Online Medical Office Administration Associate Degree

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Medical office administration encompasses all managerial and support workers who provide patients and medical staff with administrative services. Graduates of an online associate degree in medical office administration work in hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices, and dental offices. Specific occupation titles vary — records and billing clerks, receptionists, office managers, administrative assistants — but daily activities typically include greeting patients, answering phones, managing records, scheduling appointments, and handling insurance filing and billing.

According to PayScale data, entry-level employees in the medical office administration field can expect to earn about $30,000-$36,000 annually, depending on their specific job duties and location. Managerial positions fetch an average of $50,000 annually.

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show varied amounts of job growth for medical office administration careers between 2016-2026. For example, expected national growth for information clerks sits at a slower-than-average 3% rate, compared to data for health information technicians, which projects a faster-than-average 13% national growth rate. Individual job outlooks further depend upon job seekers' locations, local employer needs, and competition. Graduates can rest assured, however, that as long as medical offices remain a societal necessity, so too will qualified medical administration employees.

Earning Your Associate in Medical Office Administration Online

When it comes to earning a college education, the advent of online learning has changed the game entirely. Today, students of all ages and backgrounds earn accredited degrees without ever stepping foot on a college campus. Many online schools use asynchronous learning to enhance program flexibility. In this format, students never need to attend class on set dates or at set times; they access class lectures and course materials at their own convenience. This format benefits working professionals and individuals with children and families.

Along with added flexibility, online learning offers affordability. While tuition costs remain comparable to on-campus classes, online students save money by avoiding commutes and on-campus housing. While a majority of course components allow for 100% virtual attendance, select online associate degrees in medical office administration may require limited on-site participation and travel for proctored exams at testing centers and/or medical office internships.

How Long Does It Take to Earn Your Medical Office Administration Associate Degree Online?

An online associate degree in medical office administration typically consists of 62-76 credits of coursework, depending on individual school requirements. The length of time required to earn your diploma depends largely on how many classes you take each term. Full-time enrollment, or about 12 credits per term, typically results in associate degree completion in two academic years; if a program offers summer classes, a full-time student can finish even faster. Part-time enrollment can stretch the timeline out to 5-6 years if a student takes only 1-2 courses at a time.

Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Medical Office Administration

As a rule, associate degree admissions policies require prospective students to meet a few basic standards. All college applicants must possess either a high school diploma or the equivalent GED credential. For schools with an open admissions or "open door" policy — most common with community colleges and technical schools — proof of a high school education alone makes an applicant eligible for enrollment.

Other institutions typically require a minimum GPA of 2.0-3.0 as well as the submission of recent scores from the ACT or SAT. Depending on school policy, transfer students and some nontraditional students may be able to obtain a waiver for the standardized test score requirement.

Along with a completed application, be prepared to supply hard and/or digital copies of your high school and college transcripts, if applicable. Associate degree programs rarely require the submission of letters of recommendation, essays, or resumes.

Courses in an Online Associate in Medical Office Administration Program

Medical office administration spans multiple careers and healthcare settings. Students must partake in an intensive, interdisciplinary degree plan to prepare for all occupational possibilities after graduation. General education and major core courses develop skills in analytical and critical thinking, interpersonal communication and customer service, general office procedures, and administrative tasks specific to medical offices. Review a list of sample courses below, keeping in mind that specific course titles and content may vary from school to school.

  • Medical Terminology: Typically divided into two consecutive courses, students develop an understanding of common medical terminology through the study of prefixes, suffixes, and word roots as used in the language of medicine. Students learn to pronounce, spell, and define words relating to anatomy, physiology, disorders, conditions, and treatments.

  • Medical Legal Issues: This vital course introduces students to the complex set of legal, moral, and ethical issues involved in providing healthcare services. Topics include legal requirements of medical offices, the doctor-patient relationship, professional liability, and medical practice liability. Students develop a working knowledge of medical law and acceptable ethical behavior.

  • Medical Insurance and Billing: This course focuses on common, specialized tasks in medical office administration, such as medical coding concepts, third-party payers, and form preparation. Students learn how to file a medical insurance claim and develop an acute understanding of the claim life cycle.

  • Keyboarding: Through a combination of study and hands-on assignments at the computer, students in this course develop skills in keyboarding — useful in office administration jobs and beyond. Coursework emphasizes use of the touch system to foster correct techniques, increased accuracy, and gradual development of typing speed.

  • Customer Service: This course introduces students to the fundamentals of general customer service and customer service in the context of healthcare. Topics include responding to complex customer requests, dealing with difficult or angry customers, rephrasing communication for best results, and discussing complex issues like insurance and billing with patients and other medical staff.

Job and Salary Outlook for Online Associate in Medical Office Administration Graduates

Graduates of an online associate degree in medical office administration may find work in any healthcare facility, including hospitals, doctor's offices, dental offices, and clinics. Depending on the needs of an employer, entry-level careers may focus primarily on general office procedures, or they may involve more specialized tasks, such as medical coding or insurance billing. Successful medical office administrators possess excellent problem-solving skills, enjoy helping others, and understand the importance of following set policies and procedures.

General Office Clerk

Median Salary: $32,700

General office clerks perform multiple administrative tasks in an office environment, including receiving customers, answering phones, and filing records. An associate degree in medical office administration provides job candidates with the knowledge and skills required to keep up with the changing, daily needs of employers and patients alike.

Information Clerk

Median Salary: $34,500

In a healthcare setting, information clerks complete clerical tasks to manage patient medical records. Duties may include compiling, evaluating, coding, and organizing. Medical information clerks utilize multiple classification systems and storage and retrieval systems to complete their work. An associate degree prepares graduates for these complex entry-level responsibilities.

Medical Transcriptionist

Median Salary: $34,700

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings of physicians and other medical staff in order to convert them into typewritten reports. Transcriptionists may also review and edit reports created using voice recognition software. An associate degree prepares graduates to decipher medical terminology and understand the legal and ethical issues of healthcare documentation.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Accreditation for a Medical Office Administration Degree Online Program

Long before hitting "submit" on the application to a medical administration associate degree online, students should take the time to ensure their school of choice has been properly accredited. Accreditation acts as a form of quality assurance, where a school's policies, budgets, faculty, curriculum, student resources, and facilities undergo vetting and evaluation by an independent third-party organization or association. Accreditation confirms your prospective institution and program both meet rigorous standards, thereby ensuring the real-world value of a conferred diploma.

Schools may elect to pursue either national or regional accreditation. Both accreditation forms ensure a legitimate and high-quality education as well as ensure your ability to apply for federal financial aid, but there are a few important distinctions between the two. Regional accreditation remains the most prestigious and popular option, common with public, liberal arts schools and universities. National accreditation organizations often focus on career/technical schools and smaller, private colleges. Regionally accredited institutions typically do not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited institutions, and vice versa; associate degree students who anticipate transferring to a bachelor's program in the future ought to keep this difference in mind.

Online Associate in Medical Office Administration Scholarships

Associate programs are the most economical college degrees available in the U.S., with a smaller number of required credits and more affordable tuition rates at community colleges and technical schools. Loans, grants, and scholarships can help defray upfront, out-of-pocket education costs even further. Students pursuing a medical administration associate degree online can seek out scholarships through their school, employer, third-party organizations, company foundations, and funds put together by private citizens.