Medical Assistant Associate Degree Programs
Choosing to become a medical assistant represents a selfless decision to help doctors and nurses provide the best possible care for their patients. It also represents a professionally sound decision. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that roles for medical assistants will grow by 23% between 2018 and 2028 — far faster than the national average for all jobs. The reason for this growth centers around an aging population of baby boomers and the need for more qualified assistants who can take care of administrative and routine clinical duties.
Earning your medical assisting associate degree will prepare you to help providers maintain safe, effective, and efficient systems within healthcare delivery. You will be a key player in making sure that patients are seen quickly and you can help ensure that attention is given to their highest priority medical needs. An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Medical Assisting can give you the education needed to start out strong in this valuable medical career.
Keep reading to learn more about medical assisting associate degree requirements, the roles you qualify for after graduating, in-depth career outlook details, where to find the best programs, and what you can expect in terms of admission requirements, courses, and costs.
Why Should I Get an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting?
Although most states do not require that you have an associate degree in medical assisting to qualify for a job as a medical assistant, employers are much more likely to be interested if you possess a comprehensive understanding of what the role entails. While certificate programs usually take one year, associate degrees take two years but provide a much more in-depth curriculum.
After working as a medical assistant for a time, you may also decide you want to continue your education. If you hold an associate degree, you’ll find it much easier to transfer those credits to a bachelor’s degree program as compared to transferring credits obtained through a certificate. However, it’s important to make sure that you attend an accredited school.
As an added bonus, those who hold an associate degree stand to earn higher salaries than those with a high school diploma or technical certificate. Salary.com shows that certificate holders fall into the salary range of $33,100 to $34,696, while associate degree graduates earn between $33,428 and $35,024.
What Can I Do With an A.A.S. in Medical Assisting?
By completing a medical assistant associate degree, you set yourself up to qualify for a number of career paths.
There are generally two areas of focus: If you like working face-to-face with people, becoming a clinical medical assistant may be a good option for you. If you are more interested in the business side of healthcare, you might prefer working as an administrative medical assistant.
Some schools offer separate degrees for these paths, while others offer specializations.
Clinical Medical Assistant
Clinical medical assistants possess more nursing training than their administrative counterparts, giving them the skills needed to perform basic procedures and provide care under the supervision of a licensed medical professional.
Specific duties you can expect to perform include taking patient medical histories, assisting with examinations, providing injections, dispensing medications, taking blood pressure or performing other diagnostic tests, and getting blood samples ready for laboratory testing.
Clinical medical assistants can be found working in a variety of settings, including physicians’ offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitative centers, and community clinics. If you have a thirst for adventure, medical assistants are also needed to fill roles alongside travel nurses in international healthcare delivery organizations.
If you want more information about specific careers as a clinical medical assistant, check out our Careers page.
Administrative Medical Assistant
Administrative medical assistants enjoy using their skills in business, finance, and organization to help keep clinics, doctor’s offices, or hospitals running smoothly. They work to ensure all the required paperwork is accurate and easily accessible while also helping doctors and other clinicians with any tasks that arise.
Responsibilities in this role range from when a patient first walks into the door to long after they leave the clinic. Some specific duties you may be responsible for as a medical assistant include welcoming patients and helping them get signed in, walking them back to the appropriate examination room, collecting personal details and insurance information, updating medical records, answering phone calls and directing them to the appropriate contact, scheduling new and follow-up appointments, handling insurance claims, understanding all technology used in the office, ordering new supplies, and ensuring the office stays clean.
Like clinical medical assistants, those in administrative roles can also be found in hospitals, nursing homes, physicians’ offices, community clinics, rehabilitative centers, and long-term care facilities.
If you want more information about specific careers as an administrative medical assistant, check out our Careers page.
Career Outlook for Medical Assistants with an Associate Degree
Before spending thousands of dollars on a degree and embarking on a career, it’s reasonable that you want to feel confident and secure in the industry you join. As is the case with many other roles in the medical and health fields, jobs for medical assistants are set to skyrocket in the coming years. In addition to an existing 686,600 positions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 154,900 roles will be created between 2018 and 2028, resulting in growth of 23%.
While all regions can expect to see a boost in available roles, these five states as of 2018 have seen the most employment opportunities for medical assistants: California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Medical Assistant With an Associate Degree Salary
Data from Salary.com shows that salaries for those with medical assistant certificates top out at $34,696, while graduates of A.A.S. programs can earn as much as $35,024 per year. While not a significant difference in salary, it’s important to note that if you have aspirations to continue up the medical and healthcare ladder later in your career, an associate degree also cuts the time required to complete a bachelor’s degree in half, leading to higher salaries in a shorter timeframe.
What to Expect in an A.A.A. Degree Program
In just two short years, you can be on your way to a satisfying career as a medical assistant. This section addresses all you need to know about obtaining your degree.
Admission requirements for medical assisting associate degrees vary by school, so you should check with each institution before you apply. That being said, lots of schools ask for very similar information. You’ll need a completed application, application fee payment, GED or higher school diploma, and transcripts from any schools that you have attended. Some institutions may also ask for a personal statement and/or letters of recommendation from those who know you well and can speak to your abilities.
Curricula for Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting programs typically cover topics that prepare graduates for both administrative and clinical positions; some may offer specializations that focus on one of these areas. Clinical classes cover topics such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, medication administration, and conducting examinations. Administrative courses teach students about medical insurance, billing and coding, medical law and ethics, and medical office practice. Most of these programs will require you to participate in an internship to gain hands-on experience before graduating.
The cost of these programs varies significantly depending on the type of school a student attends. Public community colleges almost always cost less than their private counterparts, while students who enroll at a school in their district or state usually pay less than those who attend as an out-of-state student. With that in mind, program costs can range from $4,500 to $25,000.
Online Associate Degree in Medical Assisting
Given the demand for medical assisting professionals, more and more associate degree programs are popping up to meet these needs. Because of this, you can be selective in searching for a program that works for your professional and personal needs. You may feel an online-only program fits best with your busy schedule, or you may find that hybrid programs provide a good balance of flexibility and camaraderie with your peers.
When looking at the spotlight schools in this guide, you may have noticed that online tuition costs slightly more for these programs. While true, don’t forget to consider the money saved on things like housing, meal plans, fuel, transportation, and campus parking passes. It’s also worth noting a study by the U.S. Department of Education, which found that online college students on average performed at a higher level than those enrolled in campus-based classes. Performance was even higher for learners participating in hybrid learning programs.
Certification and Licensing
No matter whether you want to work in administrative or clinical medical assisting, getting certification can help open doors to increased job opportunities and higher pay. Major certification bodies include the American Association of Medical Assistants and the National Healthcareer Association.
To apply for certification, you must first obtain a degree from an accredited program, so make sure that any medical assisting associate degree you enroll in maintains accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
At this time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report that any states require medical assistants to hold licensure, but some do require that they attend an accredited program and pass an examination. Check with your state board of medicine to learn about local mandates.
Spotlight: Featured Medical Assistant Associate Degree Schools
To help you find an associate degree in medical assistance that ticks all your boxes, we compiled a list of featured schools. We choose these programs based on several key factors, including diversity of programs, cost of tuition, and overall ranking.
Keiser University, Ft. Lauderdale
Whether you live in Florida or on the other side of the world, Keiser University can give you the skills and competencies needed to confidently walk into a medical assistant role, thanks to its online programs; programs can also be completed on campus The associate degree at Keiser combines both administrative and clinical courses to create a well-rounded curriculum.
The plan of study requires 60 credits and should take you about two years to complete if you enroll full-time. After finishing all your classes, you’ll be prepared to take the Registered Medical Assistant exam through the American Medical Technologists.
$499.00 per credit
$399.00 per credit
Minnesota West Community and Technical College
Minnesota West provides distance learning and campus-based Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assistant programs. If you plan to apply, you’ll need a GED or high school diploma and a valid CPR/First Aid certification.
Aside from taking classes in topics such as medical office procedures, body structure and function, and medical terminology, you’ll also participate in a practicum to build real-world skills. MWCTC’s program requires 60 credits. If studying online, all classes are taught asynchronously to provide maximum flexibility for students.
$171.53 per credit
$184.03 per credit
Alexandria Technical and Community College
Minnesota’s Alexandria Technical and Community College offers an associate degree in medical administration for students who want to focus on office-based responsibilities. The curriculum will help you build skills in technical writing, medical reception, reimbursement issues, and basic pathology.
Offered both online and at the Minnesota campus, the program requires 60 credits and the completion of an internship. If you’re looking to save a bit of money, plan on applying during the fall as the school waives application fees from September 1 to October 31.
$160.53 per credit
$199.00 per credit
Olney Central College
The associate degree in medical office assistant at Olney Central College in Illinois is taught both at the Olney campus and online. You can plan to spend four semesters in total moving through the required 68 credits in areas of medical insurance and coding, keyboarding essentials, electronic medical records management, and healthcare statistics.
Olney’s program is a great fit if you want to work as an administrative medical assistant, as it also offers the opportunity to complete an internship at a medical office while enrolled. The school maintains excellent transfer agreements with other district-area schools for those who want to continue into a bachelor’s degree.
$92.00 per credit, in-district
$278.18 per credit, out-of-district
$341.51 per credit, out-of-state
$92.00 per credit, in-district
$125.00 per credit, out-of-district
$125.00 per credit, out-of-state
State Fair Community College
Sedalia, Missouri’s State Fair Community College offers an A.A.S. in Medical Assisting that requires 61.5 hours. Like others in this list, SFCC has courses both online and on campus. To obtain this degree, you first must complete all the requirements for the medical assisting professional certificate. To continue into the associate degree program, you’ll first need to pass the certification exam.
Required classes include administrative procedures, technology in healthcare, and laboratory procedures. You can also select nine hours’ worth of electives to customize your degree.
$115 per credit, in-district
$170 per credit, in-state
$230 per credit, out-of-state
$165 per credit, in-district
$220 per credit, in-state
$280 per credit, out-of-state
Herzing University, an accredited nonprofit institution, offers both online and on-campus programs (Akron, Ohio). This 60-credit program will prepare you to assist in the overall operation of a physician’s office — both administrative and clinical.
In addition to courses such as billing and coding, processing insurance claims, pathophysiology and pharmacology, and ethics and professionalism, you will spend 15 credit hours involved in clinical courses.
$580 per credit
$580 per credit
Medical Assistant Associate Degree Programs By State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia