The Best Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs

Maura Deering, J.D.ASO Rankings Team
Updated April 17, 2024
Edited by
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Are you considering enrolling in an online medical assistant program to earn a certificate or an associate degree? This guide explores online medical assistant certificate and associate degree programs, information on what you will learn, and potential post-graduation earnings.

Why Enroll in a Medical Assistant Program Online?

  • Online medical assistant programs let you complete coursework at home and on your own schedule.
  • Most medical assistant online programs last just six months to two years, allowing you to enter the workforce quickly.
  • You’ll gain valuable skills and knowledge in anatomy, medical terminology, first aid, and pharmacology.
  • Completing a medical assistant program online can lay the foundation for advanced study later on.
  • Medical assistants can enjoy long-term job security in an in-demand healthcare role.

Did You Know…

  • Medical assistants don’t need a state-issued license and can work anywhere, making relocation easy.
  • Medical assistants work in many types of medical offices, including specialized practices in pediatrics, podiatry, dentistry, and ophthalmology.
  • Medical assistants can continue their education and transition into higher-paying healthcare careers, such as nursing.

Popular Online Healthcare Certificate Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Top 5 Online Accredited Medical Assistant Programs

Read Our Methodology Here

#1 The Best Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

  • Location-markerWest Lafayette, IN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,080
  • Out-of-state$13,356
  • Retention Rate33%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled43,927
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 The Best Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

  • Location-markerFort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$19,808
  • Out-of-state$19,808
  • Retention Rate60%
  • Acceptance Rate97%
  • Students Enrolled20,330
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment48%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 The Best Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs

Jackson College

  • Location-markerJackson, MI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,846
  • Out-of-state$10,461
  • Retention Rate100%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled4,140
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment98%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 The Best Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs

University of Providence

  • Location-markerGreat Falls, MT
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$26,462
  • Out-of-state$26,462
  • Retention Rate61%
  • Acceptance Rate99%
  • Students Enrolled1,005
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 The Best Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs

Dakota College at Bottineau

  • Location-markerBottineau, ND
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,289
  • Out-of-state$6,344
  • Retention Rate47%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled1,060
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment81%
  • AccreditationYes

Learning Outcomes of Online Medical Assistant Programs

While individual schools may vary, this section covers what students can typically expect to learn in their online medical assistant programs, including coursework, hands-on clinical experience, and key skills.

Courses in an Online Medical Assistant Program

Online medical assistant programs award a certificate, associate of science (AS), or associate of applied science (AAS). Community colleges, technical colleges, and universities offer these programs, which take between six months and two years to finish.

Certificate programs generally consist of core courses in basic healthcare topics, clinical and office procedures, and professional exam preparation. Associate degree curriculums also include this content, plus additional courses in general education topics, such as communications, English, math, and psychology.

Common core medical assistant courses include:

  • Anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology
  • Clinical procedures
  • Computerized medical office management
  • Medical law and bioethics
  • Medical terminology

While distance learners complete their coursework online, medical assistant programs also require in-person experiential learning through campus-based practical skills labs and clinical internships, externships, and practicums. Student-faculty labs allow skills practice in preparation for supervised, on-site positions at program-approved clinics and practitioners’ offices.

Experiential learning provides hands-on training in simulated and professional environments. Internships, externships, and practicums also offer opportunities to explore worksites and make industry connections.

Key Skills Gained in an Online Medical Assistant Program

  • Advising patients about their medications and treatments
  • Assisting physicians with examinations
  • Billing and coding
  • Collecting and preparing samples for lab tests
  • Entering information in electronic health records
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) interpretation
  • Ordering and restocking office and medical supplies
  • Recording patient’s histories
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Taking patients’ vital signs, such as height, weight, and blood pressure

Popular Online Healthcare Associate Programs

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Certificate vs. Associate Degree in Medical Assisting

When choosing between a certificate or an associate degree, consider several factors, such as the time required for a degree, costs, and potential employment opportunities and salaries.


Both associate degrees and certificate programs in medical assisting include core courses in clinical, medical, and office administration topics, along with labs and internships, externships, or practicums. Associate degrees also require general education topics in communications, liberal arts, mathematics, and sciences.

An AS or AAS usually comprises 60-61 credits, while certificate programs can vary between 38 and 58 credits.

Time to Completion

Associate degrees are two-year programs with a combined core medical assisting and general education curriculum. Certificate programs can take 2-3 semesters to complete. Some online programs may allow for self-paced or accelerated course options.

Consider whether you need an associate degree to achieve your academic and career goals or whether a certificate is all you need.

Cost of Education

Many programs charge per credit, regardless of whether they offer certificates, associate degrees, or both. The range of per-credit tuition rates can span $185-$524.

Costs can impact whether you earn a certificate or degree. Factors that can affect your budget include in-state or out-of-state tuition, the type of school (community college or university) and its geographical location, and availability of financial aid.

Other costs to consider include books and materials; lab and technology fees; background checks and immunizations; and commuting and supplies expenses for internships.

Career Outcomes

Employment opportunities and salary potential can also factor into the certificate versus associate degree discussion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 14% increase in employment for medical assistants between 2022 and 2032. However, employers may consider associate degree-holders more qualified than those with certificates alone.

Payscale breaks down average annual salaries based on level of education, as shown in the table below. Interestingly, certificate-holders earn $4,000 more per year than associate degree-holders, according to October 2023 Payscale data.

Certificate in Medical Assisting

Source: Payscale, October 2023

Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting

Source: Payscale, October 2023

How to Choose an Online Medical Assistant Program: 3 Steps

Now that you know you want to be a medical assistant, follow these three steps to find the best online medical assistant program for you.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

Before looking at online medical assistant programs, evaluate and define your academic and professional goals.

Some questions to answer include:

  • Where do you want to live and work?
  • Where can you afford to attend school and start your career?
  • Do you want to earn an associate degree or a certificate?
  • Are you interested in pursuing certification?
  • Are you looking ahead at eventually advancing your career by becoming a nurse or working in administration?

These considerations can help you narrow down your choices of online medical assistant programs to geographical areas, programs that offer certificates or degrees, and affordability.

Step 2: Compare Programs

Now that you’ve defined your goals, it’s time to research and compare prospective online medical assistant programs.

Some considerations to keep in mind include:

  • How long will the program take to complete?
  • Can you afford the tuition or apply for financial aid?
  • Where will you complete your clinical internships, externships, or practicums?
  • How often will you have to travel to campus?
  • Is the course delivery synchronous or asynchronous?
  • Are you suited to online learning?
  • What are the programs’ graduation outcomes and pass rates on medical assistant certification exams?

Explore our list of online medical assistant programs to find the ones in your state or areas where you would consider relocating.

Choose Your State Below

Step 3: Confirm Accreditation

Finally, when you select the programs that meet your criteria, be sure to confirm that they hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

To verify accreditation, check the school or program’s website or follow the links to the CAAHEP and ABHES websites and search the school.

Attending an accredited program provides important benefits, including:

  • Eligibility for financial aid
  • The ability to pursue certification
  • Transferability of credits for further education
  • Employer requirements or preferences
  • Assurance that programs meet established educational quality standards

How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?

The BLS lists a median annual salary of $42,000 for medical assistants, with the highest 10% of earners paid more than $56,480. Medical assistant wages can vary by cost of living, experience, geographical location, and work setting, along with actions like earning professional certification and specializing.

For example, the BLS lists a May 2023 median annual salary of $50,250 for medical assistants employed at outpatient care centers. Top-paying states include Washington, in which medical assistants earn average annual salaries of $53,780, Alaska ($52,530), and California ($50,900).

Career advancement strategies, like gaining new skills and specialty focuses, can increase pay. Payscale reports salary increases for medical assistants who advance into leadership, management, and supervision, along with those who focus on bariatrics, emergency medical assisting, and oncology.

Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Assisting

Do medical assistants need a license or certification?

Medical assistants do not need a license or certification to work in the field. However, optional certification from national organizations, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants and the American Medical Certification Association, can lead to higher pay and increased job opportunities. Employers may also prefer or require Basic Life Support certification.

What’s the difference between a medical assistant and a nursing assistant?

Both medical and nursing assistants assist physicians and other healthcare staff with clinical tasks, such as administering injections and collecting samples for lab work. But medical assistants perform more office administration and clerical duties than nursing assistants. Nursing assistants work under supervision by registered nurses and may provide more direct patient care than medical assistants.

What is the fastest you can become a medical assistant?

The fastest route to becoming a medical assistant entails earning a medical certificate, which takes 2-3 semesters to finish. Online programs with self-paced or accelerated coursework may allow you to graduate sooner, but you still need to complete in-person, supervised clinical hours at a healthcare facility.

Is it worth it to become a medical assistant?

Medical assistant programs can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you pursue a certificate rather than an associate degree program. The median salaries for medical assistants is $42,000 per year, which likely exceeds the total cost of a medical assistant program. With a 14% projected job growth, becoming a medical assistant can be worth the investment.

Page last reviewed on April 16, 2024

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