Becoming a medical assistant can be a great way to get your foot in the door of the health care industry. Because you don’t need a degree, it’s a phenomenal way to get clinical experience as you work your way to a more advanced health care profession, such as nursing or an allied therapy. Medical assisting can also be a fulfilling career on its own.
The best medical assistant certification courses are those that prepare you to sit for a certifying exam recognized by the health care industry, so you can earn your credential and begin working as a certified medical assistant.
Best Overall : Penn Foster
With affordable tuition, transfer credit opportunities, online learning, and a straightforward but comprehensive four-semester program, Penn Foster’s medical assisting associate degree sets students up for a lifetime of success.
Students earn an associate degree
All coursework is online
Prepares students to sit for five certification exams
Takes two years to complete
More expensive than certificate programs
Penn Foster is a hybrid online school that offers high school completion and diploma programs, certificate programs, and degree programs. Its medical assistant program is an associate of science (AS) degree, which means you can earn your certification and later transfer your credits to a bachelor’s degree program if you want to advance your career.
In addition to career advancement opportunities, Penn Foster is our pick for the best overall medical assistant certification course because it prepares students to sit for five certification exams:
- The Registered Medical Assistant certification (RMA) offered by American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant certificate (CCMA) offered by National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
- The National Certified Medical Assistant certificate (NCMA) offered by National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
- The Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CMAC) offered by American Medical Certification Association (AMCA)
- The Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) certification offered by the NHA
You don’t have to take all of the exams upon graduation, but if you want to, you can make yourself more professionally attractive to potential employers and open up more career opportunities.
In addition to all of your online coursework (which includes medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, biology, mathematics, insurance filing, clerical skills, and more), you must complete a semester-long externship in a clinical setting. Penn Foster does assist students in securing externship positions.
At $79 per credit hour, Penn Foster offers an affordable way to earn your associate degree. The tuition is even more affordable if you pay for each semester upfront and in full. One semester of tuition for the medical assistant degree program costs just $999, significantly less to what you’d pay at a traditional university.
Best for Job Placement : Keiser University
Keiser University is a prestigious private university with a solid track record of job placement for graduates, along with opportunities for continuing education.
Earn a prestigious degree from a well-known university
100% online coursework
Assistance with externship and job placement
Expensive (private university tuition)
Takes two years to complete
A Florida-based institution with an online division, Keiser University offers a robust medical assisting associate degree that prepares students to take the RMA credentialing examination given by American Medical Technologists, one of the most well-known and accepted medical assisting credentials.
While no university can guarantee job placement after graduation, Keiser has a dedicated student support and career advancement center where students can access career counselors, job listings, internship opportunities, and professional development workshops free of charge. When you earn your associate of science degree from Keiser, it’ll show potential employers that you’re serious about the profession of medical assisting, that you take your studies seriously, and that you’re committed to improving your skills and increasing your knowledge to effectively serve patients.
Keiser University’s curriculum requires both general education credits and degree-specific credits, including medical terminology, anatomy, pharmacology, medical law and ethics, and advanced biology. Students must also take a semester-long externship which counts for five credit hours. The degree is a total of 60 credit hours and takes two years to complete.
With the prestige of a private university unfortunately comes a high price tag. Tuition at Keiser University averages about $19,000 per year, according to the tuition calculator on the Keiser website. The upside of attending a university is that they offer financial aid and scholarships, and you can also apply for government financial aid. With non-degree programs, financial aid and scholarships usually aren’t an option.
Best Affordable Option : U.S. Career Institute
This flexible, online certificate program costs less than $1,500 but doesn’t skimp on quality content or instruction.
All online learning
Prepares students to sit for two medical assistant exams
Not a degree program or degree track
No job placement assistance
The U.S. Career Institute offers prospective students an alternative to attending traditional, expensive higher education institutions. The school offers a focused selection of career tracks, including medical assistants and other health care professions.
The medical assistant program at U.S. Career Institute is delivered completely online and prepares you to sit for the CCMA exam or the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exam, both through the NHA.
Students who complete the program will learn all of the skills and knowledge they need to be a successful medical assistant, including medical terminology, anatomy, first aid, preparing patients for exams, minor surgical procedures, preparing and administering medications, medical insurance, front office procedures, patient therapies, and pharmacology.
If paid in full, the medical assistant certification program costs $1,239. You can also choose to pay in installments, but the total cost rises to $1,489 with online payments or $1,539 with mail-in payments.
Once you enroll in the program, you have up to a year to complete it, but it could take as little as four months. According to the U.S. Career Institute, the average time to completion is seven months.
Best Part-Time Program : Trident University
This self-paced, online course consists of 540 course hours over 12 months (about 10 to 12 hours per week over the course of a year) but covers the same information as many full-time university programs.
Not a degree program or degree track
No externship or job placement
Trident University is a regionally accredited university and a member of the American InterContinental University System. Founded in 1998, Trident University was one of the very first all-online schools. Since then, it has attracted hundreds of thousands of students to its variety of certificate, associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral programs.
Trident’s clinical medical assistant certificate program prepares you to sit for the CCMA national certification exam offered by NHA. The curriculum covers medical terminology, government and private insurances, insurance claim filing, anatomy and physiology, venipuncture, and other skills critical to clinical settings.
Tuition for this course is $2,190 and includes the cost of three hard copy textbooks that will be mailed to you after enrollment. There are no prerequisites for this course, but you must have a high school diploma or equivalent to sit for the CCMA exam.
Keep in mind that despite this program being administered by a university, it is not a degree program or a degree track program. Trident University does not award credit for completing this certificate program or any part of it.
Best Fast-Track Program : Phlebotomy Career Training
In as little as six months, Phlebotomy Career Training lets you become a certified clinical medical assistant, electrocardiogram technician, phlebotomy technician, and IV technician.
Quick but thorough curriculum
Online learning (except externships)
Fast pace can make curriculum feel crammed
Must complete multiple clinical rotations
Not a degree program
Although Phlebotomy Career Training began as a phlebotomy-focused career school, it has since expanded to include several other health care careers. Its medical assistant certification program lets you earn four separate credentials in just six months and start your medical career off with an edge above other entry-level professionals.
The curriculum for this hybrid program covers all of the fundamentals of medical assisting as well as the essentials for becoming an electrocardiogram (ECG) technician, IV technician, and certified phlebotomist. The coursework is all online except for your externship and clinical hours. Students must complete 204 clinical externship hours to sit for the medical assistant exam as well as 40 hours of ECG and perform 30 live blood draws. Students will be responsible for researching and securing externship opportunities in their region.
Tuition for the program costs just $1,200, which includes the registration cost for all four exams. Students are also responsible for registering for the exam within their locale and sitting for the exam at a specified, proctored location determined by the exam-administering agency. Unfortunately, only one textbook is included in the cost of tuition, so you may be on the hook for other course materials.
This joint certificate program is perfect for students who want to earn multiple certifications and explore the health care industry, but don’t have the means to attend a college or university.
Our research points to Penn Foster as the provider of the best medical assistant course. Its program combines the best of all other programs described here, including affordable tuition, payment plans, thorough coursework, outstanding student support, preparation to sit for several widely recognized credentials, and externship assistance for hands-on experience.
Compare the Best Medical Assistant Certifications
|$79 per credit hour ($999 per semester)||4 semesters||CCMA||Online and in-person (externship)|
Best for Job Placement
|$19,000 per year||2 years||Associate of Science, RMA||Online or in-person|
|U.S. Career Institute
Best Affordable Option
|$1,239 (paid in full)||4–7 months||CMAA exam and CCMA||Online|
Best Part-Time Program
|$2,190||12 months or less||CCMA||Online|
|Phlebotomy Career Training
Best Fast-Track Program
|$1,200||6 months or less||CMA, EKG Technician, Phlebotomy Technician, IV Technician||Online and in-person (externship)|
How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Certification
Ultimately, the best medical assistant certification program comes down to your unique combination of needs and goals. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a medical assistant certification course:
- Credential: There are several types of medical assistant credentials. All will be helpful for securing a job after course completion, but it’s important to take into consideration your needs and future goals. For example, CMA awarded from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) is the most widely known medical assisting credential and prepares you for overall office administration. The NCMA credential, on the other hand, focuses more on assisting physicians with their patients directly.
- Program length: Consider how much time you have. If you need a job quickly, a fast-track program is a good choice. If you can wait, though, it can be beneficial to attend a university and earn your associate degree.
- Program intensiveness: Ask yourself whether you can handle a full-time, college-level program at this point in your life or if you need something part time to continue caring for your family or fulfilling other obligations.
- Tuition and financial aid: Budgeting is a crucial part of continuing your education. Research your financial aid options and determine how much money you can realistically spend on a medical assisting program without piling on too much debt.
- Learning platform: Can you take the time out to attend in-person classes or can you only study at home due to other responsibilities? Keep in mind that most medical assisting programs, even online ones, require some hands-on experience in the form of clinical classes or an externship.
Types of Medical Assistant Certifications
You can pursue one or more medical assistant certifications depending on the requirements your medical assisting program meets.
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA): Awarded through the American Association of Medical Assistants, this credential requires students to graduate from a one- or two-year medical assisting program offered by a school with institutional or programmatic accreditation from ABHES (the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools) or that is programmatically accredited by CAAHEP (the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs).
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA): The Association of Medical Technologists awards this credential to students who pass the exam after completing a medical assisting program credentialed by the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or the AMT board of directors.
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA): Students who want to pursue this credential, which is awarded through the National Center for Competency Testing, must be a graduate (within the last 10 years) of a medical assisting program approved by the NCCT or meet one of the other requirements.
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA): There are several ways for students to qualify for the CCMA exam offered through the National Healthcareer Association.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Medical Assistant Certification?
The cost for earning your medical assistant certification varies depending on the program you choose. Some courses prepare you to sit for an exam for less than $1,500, while other programs charge full college tuition, which can run $15,000 per year or more.
Don’t forget to factor in other costs of earning a medical assistant certification, including:
- School fees other than tuition
- Housing and transportation
- Supplies, such as scrubs and hygiene items
- Books, workbooks, pens, paper, and other school supplies
- An internet connection, computer, and other technology
- Meals if you’re traveling to an in-person campus
How Long Does It Take to Get a Medical Assistant Certification?
Some people earn their medical assistant certification in less than six months, while others may take two years or more to sit for and pass the exam. It all comes down to the length of the program you choose, and how long you choose to wait between graduation and sitting for the exam. In general, if you don’t enroll in an associate degree program, you can expect to become a certified medical assistant in a year or less.
Is It Worth Getting a Medical Assistant Certification?
It’s always worth getting certified in any profession you wish to work in. Becoming a certified medical assistant shows potential employers that you care about the health care industry and want to make a difference for patients.
While not all states require medical assistants to be certified or registered, it’s becoming more and more common for clinical institutions to hire only certified professionals. Plus, the process of getting certified will instill essential knowledge and skills, as well as the confidence you need to succeed in a clinical profession.
How Do You Advance Your Career as a Medical Assistant?
Some people happily remain medical assistants for their entire health care career. However, for most people, medical assisting is a stepping stone to a more advanced health care profession. To advance your medical career, you’ll likely need to return to school or pursue additional certifications.
Some common career paths after medical assisting include nursing in the form of a certified nursing assistant or registered nurse or becoming a specialized medical assistant such as podiatric medical assistant (PMAC) or certified ophthalmic assistant (COA). Some medical assistants may decide to keep working in their field as they pursue a bachelor’s degree and apply for medical school.
When researching the best medical assistant certification courses, we looked for several factors, a primary one being institution accreditation. All of the certification courses in this review are accredited by at least one accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or partnered with a recognized professional association. Some accrediting agencies include The Higher Learning Commission, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
We also only chose programs that offer an online learning format, knowing that many students prefer to learn remotely or have to learn remotely due to location restrictions or family obligations. Finally, we made sure to consider the cost of attending each program, knowing that prospective students have different financial situations. Aside from the one university program on our list, all of these medical assistant certification courses cost less than $2,000 in tuition.