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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

What to Look for in an Online Medical Assisting Program in California

December 21, 2016

Online medical assistant training programs Do you want to prepare for an exciting job in health care but don’t have the time to go back to school? You can now train to become a medical assistant online, which means you can flexibly train for a new career while still having your busy life at work and at home. But with so many online medical assisting programs to choose from, how do you know which one is the best?

As with many things in life, shopping around is the best way to find an online medical assisting program that meets your needs and will best prepare you to work in the field. While you research different online medical assisting programs in California, here are some important things to keep in mind and ask about.


One of the most important things to look for in any medical assisting program is an endorsement by a recognized accrediting body. Accreditation recognizes institutions of higher learning that meet or exceed standards of quality, competency and credibility in education. Some employers prefer to hire medical assistants who graduate from accredited institutions, and accreditation gives students a better chance of being able to transfer credits in the future.

Questions to ask:

  • Is this school accredited?
  • What is the name of the accrediting body?
  • Is the accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education?

Program Outcomes

Not all medical assisting programs are the same, and not all programs will prepare you to do the same job. Other important factors to consider when researching online medical assisting programs are the learning outcomes. In other words, what will you learn to do? Medical assisting can be a combination of clinical and administrative duties, so it’s important that you know the specific topics you’ll study and what specific skills you’ll learn.

Questions to ask:

  • What are the program’s clinical and administrative learning outcomes?
  • What real-world medical assistant job skills will I be able to demonstrate after graduating?
  • What certification examinations will I be eligible to take once I graduate?

How Long Does it Take to Finish a Medical Assisting Program?

Compared to some other entry-level healthcare jobs, medical assisting is one of the fastest to get in to. Still, some online programs take longer than others to complete. If your goal is to train for a new career fast, it’s important that you understand how long it will take to finish before you sign up for an online medical assisting program.

Questions to ask:

  • What is the average length of this program?
  • How many classes can I take at a time?

Certification Eligibility

Although medical assistants are not required to be certified, there are a lot of very good reasons to become certified. For example, certified medical assistants have better career prospects than non-certified MAs since certification is required to teach others. Some employers also prefer to hire certified medical assistants over their non-certified peers. If you want to give yourself a competitive advantage after you graduate and start looking for work, make sure you will be eligible to sit for a medical assistant certification exam.

Questions to ask:

  • What exams, if any, will I be eligible to sit for after I complete this program?
  • Is exam prep included in the curriculum, or will I need to prepare on my own?
  • Does the school pay for me to take a certification exam?

Brick-and-Mortar Campuses

Online medical assisting programs offer busy students the flexibility and convenience they need without putting their lives on hold, but the ability to attend a brick-and-mortar campus for additional hands-on training or face-to-face conversations with advisors and teachers can be extremely beneficial. It shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker if an institution only exists online, but it’s definitely a big advantage if the school offering the medical assistant program has ground campus locations in your area.

Questions to ask:

  • Does this school have ground campuses?
  • If so, how close is the nearest location?
  • Am I able (or required) to attend campus for training, lectures, meetings, etc.?

If you’re interested in training to become a medical assistant, San Joaquin Valley College offers a 9-month online Certificate-level Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program. Request more information or call toll-free 866-544-7898 to learn more.

Medical assisting is an exciting and rewarding entry-level healthcare career. To help you decide if this is the right path for you, SJVC created a free guide outlining the roles and responsibilities of a medical assistant. Download your guide to learn what medical assistants do, why they are in demand, and how you can become one.

Get Your Guide: What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Related Articles:

Is it Hard to be a Medical Assistant?

Do Medical Assistants Need to be Certified to Work in California?

Medical Assistant VS Nursing Assistant: What’s the Difference?

Medical Assistant Skills and Abilities Checklist

How To Become a Medical Assistant Online

Learn More About Medical Assisting

How to become a medical assistant and more is available in our free guide.

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