical Assistant certification exams. The program also offers preparations for a variety of other certificates including phlebotomy technician, medical administrative assistant, and electronic health records specialist.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Certificate
    • Associate Degrees (various)
  • U.S. Career Institute
    Fort Collins, CO

    Online students can pursue their associate degrees in medical assisting through the U.S. Career Institute. The school has pre-planned the required courses for each term, so students simply need to log in and learn.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degrees
    • Certificate Programs
  • Charter College
    Multiple Campuses in Multiple States – and Online

    Medical assistants who desire an associate degree from Charter need to have at least a 2.0 GPA from their graduating high school. Certificate students find a blended online and traditional environment that focuses specifically on medical assisting and prepares students to earn their AAS degree, if they choose.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science
    • Certificate
  • PIMA Medical Institute
    Tucson, AZ

    PIMA offers healthcare degrees in healthcare administration and radiography. Both these programs take approximately 20 months and prepare students for an exciting career path.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degrees
  • Keiser University
    Decatur, GA

    This fully accredited, online degree program is located in metro Atlanta. Students can earn an Associate of Science degree and join the healthcare community of Atlanta, or wherever they may live.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science
  • Bryant & Stratton College
    Multiple Campuses in Multiple States

    Bryant & Stratton College has multiple healthcare related degree options, including medical assisting. They also offer degrees in paralegal studies, hotel management, and accounting, among other options.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science
  • PennWest
    Online Only

    PennWest offers experienced medical assistants, medical lab techs, and paramedics the opportunity to earn an associate degree in allied health. The program is 30 credit hours and is conducted online. Those who are ready for the next level in their career are encouraged to apply.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degree

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