Online Medical Assistant Training Programs

By Jillynn Stevens, Ph.D., MSW

Online medical assistant training programs have become extremely popular, as the interest in this lucrative field continues to grow at a rapid pace. Based on the potential for long-term employment and job growth, training takes surprisingly little time. Both online and campus-based training have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important that you research your potential school options thoroughly to determine whether an online program will meet your needs and expectations.

Medical Assistant Training Requirements

Medical assistants work in both the clinical and administrative sides of medical practices. Although many MAs work in doctors’ offices and medical clinics, you can find a multitude of opportunities in other related areas of the health-care industry. The best type of training programs prepare you for both administrative and clinical work. Different schools offer varying structures for training, depending on whether you plan to attend school full time or try to complete your training while working. If you attend school full time, expect the classroom program to take about a year or so, followed by a period of interning in a clinical setting.

Pros and Cons of Online Medical Training

The benefit of any online degree program is the level of flexibility offered, as well as the ability to work (at least to some degree) at your own pace and on your own time. The downside is that you often pay for that flexibility with higher tuition costs. If your program requires some practical hours, residency or hands-on experience, you may have to travel to a designated location to complete those, maybe even having to take time off from your job. The largest risk of online training is possibly selecting an unaccredited program. In order to take the required medical assistant certification exams, your school must be accredited by one of the recognized medical assistant associations.

Is Online Training Beneficial?

Although the theoretical information presented in an online program is essentially the same as it is in a ground-based, in-person program, that’s where the similarity stops. Most online programs are asynchronous, meaning that teachers post discussions on their own schedule, then wait for students to respond. Classroom communication is synchronous, with all discussion occurring interactively in real time. The benefits of interactive discussion are significant, with students able to speak to instructors and ask questions in real time. But the most valuable aspect of learning in a campus-based setting is the hands-on clinical work. Medical assistants learn from visiting medical practices and logging hours in the clinic setting. Without this critical aspect of training, you may find yourself at a disadvantage when it comes time for your intern- or externship. Some medical hiring professionals avoid students who trained online because they did not have the opportunity to develop the communication skills necessary to work with doctors, nurses, administrative personnel or patients.

Some students have reported signing up and paying for online programs for administrative or clinical medical assistant training and subsequently learning that the program is not properly accredited and not being able to get the school to refund the tuition. No reputable school would conduct business in this way, but to be safe, try to stick with colleges or vocational schools in your area. If you are unable to visit a campus, meet the instructors or talk with other students, it will be difficult to determine if the program is right for you. When it comes to online medical assistant training, approach with caution and always conduct thorough research.

Jillynn Stevens is a writer and researcher. She is the Director of Digital Content Marketing for Be Locally SEO where she enjoys helping clients expand and improve their businesses through articles, blogs, website content and more.

Cole Holland College in Salt Lake City offers training for medical assistant careers.

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