What Is a Medical Assisting Associate Degree?
Medical assistants often work directly with patients. These professionals may record patient histories and personal information, measure vital signs, help during examinations, provide injections and medications, schedule appointments, prepare blood samples, and update medical records.
While earning an associate degree in medical assisting, students explore medical practices and techniques and learn about laws, codes, and regulations. Students also gain critical skills in areas including communication and organization. After earning an online medical assistant associate degree, graduates can enter the workforce or pursue a four-year degree.
Earning an associate degree in this field may appeal to students who are interested in medicine but who do not want to commit to medical school. Medical assistants work with patients and help in medical facilities. These professionals should enjoy interacting with people and must be able to keep patient information confidential.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for medical assistants to increase 23% from 2018-2028 — a rate much faster than the national average for all occupations. This growth is largely due to a growing demand for medical professionals to care for the aging baby boomer population.
Why Earn an Online Medical Assisting Degree?
Earning an associate degree in medical assisting comes with many professional and personal benefits. Below are five common reasons learners pursue an online medical assisting associate degree.
- Higher Income
Professionals with an associate degree typically earn higher salaries than professionals with only a high school diploma. An associate degree demonstrates skills and knowledge in the field.
Associate students receive training related to clinical procedures, medical office procedures, and disease processes. Graduates can apply this knowledge to many medical fields.
- Computer Skills
Medical assistants use computer systems to keep track of patient records, schedules, and bills. Associate degree programs teach participants the foundational computer skills professionals use to accomplish these tasks.
- Job Opportunities
Professionals with an associate degree typically have more job opportunities than those without a college education. Individuals with an associate degree can often qualify for more advanced medical assisting jobs.
- Management Skills
Medical assistants may have some managerial duties at medical offices and clinics. Associate degree programs help learners develop office management skills that can apply to positions in various industries.
Career and Salary Potential With an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting
Many graduates with an associate degree in this field become medical assistants. Other associate degree-holders continue their education. Graduates of associate programs in medical assisting are often detail oriented, organized, trustworthy, and efficient. These skills translate well across careers and industries.
Below are some career options and salary outlooks for individuals with an associate degree in medical assisting. However, students should remember that no degree guarantees a particular career or salary.
Median Annual Salary: $33,610
Projected Growth Rate (20187-2028): 23%
|Medical assistants work closely with patients in doctors' offices, hospitals, and medical clinics. These professionals may schedule appointments, check in patients, interview patients, perform clinical duties, and maintain medical records. Medical assistants must be able to use computer systems, understand basic medical procedures, and prep patients for the doctor or nurse.|
|Medical Records and Health Information Technician||
Median Annual Salary: $40,350
Projected Growth Rate (20187-2028): 11%
|These technicians usually work in hospitals, but they can also work in private practices, nursing homes, and public health agencies. Health information technicians maintain and process medical records and information. Their tasks include ensuring accuracy and completion, transcribing handwritten documents to electronic forms, and coordinating services between healthcare professionals and departments.|
Median Annual Salary: $34,480
Projected Growth Rate (20187-2028): 23%
|Phlebotomists collect blood, urine, and other samples for analysis. They must be able to carefully follow directions, understand clinical procedures, and avoid contamination. These professionals work closely with patients of all ages and must maintain order and cleanliness in their assigned draw room at all times.|
Median Annual Salary: $38,880
Projected Growth Rate (20187-2028): -7%
|Administrative assistants can work in a variety of industries, including the medical field. These assistants may answer to a single executive or to an entire department. They oversee scheduling, billing, inventory, records, and sales, and they interact directly with customers.|
Median Annual Salary: $47,000
Projected Growth Rate (20187-2028): N/A
|Office managers can work in various industries, such as the medical field. These professionals must be organized and efficient. They work closely with staff and may have discretion over personnel changes. Some employers prefer candidates who hold a bachelor's degree, but many companies hire office managers with an associate degree.|
Earning an Associate in Medical Assisting Online
Students must complete several steps to apply for and earn an associate degree. This section includes information on the application process, common medical assisting courses, average degree timelines, and skills learners often gain.
Admission and program requirements vary by school and program, so students should research the requirements at each of their prospective institutions.
Applicants begin by completing the school's application form. Most applications are available online and accessible through the institution's website. Applicants typically need to submit personal and financial information and details about their educational and professional experience.
Associate programs in medical assisting typically require applicants to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. Applicants submit official transcripts, generally through their high school's counseling office. Many schools also set a minimum GPA requirement, which is generally between 2.5 and 3.0.
Most four-year universities and colleges require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores; however, associate programs may or may not require standardized test scores. Students with lower GPAs may be able to improve their chance of acceptance by submitting high test scores.
Most programs require applicants to submit two or three letters of recommendation from individuals such as teachers, employers, and/or coaches.
Most institutions require an application fee with submission of an online application form. Additionally, some high schools charge a fee to send official transcripts.
Introduction to Healthcare
This course provides an introduction to the healthcare system and various healthcare topics. Students learn about the responsibilities of healthcare professionals and different delivery systems for medical care. Learners explore topics including safety, infection control, communication, interpersonal behaviors, wellness, and disease.
Pharmacology is the study of the uses and effects of drugs. In this course, students learn about receptor mechanisms, drug distribution, and metabolism. Learners also explore pharmacokinetics — the movement of drugs within the body. This class often includes lab work and tutorials that provide practical experience related to the interaction of drugs and biological systems.
Medical Law and Ethics
Medical law and ethics govern all aspects of the medical industry. Students learn about criminal and civil acts, contracts, negligence, and ethical concerns. This class focuses on new legislation governing medical professionals and how it relates to the medical assisting profession.
Medical assistants must be proficient in various clinical procedures. Students in this course learn how to execute procedures for patients in doctors' offices, hospitals, and clinics. Learners explore practices related to taking blood pressure, monitoring vitals, and drawing blood samples.
Internship in Medical Assisting
Some associate programs require an internship in medical assisting. Learners typically work in a doctor's office or clinic during the summer or over the course of a semester. An internship provides practical, hands-on experience and can help bolster an individual's resume.
Average Online Degree Length
Associate degrees typically require 60 credits, which most full-time students complete in two years. Online programs often accommodate students' busy schedules and allow greater scheduling flexibility than on-campus programs. Some programs are offered entirely online, while others incorporate in-person components.
Program length can vary based on several factors. Some schools offer accelerated options, which allow learners to graduate more quickly. Students who choose accelerated programs typically take more courses per semester.
Part-time students, on the other hand, generally take longer than average to graduate. However, part-time students can continue working while earning their degree.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
Students gain a variety of skills and knowledge while completing an associate degree program in medical assisting. Graduates can apply these skills to entry-level positions in the field or to bachelor's studies. The list below describes some skills that medical assisting students commonly acquire.
Accreditation for Medical Assisting Associate Programs
Accreditation is a crucial factor for students selecting an academic program. Independent accrediting agencies evaluate the academic quality of institutions and programs. These third-party organizations examine factors including curricula and faculty to ensure schools and programs meet set standards.
At the institutional level, schools can receive regional or national accreditation, but regional accreditation is generally viewed as the more prestigious type. The Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the agencies that award accreditation to institutions. Students should only consider schools that hold accreditation from an ED- or CHEA-approved agency.
Additionally, learners considering an associate degree in medical assisting can look for programs with field-specific accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Professional organizations provide resources for students and professionals. These field-specific organizations often provide continuing education opportunities, scholarly journals, information on new regulations and practices, career services, and conferences. The professional organizations listed below support medical professionals, including medical assistants.
NHA supports educators, employers, and individuals in the healthcare industry. The organization works to improve the quality of healthcare through professional development. NHA offers advocacy, education resources, and certification options. The association also provides networking opportunities for members across the country.
Founded in 1876, the AAMC is a nonprofit organization that works to transform the health industry by providing innovative medical education, exceptional patient care, and new medical research. The AAMC offers professional development opportunities, testing services for students, advocacy, and data related to recent medical research.
This organization supports professionals and students in the field of medical assisting. AAMA provides networking opportunities and advocacy. AAMA offers continuing education, conferences, and legal updates for members. The organization also administers the certified medical assistant exam.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
This section includes information about continuing education options for professionals in the medical assisting field, along with details about transferring credits from an associate track into a bachelor's program.
Transferring to a Four-year Degree Program
An associate degree provides a strong foundation for further study in the field. Many graduates of associate programs pursue a bachelor's degree. Some graduates eventually go on to enter a master's program or medical school.
Learners interested in transferring to a four-year program should ensure their credits will transfer. Most universities set certain requirements for students transferring credits from a two-year program. Students should contact an academic or admissions counselor to learn about restrictions related to accreditation and GPA requirements.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
After earning an associate degree in medical assisting, many students earn a four-year degree. Many graduates pursue further studies in the medical field. However, others choose to study a discipline such as science or business.
Below are two bachelor's degree options for graduates of medical assisting associate programs. These are only a few of the degree paths available to associate degree-holders in the field.
- Bachelor's in Health Science A bachelor's in health science is a logical degree choice for graduates of associate programs in medical assisting. Health science programs explore many topics related to medical assisting and build on a learner's existing skills and knowledge.
- Bachelor's in Medicine A bachelor's in medicine is well-suited for students considering careers in healthcare and for those who plan to attend medical school. This degree covers the basics of the healthcare industry, as well as science topics like anatomy and biology.