Online medical assistant programs make it possible for students to earn the title of Medical Assistant (MA) in their free time from the comfort of their own home. The majority of distance learning programs are comparatively affordable, offer flexible class schedules and, in some cases, can be completed in as little as six months. If you’re interested in starting an exciting, rewarding career in the rapidly growing medical assisting profession, earning a certificate or associate degree from an accredited online program can make it happen much more quickly than you might imagine!
Types of Online Medical Assistant Programs
Generally speaking, schools offer two different types of medical assistant programs online: one-year certificate programs, and two-year associate degree programs. For students who have previous work experience in the health care field, or who have previously earned liberal arts credits at a different institution, it is sometimes possible to earn a medical assistant certificate (also called a diploma) in six months instead of twelve.
Certificate or Associate Degree – Which is Best for You?
Either a certificate or associate degree will allow you to start working as a medical assistant, but there are a few questions you should ask yourself before deciding which to pursue.
• How much can I afford to pay for tuition?
• How long am I willing to stay in school?
• Do I want to specialize in a particular field?
If you are concerned about the cost of online medical assistant courses or need to start working as soon as possible, then a one-year certificate program will definitely cost less and allow you to find a job sooner. The drawback, however, is that many employers now require candidates to have an associate degree unless they already have a significant amount of work experience.
Another important consideration is whether or not you want to specialize in a specific field within the health care industry, or work in many different roles as a generalist. In their additional year of schooling, students enrolled in associate degree programs are able to select areas of study that qualify them for specialized positions that not only interest them, but also pay considerably better. Students who graduate from one-year certificate programs typically hold a wider range of responsibilities and are paid slightly less.
Choosing Between Programs
There are literally dozens of online medical assistant programs to choose from, so finding the right one can seem like a difficult task. Even though they all teach the same basic material, schools tend to structure their curriculum differently and not all are fully accredited by the ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Schools) or CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs). Both of these factors are things you should consider when choosing which program to enroll in.
Entrance Requirements, Curriculum and Accreditation
The first thing to determine about online medical assistant programs is whether or not you meet their entrance requirements. Most schools require applicants to have a high school diploma or its equivalent (i.e. a G.E.D.), although some will weigh other factors (e.g. work experience, an employer’s recommendation, scores on an entrance exam, etc.) as well. If you are concerned about meeting a program’s entrance requirements, you can always arrange a meeting with the school’s admissions department to discuss your situation.
Although it is usually not an issue with online medical assistant programs, you will also want to make sure that a school’s curriculum accommodates your schedule and specific goals. Things to look for include: flexibility of class schedules and availability of courses in your specialized field of interest (if applicable).
Finally, and most importantly if you have aspirations of becoming a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) at some point in the future, you need to make sure that the school is fully accredited by either the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools). If your career goal is to remain a medical assistant, the issue of program accreditation is less important since many employers will not consider this when interviewing new MA candidates.
If you think you may eventually want to be a CMA, however, you need to be aware that certificates and degrees from unaccredited schools are not recognized by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Only graduates from AAMA-accredited online medical assistant programs are eligible to take the medical assistant certification exam required to become a CMA.
Start Your Online Medical Assistant Training Today!
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the medical assisting profession will be one of the fastest growing in the country over the next ten years. Demand for new medical assistants is high, and wages are climbing. Online medical assistant programs offer you an affordable, fast way to become part of the excitement!
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