> Medical Assisting > Online Medical Assistant Schools vs. Brick and Mortar Schools

Online Medical Assistant Schools

By CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Aug 21, 2012

Medical assistants work with health professionals in various healthcare and medical settings, including at hospitals, universities, medical clinics, physicians’ offices, and insurers. Medical assistants undertake various administrative and clinical tasks to support healthcare professionals, including duties related to the day-to-day administration and operation of a medical office or clinic. Medical assistants also interact regularly with patients, and provide clinical support by carrying out routine medical tasks and procedures.

Demand for medical assistants is on the rise, making a career as a medical assistant one of the most employable professions in the medical and healthcare industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of medical assistants will grow by 31 percent between 2010 and 2020. This rate of increase is much higher than the average for all occupations, which is estimated at just 14 percent.

Online Medical Assisting Training Programs

Where To Get Your Training From

Formal medical assisting education is available from a range of providers, including community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools and institutes, and junior colleges. Online education programs are also available if you are interested in distance education, or if you want the flexibility of completing a course that fits your schedule rather than completing a more stringent in-class program.

Undertaking Your Training Online

Online Training

Online training programs offer similar courses to programs offered in colleges and schools. Online training programs in medical assisting lead to certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. Modules are offered in office management and administration, including billing, medical office procedures, customer service and business communication, as well as instruction on using software such as word processor and spreadsheet applications. You also receive instruction on the clinical and medical aspects of medical assisting, such as medical terminology, medical office procedures, pharmacology, medical testing, and medical and surgical procedures.

Due Diligence

When choosing an online program, research the course and the provider before you register. The best programs are those that provide standardized testing similar to traditional brick and mortar schools. Many established community colleges and vocational/technical schools also provide online education options to their students. You should also ensure that the program provides some hands-on training, such as laboratory and clinical training, and internships or externships. In addition to getting in-class instruction, it is also important to get practical experience even if you are learning virtually. Many providers will find placements for you close to home. You should also compare tuition costs and financial aid options when choosing an online program. In addition, you should seek out programs and education providers that have been nationally accredited. To find an accredited medical assisting program, contact the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs ( or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (

How Online Medical Assistant Classes Work

Just like traditional in-class education, online programs offer many of the same services and supports given to students who physically attend a school or college. The major difference is that student services and instruction are carried out over the internet. Instruction ranges from independent study where students establish their own pace when completing courses. Alternatively, courses may be more structured and offered at set times and are led by a teacher who facilitates the class virtually. With these virtual classrooms, you can ask questions in real-time and they operate like any other classroom, except that students are not all located within a single room.

As you complete your online program and courses, you can connect with classmates and teachers through web communication tools or other technology. You may also have the option to communicate with your instructor or professor by phone. Just like any other education program, reading lists for any books or training materials you might need to complete your course.

In addition to in-class instruction, many online training providers offer medical assisting programs with a practical component. Students obtain supervised, hands-on experience in a healthcare setting through externships and clinical training. Placements are typically found at locations close to your home.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Online Medical Assistant Programs

One of the main advantages of online education is the ability to stay home and not travel to a school outside your community or state. This is particularly valuable for students who wish to pursue an education but live in a remote area or are unable to travel for various reasons, such as cost or family commitments. Online schools give you the flexibility to stay in school while meeting other commitments, such as caring for young children.

There are some drawbacks to online training. One of the disadvantages of online education is that you generally do not directly interact with instructors and other students. With the ongoing development of web communication tools, the ability to interact with classmates and teachers is improving and is gradually being enhanced through web-based classrooms and study groups. Another potential disadvantage relates to the challenges posed by learning from home, where distractions may affect your ability to focus and stay on track.

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