Degrees Without Borders: Online Programs in Medical Assisting

Aspiring medical assistants are getting a head start on the future. The impending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation has led to a projected gap in future healthcare services, according to the Health Services Research. Deloitte research also notes that the new focus on patient-centered care, technological innovation, and health informatics means that more attention, skill, and workforce is needed in delivering health services. As a result, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) predicts that medical assisting is going to be one of the fastest growing job markets in the next ten years.

Unlike other careers in the medical sector, medical assistant training can be quick. Many certificate programs take less than a year to complete, and an associate’s degree can be finished in two. On-the-job experience and self-paced development play critical roles in the advancement of medical assistants, and there has been a recent explosion in the availability of educational resources for these professionals.

Online learning platforms, distance-learning opportunities at universities, and do-it-yourself professional development sessions are all available to aspiring medical assistants. Geography and time are hardly the barriers they once were.

From day one of training, medical assistants can take control of their work schedule, advancement, and environment. While they do not earn as much as a nurse or physician, they pay far less for education, and start their career much quicker than most medical professionals.

Read on to learn more about the resources out there for aspiring medical assistants.

Fast Facts: Why are Medical Assisting Skills Important?

Lots of Job Opportunities

According to the BLS (2018), medical assistant jobs are expected to grow by 29 percent between 2016 and 2026—more than four time the national average of all jobs. This is partly due to the aging population. Medical assisting skills can prepare workers to meet the needs of the retiring Baby Boomer generation.

Quick Training

Medical assistant programs are available at community colleges, vocational and technical schools, universities, and online platforms. Students often need only one year to complete a certificate or two years for an associate’s degree.

Varied Work Environments

Medical facilities exist in many forms, and therefore so do medical assistant work environments. More than half of medical assistants work in physician offices, but they also work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, and even facilities abroad. What’s more, within those settings, further nuances exist. Just as the specializations for any health profession is varied, a medical assistant may choose to work in an adult-gerontology clinic, or a pediatric center, or a maternity ward, depending on which population they are most interested in serving.

Flexible Schedules

While most medical assistants work 40 hours a week, healthcare remains an around-the-clock endeavor, and as such there are many flexible options for scheduling. Depending on the work environment, a medical assistant may choose to work night shifts, weekends, overtime, or every other week. By taking charge of their schedule, medical assistants can free up time as they see fit for family obligations, further education, or leisure.

Medical Assisting Professors and Mentors

Online Medical Assisting Programs

Purdue University Global

The online medical assistant certificate program at Purdue University Global offers a comprehensive curriculum combined with medical equipment training, preparing graduates for entry-level positions in the field. Courses in the program teach students how to perform laboratory, clinical, and medical office procedures in either a physician’s office or an ambulatory care clinic. Topics of study include medical law and bioethics, diseases of the human body, medical terminology, pharmacology, medical office management, and medical coding and insurance. The 57-credit program can be completed at each student’s rhythm.

  • Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $371 per credit

The College of Health Care Professions

CHCP’s medical assisting certificate combines the flexibility of online learning with hands-on clinical lab training at one of its seven Texas campuses. Graduates gain skills in physician assisting, phlebotomy, medication administration, interviewing patients, and performing EKGs. The curriculum includes classes in medical terminology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, medical law and ethics, and medical laboratory procedures. The program consists of 49 credits and available to all students except for those living in California or Massachusetts.

  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,950 in total

Minnesota West Community and Technical College

The associate of applied science (AAS) degree in healthcare administrative assisting at Minnesota West prepares students for the administrative side of medical assisting. The curriculum includes classes in topics such as keyboarding, composition, medical terminology, reimbursement in healthcare, disease conditions, office management, and medical coding. The program consists of 60 credits and may be completed either online or at one of the school’s five campuses.

  • Location: Worthington, Minnesota
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Estimated Tuition: $184 per credit

DIY Medical Assistant Skill-Building

While traditional education institutions are upgrading their offerings to provide online learning options, newer organizations are taking an online-first approach. With a wide selection of educational material now available at one’s fingertips, and new classes being added every day, it’s never been easier to advance your skills in medical assisting.

edX

Founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, edX offers online learning modules and massive open online courses (MOOCs) from some of the world’s best universities and institutions. They have an enormous database of classes pertaining to the medical assisting field, diving into deeply nuanced topics that range from the opioid crisis in America to biomedical imaging, respiration in the human body, and sign language. While a student may not turn to edX to learn the basics of medical assisting, they can use the platform to bolster their knowledge in the field, differentiate themselves from other job candidates, and deliver top-quality care.

Coursera

Coursera is an online education platform where each course is meant to act as an interactive textbook, complete with projects, videos, and quizzes. Many of the offerings are done in collaboration with a top university and created or administered by the faculty. Much like with edX, prospective students should not depend on Coursera for elementary education, but rather to bolster their skills in targeted areas. For example, a Coursera class in patient safety is offered in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University and can provide a resume-boosting specialization in a short period and can improve patient outcomes in the long term.

GetSmarter

Created by two brothers on the tip of Africa in 2008, GetSmarter has come a long way from its first offering: a course in wine evaluation, delivered in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch. Now they collaborate with the world’s best universities to provide short courses that boost industry skill sets and credentials. Their health informatics course, offered in partnership with the University of Chicago, gives students a broad overview of one of the world’s most rapidly growing interdisciplinary fields. Upon completion of the eight-week course, students receive a certificate from the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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