What is a Medical Office Administration Associate Degree?
This degree familiarizes students with the healthcare industry and prepares them to perform the important administrative tasks that keep the daily medical office operations running smoothly. While bachelor's programs in this field include on-site internship experience, most online medical office administration associate degree programs allow students to complete their coursework entirely online.
An associate in medical office administration is a great first step for working professionals who wish to enter or advance in the healthcare industry. This degree can qualify professionals for positions projected to grow in the next ten years, like medical assistants, medical records technicians, or administrative services managers.
Why Earn an Online Medical Office Administration Degree?
An online medical office administration degree comes with many personal and professional benefits. In addition to cultivating customer service and technology skills, students can also develop industry-specific benefits to qualify for entry-level healthcare jobs or prepare for continuing education in medical administration or a related field.
- Increased Customer Service Skills
Professionalism, clear communication, conflict resolution, and other customer service skills learned when pursuing this degree are highly valuable in healthcare and many other industries.
- Entry to Healthcare Industry
This degree qualifies its holder for entry-level office positions in doctor's offices, mental health clinics, laboratories, and dental offices, thereby giving graduates the chance to build careers in potentially lucrative industries.
- Familiarity with Information Technology
As the healthcare industry rapidly switches medical records to online formats, exposure to medical technologies is extremely useful in processing daily medical records.
- Preparation for a More Advanced Degree
The interdisciplinary exposure provided by an associate degree prepares students to pursue advanced degrees that they can apply to the medical administration field or other related fields.
- Interdisciplinary Knowledge
Medical office administration degrees can include courses from disciplines such as communications, psychology, health, and management.
Career and Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Medical Office Administration
While a degree does not guarantee you a particular career or salary, medical office administration associate degree graduates qualify for entry-level administrative positions in doctor's or dentist's offices, medical or mental health clinics, hospitals, laboratories, and other healthcare contexts. Many of the general administrative skills acquired from a medical office administration degree can transfer well to other profitable industries, such as business, finance, media, technology, real estate, or manufacturing.
An entry-level medical office administration salary usually falls between $30,000 and $40,000 annually. However, more work experience may lead to promotion to more lucrative management positions. Read further to learn all about medical office administration associate degree careers and salaries.
Median Annual Salary: $38,880
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): -7%
|This position typically includes several different activities and responsibilities, such as customer service, communications, scheduling, billing and payment processing, data entry, information processing, errands, and daily office preparation and organization. There are administrative assistant positions in most industries, and many qualify with only a high school diploma or certificate, but more specialized assistants often need college degrees.|
Median Annual Salary: $33,610
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 23%
|Medical assistant duties vary based on work context, but these professionals usually schedule appointments, help physicians perform examinations, measure patient vital signs, prepare samples for laboratory testing, record patient medical histories and other information, and sometimes administer injections or medications. Administrative medical assistants typically process information, whereas clinical medical assistants provide care directly to patients.|
|Medical Records Technician||
Median Annual Salary: $40,350
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 11%
|Like administrative medical assistants, medical records technicians typically process patient information, utilizing electronic health record software and paperwork. These technicians ensure the privacy and accuracy of medical records, along with handling medical billing and coding. Most medical records technicians must earn at least a certificate to qualify for this position, but associate degrees are often the best preparation for this career path.|
Median Annual Salary: $34,770
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): -3%
|Transcriptionists listen to and transcribe dictation or recordings from medical professionals, turning these transcriptions into medical reports used in patient records, coding, and billing. Medical transcriptionists need postsecondary education (often either a certificate or an undergraduate degree) that familiarizes them with grammar, word processing software, medical terminology, ethics, and laws related to medical documentation. Associate degrees make candidates for this position more competitive.|
|Administrative Services Manager||
Median Annual Salary: $96,180
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 10%
|These professionals manage office administrative operations, procedures, and personnel to guide administrative assistants in performing data entry and communications tasks effectively. Administrative service managers may also oversee other dimensions of operations, such as facility maintenance, scheduling, patient billing, or insurance contracting. Although they typically must possess bachelor's degrees and work experience, the degree required varies by industry and position, and earning an associate degree is the first step toward this lucrative career.|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Earning an Associate in Medical Office Administration Online
Those considering online medical office administration associate degrees should take time to find degree programs that fit into their schedules and align with their career aspirations. The following section provides an overview of the typical application process, coursework, degree timelines, and skills acquired in medical office administration associate programs.
Online medical office administration associate degree programs require each student to hold a high school diploma (or equivalent), submit official transcripts, and pay a $10-$50 fee. Applications often require a brief essay, and some schools also ask for recommendation letters or results from standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT.
Students should schedule and take standardized tests well in advance of application due dates and give their recommenders at least a month to compose and submit their letters. Applicants often pay a small transcript processing fee of about $10 per transcript to their prior schools, which then send official transcripts directly to the student's prospective colleges. Candidates with prior college credits should contact their prospective schools' admissions offices to see if these credits will transfer.
Healthcare Systems and Operations
This course surveys the American healthcare system's history, organization, and operations. Students can learn the various processes, protocols, and procedures necessary for ensuring a smooth exchange of medical and financial information among medical offices and clinics, hospitals, medical schools, private insurance companies, and medical assistance programs.
Medical Billing and Insurance Coding
Medical billing and coding courses can provide a basic overview of how to find and correctly assign alpha-numerical codes for medical conditions and procedures. Enrollees can explore how to use these codes when entering patient data, filing insurance forms, and creating medical bills for medical procedures.
Medical Record Keeping
This course explains why accurate and complete medical records are so important to excellent patient care. Degree-seekers can examine the standards and best practices of medical record keeping and become aware of how to address related obstacles.
Computer Software Applications in Healthcare
This course familiarizes students with general healthcare administration principles and practices, as well as specific medical office management software applications. Enrollees can learn relevant software for scheduling, financial management, patient registration, and electronic health record creation and maintenance. Degree-seekers also master necessary Microsoft Office programs.
Medical Laws and Ethics
All medical office administration jobs require a nuanced understanding of medical laws and ethics, so associate degrees in this subject always include coursework that examines healthcare law. Learners can explore how healthcare law shapes healthcare business practice, as well as how to navigate legal and ethical dilemmas that attend medical practice.
Average Online Degree Length
Due to lower tuition rates and savings on commuting costs, housing costs, and university fees, an online medical office administration degree is typically cheaper than its on-campus equivalent. Students who enroll in programs with a flat semester tuition rate and complete the maximum amount of credits per semester can also save money on tuition.
While most associate degrees in medical office administration comprise about 60 credits and take about two years of full-time attendance, many online programs allow students to choose the pace that best fits their schedules. Organized individuals with fewer external obligations often select accelerated online programs, which often run four or more terms during the academic year and reduce time-to-degree to 18 months or less.
Taking courses in the summer can also help to expedite the process, and students may find programs with summer courses offered in a very accelerated format. Learners with relevant work experience can also save money and earn their degrees more quickly by finding and enrolling in degree programs that award credit for work experience.
Meanwhile, a student with a full-time job or considerable family obligations may opt to pursue their degree on a part-time basis over more than two years.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
Online associate degree programs in medical office administration familiarize students with the healthcare system, medical records, billing and coding, healthcare law and ethics, medical office scheduling, and medical terminology.
Medical office administration coursework prepares students for many healthcare careers; however, medical office administration programs also encourage excellence in general skill areas, some of which appear below.
While many medical office administration programs at the associate level follow a fairly standard curriculum, keep your eyes open for any programs that allow students to choose electives or degree concentrations. These programs are ideal for those desiring specific positions or workplace environments.
Accreditation for Medical Office Administration Associate Programs
Prospective students should carefully consider accreditation status when researching and applying to schools, as accreditation affects eligibility for financial aid and credit transference. Schools that boast either regional or national accreditation tend to garner more professional respect because they have met academic standards measured by U.S. Department of Education-recognized agencies. Students enrolling in these schools often qualify for federal financial aid.
Keep in mind that regional accreditation agencies usually have higher standards than national accreditation agencies, so regionally accredited schools often refuse to accept degrees or credits earned at nationally accredited schools. Therefore, regionally accredited associate programs are often the best option for those planning to pursue bachelor's degrees.
Many academic programs also receive programmatic accreditation from field-specific agencies. Medical office administration programs, for example, often hold accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, in addition to the regional or national accreditation held by the entire college or university.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Professional organizations can help students and professionals to understand current issues and best practices in their field. By featuring many specializations, certificate programs, continuing education options, networking tools, and research articles, these organizations can be helpful to students as they envision their futures and make corresponding school and career choices.
AAHAM, an organization devoted to many aspects of healthcare revenue, fosters effective healthcare administration by providing opportunities for continuing education, certification, and networking. AAHAM features local chapters and runs an annual national institute and other events. Members can learn best practices for medical records and data management, patient relations, and reimbursement.
ARMA's registry provides further credentialing to assistants qualified to serve on medical teams. By requiring its members to complete 12 continuing education units per year, ARMA ensures that medical assistants continue to learn, improve, and adapt in a rapidly changing industry.
AHCAP, a professional organization designed to support the careers and education of healthcare assistants, offers webinars, tuition discounts, a discussion forum, a book club, and a job bank. AHCAP also runs a conference for healthcare administrative professionals and produces several relevant technology resources.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
A student considering continuing their education beyond the associate level can streamline their path to the bachelor's degree by planning wisely. Choosing programs and schools with similar accreditation standards, transfer agreements, or similar curricula can render the transition between programs timely and cost-effective. If degree-seekers plan carefully, many of their associate-level general education requirements and medical office administration core courses may count toward four-year healthcare degree coursework.
Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program
An online associate program in medical office administration provides a solid foundation for a bachelor's degree in a related field. Accredited associate degree credits often count toward equivalent required courses in bachelor's programs, but students should contact both schools in advance to ensure transferability. Candidates planning to earn bachelor's degrees should consider associate degree programs at schools which hold transfer agreements with desirable four-year schools.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
The general, interdisciplinary coursework involved in medical office administration associate degree programs provides a foundation for continued education in several disciplines. Those who enjoy working directly with patients may wish to pursue physician's assistant or nursing degrees, while those interested in business or medical administration may choose a business degree. Popular bachelor's degree choices include nursing, medical administration, business administration, and public health.
- Bachelor's in Medical Administration: This bachelor's degree builds on the foundational coursework of the associate degree, allowing learners to explore more specialized coursework relevant to the specific types of healthcare facilities where they hope to become administrators. This degree also teaches students how medical law, together with the pressures of business, can shape American healthcare operations.
- Bachelor's in Nursing: This degree features core courses on maternal, nursing, pediatric, and adult nursing. Many schools also include courses on psychiatric or gerontology nursing, and some also cover nursing practice in community health contexts. While there are multiple paths to nursing careers, earning a nursing bachelor's degree has the benefit of including coursework on theoretical and practical aspects of the field.
- Bachelor's in Business Administration: Along with general courses in business fundamentals, this bachelor's curriculum usually involves coursework in a chosen track or concentration. Medical office administration associate degree-holders who wish to stay in the industry may choose to pursue the healthcare track, which prepares them to become administrators of healthcare organizations, corporations, facilities, and other sectors of the medical industry.