Performing duties that are part clinical and part administrative, medical assistants are crucial to the smooth operation of many health care offices and facilities. Assistants are called upon to do intake services for patients, such as gathering information and measuring vital signs. They can also help physicians with exams, prepare blood samples and schedule appointments.
In recent years, a number of organizations have recognized the need to bolster the work of medical assistants. For example, in 2016, The Hitachi Foundation spearheaded the Care Team Redesign Initiative to encourage health care systems to promote medical assistants and assign them more advanced tasks. The New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare, an industry partnership, has made training bilingual medical assistants a priority. And the American Medical Association STEPS Forward initiative helps health care providers implement professional development programs for medical assistants in their practice.
Between an aging population of baby boomers and an increase in chronic conditions, the need for qualified medical assistants becomes increasingly important. Fortunately, it is easier than ever to get training. More than 50 distance education programs for medical assisting have been accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. However, keep in mind that this is a hands-on field so colleges may require some in-person instruction in addition to online classes.
Best Colleges for Medical Assisting Degree Programs 2019-20
To find the top schools for medical assisting, we analyzed data from schools offering undergraduate programs in the field. We looked at factors such as their tuition rate, the median debt of their graduates and whether they offer flexible learning options such as night, weekend and online classes. Based on our methodology, here are the ten best colleges for medical assisting.
At Altierus Career College, you'll find certificate and degree programs for in-demand health care, trades and technology jobs. The school believes it's important for students to maintain a healthy balance between classes and the rest of their life so many of its programs take a blended approach, mixing online classes with in-person courses and labs.
Medical assisting programs at Altierus: A medical assisting diploma can be earned in 10 months at Altierus. Students meet for classes on the Norcross campus three days a week and complete online coursework in addition to those sessions. The 60 credit hour program provides 920 contact hours and includes a 200-hour externship. The curriculum at Altierus prepares students to take either the Registered Medical Assistant or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant credentialing exam.
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is focused on student success and notes 94% of its graduates are employed within six months of finishing their program What's more, the nonprofit Aspen Institute named it as one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation. As a military-friendly school, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College offers more than a dozen learning options including traditional on-campus classes, online learning and work based learning.
Medical assisting programs at WITC: It only takes a year to earn a medical assistant technical diploma from WITC. The program teaches how to perform both administrative and clinical tasks, and the curriculum includes a 6-week practicum that provides students with real-world experience. Graduates from WITC have a 95 percent or higher pass rate on the Certified Medical Assistant credentialing exam.
Located northeast of Dallas in Garland, this Remington College campus offers diplomas, associate degrees and a bachelor's degree completion program. The school is committed to providing students with the skills needed to be successful in the classroom and beyond. That means an emphasis on hands-on learning using industry-standard equipment.
Medical assisting programs at Remington College: You can earn either a medical assisting diploma or a medical assisting associate degree at Remington College. Both come with the option to add x-ray tech (limited scope) training. Students can expect to learn laboratory basics from day one and can end their program with a 30-day externship to gain field experience. Graduates are eligible to take the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant exam. Remington College also offers an online medical assisting diploma that can be earned at an accelerated pace.
With eight campus locations in Minnesota, Rasmussen College offers certificates, diplomas and degrees in eight different areas of study. The school, which has roots going back to 1900, is known for its emphasis on career-focused programs that teach practical skills. Through its innovative Flex Choice option, students can earn credit for prior learning and follow a competency-based education curriculum.
Medical assisting programs at Rasmussen: The medical assisting diploma at Rasmussen College can be earned in as little as 12 months. Students learn through a blend of online and on-campus courses, and field experience is also part of the curriculum. Graduates can sit for either the Registered Medical Assistant or Certified Medical Assistant certification exam, and the exam fee is included in the program costs.
As Hawaii's largest locally-owned career college, Hawaii Medical College specializes in preparing students for health care careers. It offers both on-campus and online programs that can be completed in as little as one year. The school has also been known to offer free laptops and tuition discounts to eligible students.
Medical assisting programs at HMC: There are two medical assisting options at Hawaii Medical College. The school's medical assisting diploma may be earned in 15 months, or students may choose to earn a two-year Associate of Applied Science in clinical medical assisting. Both provide hands-on training that prepares students for professional certifications such as the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant designation. While the diploma is adequate for entry-level jobs, the associate degree may be appropriate for those who want to pursue supervisory positions.
For 40 years, Eagle Gate College has been preparing students for careers in health care. Programs follow a hybrid structure that combines online learning with some on-campus requirements. An accelerated curriculum is available for some degrees, and these programs are designed to move students quickly from the classroom to the workplace. Eagle Gate College operates on the values of excellence, open and honest communication, teamwork and trust.
Medical assisting programs at Eagle Gate College: At its Murray, Utah campus,Eagle Gate College offers a diploma in medical assisting that can be earned in 10 months. The program teaches the skills needed to complete patient charts, take vital signs, give injections and assist with minor surgeries. Upon graduation, students can sit for the Certified Medical Assistant certification exam.
Located in South Orange County, Saddleback College has graduated more than 500,000 alumni since 1968. The school offers more than 300 education options including certificates and associate degrees in both vocational and academic fields. Not only are online classes available in many programs, but online tutoring and online counseling are offered as well.
Medical assisting degrees at Saddleback: Saddleback allows students to customize their medical assistant program by pursuing one of three options: administrative, clinical or comprehensive. The administrative track is ideal for those who want to work primarily in the front office while the clinical program is best for those who prefer duties involving direct patient care. The comprehensive program covers both administrative and clinical work. All options include an externship experience.
Founded in 1963, Daymar College has locations in three states as well as online programs. As a vocational school, it specializes in practical programs that teach career skills. Its Clarksville campus in Tennessee offers a student-centered environment. There, professional faculty teach small classes hands-on skills that will transfer to the workplace.
Medical assisting programs at Daymar: The Clarksville medical assisting program results in a diploma and is designed to be completed on either a part-time or full-time basis. Students can study during the day or in the evening and online classes may be available. The curriculum covers 12 content areas such as medical terminology, exam room procedures and pharmacology. Prior to graduation, students complete an internship.
The Greenspoint campus of Remington College is located outside Houston in Texas. The school provides career training through a number of diploma, associate degree and bachelor's degree programs. Online programs are available, and a laptop is provided to new online students. Through a Fast Track program, students can take two online courses at a time and earn some diplomas in as few as five months.
Medical assisting programs at Remington College: Students can choose from multiple medical assisting programs at Remington College. The school's online medical assisting diploma can be completed in nine months. This program combines online coursework with some classroom requirements and a one-month externship. There are also campus-based diploma and associate degrees in medical assisting. Students can choose to focus exclusively on medical assisting or select programs that also provide x-ray tech (limited scope) instruction.
Established in 1986, Ogeechee Technical College is a part of the Technical College System of Georgia. In recent years, the school has added new facilities and new technology to facilitate the growth of its credit and non-credit educational programs. Career-minded students can earn certificates, diplomas and degrees in dozens of subject areas.
Medical assisting programs at OTC: Within its medical assisting program, OTC offers a medical assisting diploma as well as a medical office support specialist certificate. The certificate focuses exclusively on administrative duties, and students can use the program as a starting point for the medical assisting diploma. The diploma program incorporates both administrative and clinical instruction and prepares students to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant exam.
Medical Assistant Degrees and Careers
While you can become a medical assistant without any formal training, the American Association of Medical Assistants notes most employers prefer to hire those who have completed an education program. Vocational and technical schools as well as community colleges often have diplomas and certificates in medical assisting, and typically you can earn a medical assisting degree in two years or less. Online courses are available though many colleges and schools.
Medical assistant degree programs generally cover topics such as anatomy, transcription and ethics. While the specific courses will vary by institution, your curriculum may include coursework in the following:
- Medical terminology
- Clinical procedures
- Medical office procedures
- Emergency care
- Family medicine
What's more, most programs will include an externship, internship or similar placement. These experiences allow students to gain hands-on experience by working alongside professionals in health care clinics, doctor offices or other workplaces. Program requirements can vary depending on whether you are enrolled in a diploma, certificate or associate degree program.
Medical Assisting Program Accreditation
In the United States, two main organizations provide medical assisting program accreditation:
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools - ABHES has served as an independent, nonprofit accrediting agency for more than 40 years. It accredits both traditional and online medical assisting programs.
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs - The nonprofit CAAHEP accredits entry-level programs covering 33 allied health professions.
Some medical assisting certification programs require applicants graduate from a program accredited by one of these organizations, so be sure to keep an eye out if the program you're looking into has been accredited.
Medical Assisting Certification and Licensure
Most states don't have certification or licensure requirements for medical assistants. However, earning a voluntary credential can distinguish you from other job applicants and maybe even command a higher rate of pay.
There are three main credentials for medical assistants:
- Certified Medical Assistant: Offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants, the CMA is one of the most recognizable designations in the field. Only those who graduate from an accredited medical assisting program and complete a practicum are eligible to sit for the certification exam.
- Registered Medical Assistant: The RMA is another widely known medical assisting certification. American Medical Technologists, which offers the credential, lets people qualify for the certification exam in different ways. There are four routes available, including formal education, military training, work experience or instructing experience.
- Clinical Medical Assistant: Known as CCMA or certified clinical medical assistant, this credential is administered by the National Healthcareer Association. It is available to those who have completed a training program or who have relevant work experience.
For more details on certification and other topics, visit our medical assistant career profile page.
Career Outlook for Medical Assisting Majors
Thanks to steady demand for health care, jobs for graduates of medical assisting degree programs should remain prevalent. Here's a closer look at the expected growth for a few of the common careers pursued by those in the field.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||$60,410||42,660||33.1%|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||$57,750||94,250||27.1%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Medical Assisting Degree Programs
The AAMA maintains the Maxine Williams Scholarship Fund to help pay for the education of deserving medical assistant students. The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals offers a Scholarship of Excellence for those enrolled at a member school, and AMT has an outstanding student award as well. These are just a few of the financial aid options available to those pursuing an education in medical assisting.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Median debt of completers, College Scorecard, 2017
- 3-year loan repayment rate, College Scorecard, 2017
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2016-17 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017