Best Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs

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A medical assistant (MA) certification is a great way to expand your knowledge, gain valuable work experience, and perhaps start a new career in the medical field. 

Medical assistants work in doctors' offices, hospitals, and other clinical settings. They are responsible for taking vital signs, communicating with patients, helping patients prepare for their doctor’s appointments, and managing the clinic's schedule, among other responsibilities. 

Online medical assistant programs are a convenient way to get certified as a medical assistant on your own time if you’re interested in this career option. Many programs are self-paced, flexible, and provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to get certified as a MA quickly.

Best Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs of 2022

Best Overall : Herzing Diploma in Medical Assisting


Herzing Diploma in Medical Assisting

Herzing Diploma in Medical Assisting

Key Specs
  • Cost: Roughly $12,600 
  • Duration: 10 months 
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) 
Why We Chose It

We selected Herzing as the best overall because it offers three different levels of education to get you started on your path as a medical assistant. You can choose to complete a diploma or associate's degree, or transfer your credits into your bachelor's degree upon completion.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Can complete in as little as 10 months

  • Able to use credits to transfer into bachelors program

  • Upon completion, you are eligible to sit for the certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA) exam

  • Many opportunities for financial aid

Cons
  • Must complete 180-hour externship to graduate

  • Need to meet and interview with an admissions advisor

Overview

The Herzing diploma in medical assisting is a comprehensive 10-month online program that fully prepares you to sit for the CCMA exam upon completion. It is an excellent option for those who want to get started in the medical field with the opportunity to use credits to further their education in the future. Herzing offers three different programs for medical assisting. You can choose to complete a diploma, associate's degree, or go on to complete your bachelor's degree in a related program. 

Herzing is a top-ranking school online and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a well-respected certifying body. You can enroll full-time or part-time, and most students receive their diplomas in around 10 months. The coursework is entirely online, but you must complete a 180-hour externship in your last semester and a student readiness training proctorship at a healthcare facility to demonstrate competency in hands-on skills.

The program costs about $12,600 and includes the CCMA exam fee and program application fee. You also are responsible for any travel expenses and uniform costs for your final externship. Herzing offers financial aid options such as loans, scholarships, and military discounts, or you can transfer some credits from prior courses, saving time and money.

You can apply for the program online, and after meeting and interviewing with an admissions advisor, you may enroll for the next start date. The program is available to students throughout the U.S. and can be completed on your own time, making it an excellent option for those with busy schedules. Overall, Herzing is a reputable program and a great choice for becoming a certified medical assistant.

Best Accelerated Program : U.S. Career Institute Online Medical Assistant Program


US Career Institute Online Medical Assistant Program

US Career Institute Online Medical Assistant Program

Key Specs
  • Cost: Roughly $1,200 to $1,500 
  • Duration: Self-paced—can complete in as little as 4 months 
  • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
Why We Chose It

This low-cost program will help you receive your certification in as little as four months. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Self-paced; most students complete the program in 4 to 7 months

  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)

  • Inexpensive, at about $1,200 when paid in full

Cons
  • Less extensive curriculum than other programs

  • 100% online, no hands-on skills portion

  • Unclear if you can transfer credits to future programs

Overview

The U.S. Career Institute has more than 40 years of experience in distance education and offers a 100% online accelerated medical assistant program you can complete in as little as four months. The program is the most inexpensive program on our list and costs about $1,200 when paid in full. It also offers payment plans at a slightly higher rate if you prefer. There is no tuition assistance, but you may be eligible for student loans or grants through your home state.

Since the program is entirely self-paced, it is up to you how quickly you want to get it done. This is a great way to study while still working or caring for children. The curriculum covers medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, working with patients, front desk skills, first aid procedures, and helps prepare you to sit for the CCMA exam. Each state has different certification requirements, so it is essential to check with your state to ensure the program meets all requirements to begin your career.

Courses are offered entirely online through video lectures, textbook readings, and virtual lab sessions. Unlike some other programs, there is no in-person training, which may be an issue if this is a requirement in your home state. Overall, the U.S. Career Institute medical assistant program is a great way to learn everything you need to prepare for the CCMA exam, begin your career as a certified medical assistant (CMA), and start making money quickly.

Best for Registered Medical Assistant : Penn Foster Medical Assistant Associate Degree


Penn Foster Medical Assistant Associate Degree

Penn Foster Medical Assistant Associate Degree

Key Specs
  • Cost: $3,600- $5,400
  • Duration: 60 credits, spread over 4 semesters 
  • Accreditation: DEAC-accredited school 
Why We Chose It

This online self-paced program will help you earn an associate’s degree and be eligible to sit for the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam upon completion.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Interactive mobile friendly online learning software

  • Prepares you to sit one of five national medical assistant exams

Cons
  • Must complete proctored exams each semester

  • Need to complete externship to gain valuable hands on experience

  • Program is entirely self paced, so may take longer for those who fall off track easily

Overview

Penn Foster is an online school accredited through DEAC that offers three different programs to help you get your designation as a registered medical assistant (RMA). You can choose from the diploma program, associate’s degree, or decide to pursue a bachelor's degree in healthcare. These self-paced programs are designed to help you prepare for national exams such as the RMA exam, CCMA exam, and others.

Penn Foster offers three different tuition payment plans. The program is inexpensive compared to other programs on our list, and if you choose to pay in full, the cost is roughly $3,600. Tuition includes a voucher for the CCMA exam, all learning materials, and unlimited student support. You also may be able to transfer prior post-secondary credits, which will save you some money, and if you are a veteran, you may qualify for a discount.

Programs run through the Penn Foster mobile-friendly online learning software. Materials are available 24 hours a day so you can study on the go, either on the computer or on your phone. There is no set class schedule, and you can communicate with instructors and other students through phone, text, email, or chat. It also offers live webinars, virtual simulations, and other online learning tools to help you fully understand the material and feel prepared to start your career.

There are no prerequisites to apply for the program, and you can apply online at any time. Penn Foster often runs sales throughout the year, and you can secure your enrollment for as little as $1. The website does not state how long it usually takes for students to complete the program, but you are required to complete 60 units spread over four semesters, so it should take you about a year if you are self-motivated and stay on track.

At the end of your program, you are expected to complete an externship to practice your skills and gain valuable real-world experience before sitting for the national exam.

Best for Clinical Medical Assistant : San Francisco State University Clinical Medical Assistant


San Francisco State University Clinical Medical Assistant

San Francisco State University Clinical Medical Assistant

Key Specs
  • Cost: About $2,600 
  • Duration: Self-paced, around 2 to 6 months, including 160-hour clinical externship 
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Why We Chose It

We chose San Francisco State University as the best online program for those who want to become a clinical medical assistant because of its low cost, good reputation, and interactive online learning environment.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Self-paced e-learning course

  • Includes 160-hour externship

  • Prepares you to take the CCMA national exam

Cons
  • Only includes 6-month access to program

  • Must attend online information session

  • Not an associate’s degree

Overview

If you’re looking for a quick way to become a clinical medical assistant, San Francisco State University (SFSU) has a great online option. It offers both in-person and online courses, and students can complete the self-paced online option in as little as two to six months.

We like that the program is entirely self-paced and covers all topics needed to prepare you for the national clinical medical assistant exam. You will learn all the necessary skills to assist physicians and work in a medical clinic and practice your skills during the 160-hour externship at the end of the program.

The clinical medical assistant program from SFSU includes access to interactive online learning modules, 24/7 mentoring, learning exercises, labs, and a student portal with career resources.

Tuition is about $2,600 and includes six months of access, clinical externship, e-books, workbooks, and related materials. Unlike other programs, it does not include a voucher to take your CCMA exam, which can cost about $155. You must possess a high school diploma or GED to apply, but you can apply online and start anytime throughout the year. There is no mention of payment plans on the website, but San Francisco State is listed on the Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) on the CalJOBS website and is an approved provider for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds if you qualify.

The clinical medical assistant program from SFSU is an online course, so unlike other programs, you will not receive an associate's degree upon completion. You potentially can use some of your credits in the future if you decide to pursue further education and want to get an associate's or bachelor's degree in healthcare. SFSU is accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), both reputable regional accrediting bodies.

Best for Specialty Certification : Texas State Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist


Texas State Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist

Texas State Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist

Key Specs
  • Cost: Around $4,000
  • Duration: 12 months 
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Why We Chose It

If you want to pursue a specialty in addition to your medical assistant certification, being a certified electronic health record specialist will open the door to many opportunities. Texas State offers two programs in one and will prepare you to be dual-certified in less than 12 months.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Prepares you for dual certification

  • 100% online

  • No prerequisite

Cons
  • Non-credit program; not an associates degree

  • No hands on portion

  • No information on how content is delivered

Overview

If you are considering certification as a medical assistant but want to focus on the electronic record side of the job, the bundled program at Texas State University is a great way to become dual-certified. The program prepares you to sit for both the CCMA exam and the Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS) exam and can be completed entirely online from the comfort of your own home. The program is self-paced, and although you get access for 12 months, many students complete it in less time.

The program costs around $4,000 and includes all reading material, access to the online platform, a voucher to take the CCMA exam and the CEHRS exam, and 674 course hours. Some students may qualify for financial aid, but since it is a non-credit course, you will not be eligible for federal student loans. It also offers scholarships for military spouses and veterans. 

In the first course, you will learn how ethics and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules affect your work as a medical assistant and how to use scheduling systems, work with patients, and perform basic medical procedures. The second course focuses on using electronic health record (EHR) systems. This program bundle is a great way to stand out in the field and prepare to work both in an office or remotely as a medical assistant or health records specialist.

Texas State is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), a reputable regional accreditation. There is no information online on how the content is delivered, but you do get access to instructors to ask questions and get additional support.

Best for Nationally Certified Medical Assistant : Purdue Medical Assisting Certificate


Purdue Medical Assisting Certificate

Purdue Medical Assisting Certificate

Key Specs
  • Cost: Around $21,000 at $371.00 per credit 
  • Duration: 58 credits, can complete in less than 1.5 years 
  • Accreditation: HLC and Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
Why We Chose It

Purdue's comprehensive program helps prepare you to take the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) exam upon completion.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Option to take program full- or part-time

  • Coursework is 100% online; clinical and externship experiences are onsite

  • Option to transfer prior credits to save time and tuition

Cons
  • Expensive at over $21,000

  • Not an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program

  • Not self-paced

Overview

Purdue Global is a subsidiary of the Purdue University system, which was ranked in the top 10 best public universities in the U.S. by The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education. It offers a variety of online diplomas and degrees, is well known in the healthcare community, and prepares you to take the NCMA exam once you are finished. 

Purdue Global's coursework is 100% online, and although some of it is self-paced, it is less flexible than other programs on our list. Each semester is 10 weeks in length, and you must complete 58 credits to finish the course, which takes about a year and a half.

We like that courses are instructor-led and include online seminars, communication through message boards, and a 160-hour hands-on externship to practice your skills before joining the workforce. You also get access to individualized tutoring if you need extra help to ensure you understand the material before sitting for the national exam.

The program is costly, at more than $21,000, but Purdue Global offers many ways to save, including the option to transfer prior education credits. It also has a financial aid program, and you may be eligible for various scholarships or grants. Purdue Global also offers deep discounts (up to 55%) for active military and veterans and tuition reductions for employees of Purdue partner organizations.

Overall, the medical assistant certificate program at Purdue Global covers everything you need to succeed as a medical assistant and provides support, education, and hands-on experience to help you feel confident to take the NCMA exam.

Final Verdict

There are many different medical assistant certificate programs online designed to teach you the skills you need to work as a medical assistant and pass one of the many national certifying exams upon completion. Programs range from two months to two years, and students can choose to study part-time or full-time. We liked the programs from Herzing and Penn Foster the best because you can use your credits to get an associate's degree and later complete your bachelor's degree if desired.

Although all the programs listed will help you become a certified medical assistant, we gave preference to those that include a hands-on externship so you can practice your skills and feel confident in your career choice. Evaluate your budget, schedule, and potential time commitment to find a program that best suits your needs.

Compare the Best Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs

Company Cost Duration Accreditation Type of MA
Herzing Best Overall About $12,600 10 months with 180-hour externship  HLC CCMA
US Career Institute Best Accelerated Program  About $1,200-$1,500 Self paced—can be completed in as little as 4 months DEAC  CCMA 
Penn Foster  Best for Registered Medical Assistant $3,600- $5,400 60 credits, spread over 4 semesters plus externship  DEAC  RMA, CCMA 
San Francisco State University Best for Clinical Medical Assistant About $2,600  Self paced—takes 2-4 months with a 160-hour externship  WASC, WSCUC CCMA 
Texas State Best for Specialty Certification About $4,000 Less than 12 months  SACSCOC CCMA, CEHRS 
Purdue Global Best for Nationally Certified Medical Assistant About $21,000 Less than 1.5 years  CAAHEP, DEAC  NCMA, CCMA, CMA, RMA,  CMAC 

Guide for Choosing the Best Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs

Should You Get Your Medical Assistant Certification Online? 

If you are looking to get started in the medical field, working as a medical assistant is a great way to get started quickly and help you figure out if this is a good career choice. Although many local community colleges offer a certificate in medical assisting, online programs are an excellent choice for those who want a more flexible schedule and prefer to study at their own pace; they're great for those with other obligations like a job or family at home.

Many programs are relatively inexpensive and can open the door to many job opportunities upon completion. There also are many ways to advance your career, such as obtaining additional specialized certifications or getting a bachelor's degree in a related field like nursing.

Comparing Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs

There are many factors to contemplate when choosing what medical assistant certification program to choose. When starting your search, consider: 

Duration: Determine whether the length of the medical assistant program is a good fit for your lifestyle. Some programs can be completed in as little as two months, while others take up to two years. If you are hoping to study part-time or at your own pace, it may take you a little longer, but you can complete courses in your free time while continuing to work.

Accreditation: Some programs lack accreditation, which may be an issue when registering to take the CCMA exam. These programs may seem alluring as they are inexpensive and short in length, but choosing an online school with a reputable accreditation helps ensure you are getting a quality education and will be fully prepared to take the final exam, saving you time and money in the long run.

Cost: Cost varies dramatically depending on what school you choose. Some programs are as little as $1,200, while others are more than $20,000. Look for scholarships or financial aid opportunities to bring down the cost if needed.

Type of Program: Most medical assistant programs are either a certificate or associate's degree. Think about your future career aspirations to determine which is best. If you potentially want to go back to school to become a nurse or other healthcare professional, you may want to put in the time to get an associate's degree so you can use those credits later. And check with your home state for specific requirements to work as a certified medical assistant.

Enrolling In an Online Medical Assistant Certification Program

You can apply for most online medical assistant programs online in as little as 10 minutes. Some programs require an interview, and you may have to wait until a specified date to get started if accepted. Many programs require a small deposit to hold your spot, and although some programs need you to pay in full, the majority of programs have some sort of payment plan or financial aid.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs Cover?

Medical assistant programs cover various topics including medical terminology, HIPAA law, anatomy and physiology, job duties, scope of practice, patient scheduling, telecommunications, and more. Many programs have a hands-on externship, so you can practice your skills and gain competence, and aim to prepare you for the certifying exam you choose.

Can I Advance My Career With Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs?

Medical assisting is a great way to advance your career and gain valuable experience in a healthcare setting. While certification requirements vary by location, earning a certification such as the CCMA will help you get hired and start working right away. Certified MAs also can pursue other career paths such as health coach, patient navigator, or patient care coordinator. You also can take different specialty certifications to help you stand out and give you a competitive edge when applying to other roles.

Are Online Medical Assistant Certification Programs Accredited? 

Although some programs online are not accredited, all the programs mentioned on our list are accredited by a reputable accrediting agency. This is important as it ensures the program meets specific standards and that you are getting the education you need to excel in your career.

Methodology

We looked at 12 online medical assistant certification programs available in the U.S. and compared them based on cost, duration, accreditation, and program objectives. We sought out accredited programs that are designed for students who want to sit for the CCMA exam.

We gave preference to programs that include an externship as hands-on experience is a great way to practice your skills and get feedback from professionals to help you become a better medical assistant. We also looked for programs that offer a voucher to sit for the CCMA exam, as we felt these programs best prepared students to excel and pass the exam on the first attempt.

Some programs are certificate programs, while others offer an associate's degree or pathway to obtain your bachelor's degree, which is helpful for those who are looking to further their education.

Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor. What medical assistants do.

Edited by Brian Abbott