Medical office administration is a multi-disciplinary field involving various aspects such as accounting, business management, and healthcare. Besides physicians and nurses, healthcare institutions need support staff like medical office managers to ensure smooth daily operations. Those interested in this career have the option to attend the best online certificate program in Medical Office Administration as they continue their commitments at work or at home.
The fields covered by certificate programs represent different subfields within medical office administration. These programs teach students how to run a successful small medical practice. They also prepare them for working in a hospital environment or as an independent physician’s assistant (PA) or nurse’s aide. Therefore, they are perfect if you want to become specialized in a particular aspect of the field.
This guide aims to provide in-depth information on online certificates in medical office administration, including admission requirements and associated costs, to help students interested in this program. Courses commonly offered in these certificates are also discussed in the sections below.
With the popularity of certificate programs in health professions, it’s safe to say that you can pursue online medical office administration certification programs completely online. Many colleges and universities, including Purdue University, Ashworth College, and Liberty University, offer online medical office administration certificates and similar programs.
Recent educational trends, supported by the evolution of educational technology, have led to the growing popularity of online degrees and programs. Many colleges and universities now offer a wide variety of online programs, with 72% of educational providers and faculty members saying that they offer online courses due to employment demand for specific knowledge and skills.
Moreover, the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate the popularity of certificate programs in health professions. According to the data, a total of 51,000 certificates were conferred in medical assisting and related programs in 2019. This figure includes programs with curricula lasting less than a year and programs with curricula lasting one to four years.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Yes, it’s safe to say that employers will consider your online degree acceptable. Employers’ perceptions of online degrees have changed substantially in the past decade. In 2009, a literature review found that human resource managers and executives had a negative perception of online degrees (Haynie, 2013). However, by 2018, 61% of HR leaders believed that degrees and other educational credentials earned online are of the same quality as those earned in-person (Gallagher, 2018).
Online degrees and courses have started to lose their stigma. This improved perception may be due to the widespread adoption of online learning (Jones, 2020). Despite the popularity of online degrees, factors such as accreditation and an institution’s reputation can affect how these programs are perceived.
Similar to medical coding programs, online medical office administration certification programs train students to handle the day-to-day administrative tasks of medical clinics, practices, and hospitals. These tasks include processing patient information, organizing patient records, and managing appointments. Given the nature of these responsibilities, coursework for these online degree programs covers skills in general keyboarding and data entry as well as basic medical terminology.
Online and traditional certificate programs in medical office administration usually have the same curriculum. However, there are significant differences between pursuing these programs online and in person.
An online degree or certificate program tends to offer a different learning experience compared to an on-campus degree. With online degree courses, students log into online portals or other special software to access course materials, such as recorded lectures and audio (Obringer, n.d.). Students also use email, chat, and forums to communicate with peers and professors and submit assignments and other requirements.
Given the lack of in-person interactions involved in pursuing an online program, these degree programs may be more suited to individuals who value independence in learning (TCI, 2019). According to a 2018 study, online education also encouraged more favorable group dynamics, lowering overall anxiety (Purdue University Global, 2018).
While on-campus programs tend to follow synchronous learning methods, online degree programs are usually asynchronous in nature. With asynchronous learning, classes don’t follow set schedules. Instead, students can access course materials and complete assignments and tests on their own time (eLearners, 2017). In many cases, instructors also set up learning paths to provide some structure to asynchronous educational programs (Finol, 2020).
Due to their asynchronous nature, online programs usually offer more flexible schedules to students. Classes don’t have a set schedule, so students can watch lectures whenever they have the time. This flexibility is beneficial to students who have to split their time between coursework, family time, and work responsibilities.
To accommodate students’ busy schedules even further, many universities and colleges also offer multiple start dates for these certificate programs. Purdue University Global, for instance, offers its Medical Office Administration Certificate program in September, December, March, May, August, and October (Purdue University Global, n.d.).
Unlike on-campus programs that follow a set academic calendar, a student’s chosen schedule determines the time it takes to complete an online program. These online programs may take longer to complete if a student enrolls in one or two courses at a time.
Completion times may also depend on the credit requirement of a specific online certificate in medical office administration. Some programs require up to 50 credits, with full-time students taking approximately a year to complete the credit requirement.
While online tuition rates tend to vary across institutions, these rates are typically lower compared to on-campus tuition fees (Lopez, 2021). Online students also deal with lower educational costs because they don’t have to spend money on transportation and housing. Indeed, according to Learning House’s Online College Students 2020 report, 51% of students choose an online program because of its affordability.
Since online and on-campus academic programs typically follow the same curriculum, you can rest assured that an online certificate program in medical office administration is just as good as its on-campus counterpart. However, it’s best to check the accreditation of an institution and the program itself to ensure the academic quality of the curriculum.
Source: Wiley Education Services
The costs of an online certificate program in medical office administration depend on factors such as the number of credits required for completion and out-of-state tuition rates. Technology fees and expenses for books and supplies can further increase the costs of pursuing this online program.
A student’s choice of an institution also significantly affects how much it costs to pursue these online programs, especially since the program is offered by many universities, colleges, and community colleges. For instance, pursuing this program at Purdue University Global costs an estimated $21,147 per year, while enrolling in a similar program at Surry Community College costs $5,288.
For individuals looking to get on the fast track to a working in the healthcare industry, an online certificate program in medical office administration may prove to be a worthwhile pursuit. Enrolling in this program can also be an asset to people who want to achieve certification as medical administrative assistants. Pairing this program with certificate programs in Medical Billing & Coding builds a stronger career foundation.
Moreover, the positive job outlook associated with healthcare occupations makes this program a great option for stable employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare support occupations will grow at a rate of 14% from 2019 to 2029.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Most online diploma and certificate programs in medical office administration are at the undergraduate level, so these tend to have fewer requirements than other online programs. Though admission requirements vary across institutions, general admission requirements include proof of high school graduation (high school diploma or GED certificate, high school transcripts, and college transcripts, if applicable.
Depending on where you live and when you graduated high school, you may also be required to take tests for academic placement and residency determination. For instance, if you graduated more than 10 years ago and want to apply to a college in North Carolina, you must take the Reinforced Instruction for Student Excellence (RISE) placement test. The RISE placement test determines a student’s readiness for college-level courses (Gaston College, n.d.).
Given the nature of online education, students must be comfortable with using technology such as computers and the Internet to succeed. With a computer and a stable, high-speed Internet connection, students can access online portals or virtual classrooms and access course materials.
Additional hardware can also help students navigate online certificate programs more smoothly. Speakers and headphones help students make the most of recorded lectures. Meanwhile, webcams allow for more efficient communication with peers and professors.
Understandably, technology also plays an important role in student satisfaction with online learning. An article published in Medical Education Online in 2021 explored factors that affected students’ and faculty members’ satisfaction with online learning. In the said article, titled “Satisfaction with online learning in the new normal: Perspective of students and faculty at medical and health sciences colleges,” Elshami et al. found that students’ satisfaction with technology directly affected how they viewed online learning.
Elshami et al. (2021) discovered that “students’ overall satisfaction correlated with technology satisfaction, and the most reported area of dissatisfaction was related to accessibility and availability of the instructor. In the current study, one-third of students were also dissatisfied with the amount of time taken to download resources. Many authors have reported that technical difficulties could lead to an ineffective learning experience, even using the best-designed online course.”
Courses to expect from an online certificate program in medical office administration typically vary depending on the institution. Some of these certificate programs also offer specializations, each of which offers its own areas of study.
Below are some courses commonly found in the curriculum of online certificate programs in medical office administrations.
With improving perceptions of online degrees, more universities and colleges are starting to offer online degree and certificate programs. If you’re interested in pursuing an online certificate program in medical office administration, consider the following factors to help you make the right choice.
Reputation can prove to be an important factor to judge schools by. Universities and colleges put effort into building a solid, good reputation, so you can most likely trust the academic quality of the curricula of these schools, especially those that have existed for decades. Moreover, according to the survey Educational Credentials Come of Age, 58% of HR leaders believe that the value of an educational credential is determined mainly by the issuing institution’s reputation or brand (Gallagher, 2018).
Accreditation is another indicator of the quality of an online program’s curriculum. A school gains accreditation only when its academic programs have been vetted for rigorousness, quality, and adherence to educational standards (Center for Online Education, n.d.). Accredited institutions may also offer a faster track to graduation, especially since institutions with regional accreditation accept the transfer of credits from similarly accredited schools.
Moreover, only students enrolled in accredited institutions can qualify for financial aid from the federal government.
While online programs are typically more affordable than their on-campus counterparts, there are various fees that can boost the costs of pursuing an online program. Some additional fees you can expect when paying for your online certificate are application fees and technology fees. Technology fees are often used to offset the costs of the hardware and software schools need for online instruction (Top Ten Online Colleges, n.d.).
Students of online programs often have the same financial aid options as on-campus students. This is especially true for students who are enrolled at accredited institutions. A student’s state of residency may also determine one’s eligibility for certain types of financial aid (Kerr, 2021). Aside from loans, students can also benefit from federal work-study programs.
Many colleges offering online certificate programs in medical office administration also provide payment plans to students. For instance, Wayne Community College offers payment plans where students can spread program costs over as many as three payments (Wayne Community College, n.d.).
Source: Educational Credentials Come of Age
An online certificate program in medical office administration is a great choice for individuals interested in a stable job in healthcare support. Many colleges and universities in the country offer these online programs, so it shouldn’t be hard to find an institution or program that suits your needs.
Before you enroll in a certificate program, though, it’s best to check the institution’s reputation and accreditation. This way, you can make sure that you’ll be getting a quality education and that you can file for federal financial aid if needed. If you’re interested in similar programs, you can check out our guide on healthcare administration degrees.
Of course, the medical field offers other opportunities aside from medical office administration. If you have a talent for coding, for example, you can combine two disciplines with an online medical coding training program.
Once in the workforce, you may find acquiring a formal bachelor’s or higher majors to your advantage. As it stands now, it’s easier to accomplish this via online. Specifically, you will find various online bachelor’s and online master’s degree programs to suit your needs.