According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants (MAs) and medical assisting careers are expected to increase by 23% through 2024, growing at a much faster rate than the national average for all fields. Online medical assistant programs can train MAs to perform both clinical and administrative tasks in a variety of healthcare environments. Though largely dependent upon the location and specialty of the practice, responsibilities and duties of medical assistants may include: measuring vital signs, assisting with examinations, giving injections, and overseeing administrative tasks.
Employment in this field typically requires either a certificate or associate’s degree in medical assisting from an accredited institution. Today, a variety of online medical assistant programs are available, meeting the needs of many working adults and heads of households across the U.S. MAs are not required to be certified in most states, but optional certification can improve marketability across the board. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers a Certified MA credential, and the American Medical Technologists offers a Registered Medical Assistant Credential for those who pass the required examination. Median annual pay for this profession is $31,540 for full-time employees. The top 10 percent of MAs earned $45,310 per year, and the lowest 10 percent earned $22,870.
Careers in Medical Assisting
Completing a medical assistant program online prepares graduates for both clinical and administrative duties in hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities. In fact, this unique combination of skills is at the core of most entry-level careers in the field. For graduates of an online medical assistant program working in a physician’s office, daily tasks might include recording patient histories, taking vital signs, scheduling patient appointments, preparing blood samples for lab tests, and more. While medical assistants are trained to work under the supervision of a physician or medical professional, their job is simply to assist, not replace, a physician’s care. In some work environments, such as a large hospital or healthcare facility, medical assistants may choose to specialize in either administrative or clinical duties, though students who have completed a medical assistant program online are typically prepared for both aspects of this career.
Professional Credentialing Opportunities
For graduates of an online medical assistant program, earning professional certification in combination with a diploma, certificate or undergraduate degree may be all that is required to begin a career in medical assisting. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, offers five accredited certifications for medical assistants, including the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) credentials. While most jobs do not require an advanced degree in the field, the majority of employers prefer, and may even insist, that candidates are certified in a specialization of their choice.
Medical Assistant or Physician Assistant?
While often mistaken as the same occupation, medical assistants and physician assistants perform unique and different tasks on the job. Medical assistants are responsible for performing administrative duties and preparing patients for doctor appointments, though they themselves are not authorized to provide direct medical care to patients. Medical assistants are typically more involved than physician’s assistants in patient scheduling, patient records, appointment setting, taking vital signs and collecting blood work, among other administrative tasks.
By contrast, physician’s assistants are more involved in collaborating with physicians about clinical patient care. A physician’s assistant may support their supervising practitioner in surgery, during therapeutic procedures, in the x-ray room, and during primary care visits. Physician’s assistants may also collaborate with the physician to provide patient direction and patient/family education, as well as develop treatment plans and set courses of treatment.
To determine the best online Medical Assistant programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 4 best online Medical Assistant programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.