Healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the country and Medical Assistants are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for this career is expected to grow at an amazing 23% between 2018-2028. U.S. News and World Report ranks this career at #6 in Best Healthcare Support Jobs and #52 in 100 Best Jobs.
Frequently, Medical Assistants are required to wear two hats. Job responsibilities can include administrative work in the office as well as clinical assistance with patients.
While you can become a Medical Assistant with on-the-job training, most employers look for applicants who have an associate degree from an accredited community college or technical school. An associate degree will also prepare you for certification as a Medical Assistant and will have an impact on your potential salary.
The average salary of an entry-level Medical Assistant is $34,800 but can be as high as $48,720 annually (BLS). Jobs can be found in physician offices, outpatient clinics, hospitals, and health systems.
Our Method: Ranking the 10 Fastest Medical Assistant Associate’s Programs
To rank the 10 Fastest Medical Assistant Associate’s Programs for 2020, Best Degrees editors researched accredited, trusted programs of all kinds. From our initial pool, we ranked programs according to price, accreditation, reputation, and salary potential, using data from IPEDS and Niche, U.S. News and World Report, and other higher education rating publications.
1. Community College of Vermont
If you’re looking for a well-rounded curriculum, you may want to consider the AAS in Medical Assisting at the Community College of Vermont. The program is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
You can earn this degree in two years or less and be qualified to sit for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) and/or Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exams. Among the courses you’ll take are Medical Billing and Coding, Medical Terminology, Clinical Medical Assisting, Human Biology, Administrative Medical Assisting, Fundamentals of Pharmacology, and more. You’ll also be required to participate in a clinical and administrative internship to use what you’ve learned in a real healthcare setting.
Prior to your internships, you’ll need to pass a criminal background check through www.CertifiedBackground.com. Additionally, as an allied health student, you’ll need to provide CCV with immunizations documentation.
Fast Fact: CCV is Vermont’s second largest college with over 5,000 students enrolled each semester
Degree Award: AAS
2. Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical
Here’s an online program designed to give you the tools necessary to run an efficient medical office. This Medical Administrative Assistant AAS degree can be completed in approximately two years with a reasonable program tuition cost of about $7,000 per year. Upon graduation, you’ll be qualified to work as a Medical Secretary, Medical Transcriptionist, as well as a Medical Health Information Technician.
This program requires 60 credit hours of coursework, including 15 hours of general education (English, history, social and behavioral science, etc.) and 45 hours in your major. Some of the technical classes you’ll take will be Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology Disease Conditions, Pharmacology, Introduction to Health Information Management, as well as Medical Office Procedures, and more.
You’ll be taught by faculty with real world professional experience and will work with actual hospital or clinic documents. As part of the admission process you’ll apply online, take the Accuplacer Placement Exam, submit academic transcripts, and participate in an online orientation. MSC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Fast Fact: The school has been educating students since 1949
Degree Awarded: AAS
3. Daymar College
You can earn an online AAS in Medical Assisting from Daymar College while you continue to work or raise a family. The program can be completed in 18 months attending full-time and will prepare you with office practices, processes, and administration.
Daymar College uses the quarter system and the AAS degree requires 92 credit hours for completion and includes general education courses. Among the topics you’ll cover in your major are Medical Dictation, Anatomy and Physiology, Medical Office Management, Medical Terminology, etc. You’ll also take a Professional Seminar and Internship OR complete a capstone project.
The college holds accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and you can apply for financial assistant with the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance. If you don’t qualify for assistance, you may want to explore Daymar College’s Grant-In-Aid program.
Fast Fact: Daymar College has campuses in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Online
Degree Awarded: AAS
4. Ashworth College
You can complete this Healthcare Administration Associate online degree in four semesters. The program curriculum is designed by experts in the field and will provide you the skills to work in a variety of healthcare settings as a manager or office administrator.
Courses you’ll take include a combination of studies in English composition, Medical Terminology, Medical Office Management, Health Records Management, Medical Coding, Principles of Public Speaking, math or algebra, humanities studies, etc. This program will qualify you to become licensed if your state requires it.
Ashworth College is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The college cites its program tuition costs to be one of the most affordable in the country at a little over $4,000.
Fast Fact: Ashworth College began in 1987 offering a single distance course in real estate appraisal
Degree Awarded: AS
5. College of Health Professions
If you currently have a diploma in an allied health field and want to complete an associate’s degree, this online Health and Medical Administrative Services AAS completion program may be just what you need. This bridge completion program can be completed in 32 weeks.
Among the 60 credit hours necessary for this degree, you’ll take general education courses in topics such as English, psychology, math, and communication skills. You’ll be given up to 36 credit hours of Allied Health Core Bridge Credit from your qualified healthcare diploma program. Additionally, you’ll take courses in business, human resources, management and leadership to complete the program.
Admission will ask for your high school diploma or GED as well as your transcript from your healthcare diploma program. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
Fast Fact: College of Health Care Professions was founded in 1953 by a group of Texas physicians
Degree Awarded: AAS
6. Northland Community and Technical College
You can complete this AAS in Medical Administrative Assistant program in four semesters. You’ll earn your degree completely online from this Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accredited school.
You’ll study ICD coding, medical terminology, medical billing, anatomy, physiology, medical office processes, human relations, English composition, etc. The curriculum has a simulation course that will give you an internship-like experience in a medical office. An introductory course in public speaking as well as an interpersonal communication are part of the curriculum.
The school estimates program costs to average $13,000 for online degrees. You’ll want to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and also check the school for any available school assistance.
Fast Fact: Niche ranks this Minnesota school as one of its “Best Community Colleges in America”
Degree Awarded: AAS
7. Dakota College at Bottineau
Here’s a Medical Assistant AAS degree with a clinical focus you can take online.
You’ll study Clinical Procedures, Basic Procedure Coding, Medical Disorders, Medical Transcription, Healthcare Law and Ethics, Clinical Specialties, Principles of Nutrition, Computer Application in Healthcare, etc. Your program will end with a 180-credit hour practicum experience in a healthcare environment. The combination of clinical and administrative training will qualify you to become a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) by sitting for the certification exam of the American Medical Technologists (AMT).
To apply for this AAS, you’ll need to submit academic transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. You’l also be asked to apply for federal financial assistance and immunization records may be required as well.
Fast Fact: Dakota College at Bottineau is a member of the North Dakota University System
Degree Awarded: AAS
8. State Fair Community College
This may be a Medical Assisting program to consider if you’re in the Sedalia, Missouri area. To enter this 61 credit hour program, you’ll complete the requirements for the Professional Certificate in Medical Assisting (PCMA) and pass the certification exam.
The PCMA includes studies in Laboratory Procedures, Medical Terminology, CPR for Healthcare Providers, Pharmacology, Administrative Procedures, Advanced Skills, and more. You’ll take general education courses in English composition, history, algebra, biology, psychology, and sociology. Additionally, you’ll study human disease and conditions and microcomputer applications.
Clinical experiences are part of this program and are conducted at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare sites and other health facilities.
Fast Fact: The school’s name comes from its proximity to the Missouri State Fairgrounds
Degree Awarded: AAS
9. Herzing University
Wisconsin’s Herzing University has an online Medical Assistant Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Services (ASMAS) you can complete in 10-20 months.
The program is designed with online coursework and hands-on clinical labs and an externship. You’ll study medical terminology, patient privacy, ethics, pharmacology and pathophysiology, billing and coding. In the clinical labs, you’ll learn to take vital signs, injections, first aid, and more. Your externship will provide you with real world experience in a healthcare setting, working as a Medical Assistant. You’ll work with a Herzing University clinical coordinator to identify a proctor and externship site.
Before applying for admission, you’ll be able to have a virtual meeting with an admission advisor who’ll be able to answer any and all questions you may have about the program.
Fast Fact: Herzing University began in 1965 as a computer training school
Degree Awarded: ASMAS
10. Keiser University
You can receive an AS degree as a Medical Assistant from Keiser University’s online division.
The program will train you in the clinical aspects of being a Medical Assistant as well as administrative and clerical tasks required in a healthcare environment. Among your classes will be topics in medical ethics, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, laboratory processes, and an externship where you’ll practice what you’ve learned.
Additionally, as part of the 60 credit hour program, you’ll take general education courses in English composition, history, social and behavioral sciences, math, etc.
Fast Fact: US News and World Report ranks Keiser University as a “Best Colleges for Veterans”
Degree Awarded: AS
Will a Medical Assistant Certification Help My Career?
Short answer? Yes.
Healthcare is a field that relies on employees being qualified to work with patients and healthcare providers. Passing a certification exam is one way to demonstrate your knowledge and abilities for employers, as well as assuring patients you meet the highest standards.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are five certifications for Medical Assistants, but the two most common certifications are: Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants and Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists. Costs for the exam range from $125-$250.
While certification isn’t required by law, some states and employers will require you hold certification. You should check with your state’s board of medicine to see what requirements you need to meet.
Certification may not be required by law, but you can bet employers will look favorably on potential employees who are CMA or RMA certified. It can also be reflected in your salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates salaries can range from $25,820-$48,720 a year. Of course, there are many considerations that impact your salary, but certification is certainly one of them.
You can become a Medical Assistant with on-the-job training, but having an associate’s degree in Medical Assisting will help you stand out with employers. Additionally, most accredited associate degrees will qualify you to sit for certification exams; and, some will even provide exam prep as part of the program’s curriculum.
Should I Get an Online Certification?
Colleges, universities, and technical schools have upped their online game over the past few years, providing quality education for the working adult. Degrees earned online are taught by the same faculty and same requirements as on-campus programs.
You need to be certain the program you choose is accredited by either Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). These programs will tailor their curriculum to prepare you to become certified. This often includes internships or externships. You should always check that the program you’re considering is able to help you identify local medical offices or healthcare facilities for your practicum experiences.
You’ll find that most schools have a similar curriculum. Online programs, as those in classrooms, feature courses in clinical and administrative studies. Classes in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, human biology, laboratory testing, etc. are necessary for you to perform the clinical aspects of the job. On the administrative side, you’ll take courses in how a medical office works, management of patient records, billing and coding, insurance and reimbursement, communication, and others. The combination of these studies will prepare you to be an intregal part of the healthcare team.
Frequently, online associate degrees can be completed within one to two years.
Is the Medical Assistant Exam Hard?
First, let’s look at who offers Medical Assistant exams. The two most common are for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the Registered Medical Assistants (RMA) offered by American Medical Technologists . These are the tests we’ll concentrate on.
Other exams are: National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) National Center for Competency Testing, Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) National Healthcareer Association, and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) also from the National Healthcareer Association.
As a graduate of an accredited Medical Assisting degree program, you should have all the tools needed to pass the certification exams.
Secondly, you’ll find the AAMA and AMT organizations want you to do well on your exam. To help you succeed, you have access to the AAMA study guides for the exam, including practice exams. The AMT also provides test preparation help. You may have to pay for test prep and study guides.
The cost of certification exams ranges from $125-$250. Membership in the AAMA or AMT will provide you with lower exam costs. Fees for membership will vary depending on the state in which you live.