Why Penn Foster?

  • Accredited
  • Self-Paced
  • Supportive
  • Low monthly payments

Program Overview

Penn Foster College’s Associate Degree in Medical Assisting is an ABHES-accredited program and will qualify you to work as a medical assistant supporting a physician, and you will be eligible to sit for both the RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) and CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) examinations. Did you know that jobs for medical assistants are expected to increase 29%, much faster than average, in upcoming years?¹

Your accredited online learning program consists of 15 credits of General Studies for Medical Assistants courses and 50 credits (three semesters) of Medical Assistant core courses (65 total credits).

Curriculum Details

General Studies

Basic Skills Assessment

All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

CSC104 Computer Applications 3 credits

This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate popular software tools such as Windows® and Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.
SCI120 Introduction to Biology 3 credits

This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.


  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Essentials of Biology

SSC130 Essentials of Psychology 3 credits

This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about the human development throughout the life span.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Psychology and Your Life

Arts and Humanities Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

HUM102-Art Appreciation

This course will provide you with the foundational knowledge needed to critique a variety of artwork.


  • Understand artistic media.
  • Identify historical periods and artistic movements.
  • Explain the roles of the artist and the viewer

HUM-104-Music Appreciation

This course will allow you to understand and appreciate the art of music.

  • Explain the roles of the composer and the listener.
  • Describe music theory, instrumentation, and historical periods.
  • Distinguish various styles of music.

ENG115-Introduction to Literature

This course will allow you to develop your critical thinking skills and broaden your knowledge of literature.


  • Identify themes and forms of literature.
  • Define the main genres of literature--poetry, fiction, and drama.
ENG100 English Composition 3 credits

This course will allow you to polish and enhance your writing skills.


  • Effectively use free writing and brainstorming.
  • Perfect your ability to edit and revise your writing.
  • Apply techniques for getting the reader’s attention.
  • Write descriptive essays, first-person narratives, reflective essays, persuasive essays, and effective thesis statements.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Textbook: Successful College Writing
  • Supplement: The Little, Brown Essential Handbook
Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 1

HIT100 Introduction to Allied Health 1 credit

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and get an introduction to health care, the health information management industry, and the role that health information technicians play in that industry.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal, including your My Homepage and My Courses pages.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Describe reimbursement systems and the role health information management technicians play in reimbursement.
  • Describe how technology is used in health information management.
  • Discuss different professional organizations and certifications for health information management technicians.
  • Explain the different roles, opportunities, and settings for health information management technicians.
ENG103 Information Literacy 1 credit

Get better at finding and using information!


  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.
HIT105 Law and Ethics in Medicine 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn how law affects medical offices, the origin of law that affects medical professionals, and some basics about the process of litigation and its alternatives.


  • Describe civil and criminal law, sources of law, and the steps of litigation.
  • Distinguish between liability, negligence, and malpractice and explain how they relate to medical assistants.
  • Explain defenses against medical malpractice and against criminal charges.
  • Identify the various ethical issues that health-care professionals face.
  • Explain the uses and content of medical records.
  • Describe the legal significance of confidentiality obligations.
  • Explain the core concepts of HIPAA’s final Privacy Rule.
  • Summarize the role of peer review in confidentiality issues.
  • Describe confidentiality and security issues related to electronic medical records.
  • Describe the public duties of health care professionals and workplace legalities.
  • Define and differentiate living will, health care proxy, DNR orders, and durable power of attorney.
  • Discuss legal and ethical issues at the beginning of life and childhood and those related to death and dying.
  • Describe health-care trends and the future of health-care delivery.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Ethics for Medical Careers

HIT107 Medical Terminology 3 credits

This course covers the medical terms that you will encounter as a medical assistant. You will complete a research project at the end of the course.


  • Define word elements, roots, prefixes, suffixes, combining vowels, and combining forms.
  • Describe the basic rules for building a medical word.
  • Describe the uses and effects of drugs on the body.
  • Distinguish among generic drug names, official drug names, trade names, and chemical names.
  • Identify and spell word elements, names of diagnostic procedures, diagnoses, treatment procedures, and abbreviations related to the integumentary and musculoskeletal systems; cardiovascular system; the blood and lymph system; the respiratory system; the digestive and urinary systems; the reproductive system; the endocrine system; and the nervous system.
  • Define terms related to the psychology and psychiatry fields.
  • Identify and define terms associated with conditions of the eyes and ears.
  • Identify and define terms commonly used on operative reports.
  • Discuss the field of oncology and potential careers in the oncology field.
  • Identify diagnostic procedures related to radiology and nuclear medicine.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Medical Terminology, A Living Language

SCI135 Anatomy and Physiology 1 3 credits

In this course, you’ll begin your study of anatomy and physiology. You’ll learn about general body terms, structures, functions, and processes as well as the skeletal and muscular system. Continue your studies with the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, the senses, and the endocrine system.


  • Define terms referring to location, position, direction, body planes, and sections.
  • Identify and describe the basic anatomical structures and major cavities of the human body.
  • Discuss the process and mechanics of homeostasis.
  • Explain how human anatomy and physiology are related.
  • List and discuss the organizational levels of the human body in order of increasing complexity and explain how these levels are related to each other.
  • Explain the structures, functions, and diseases of the skeletal, muscular, nervous, and endocrine systems in humans.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Body Structures and Functions (with accompanying CD-ROM)

SCI136 Anatomy and Physiology 2 3 credits

This course will cover the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system, immunity, infection control, respiration, digestion, nutrition, the urinary system, the reproductive system, and genetics.


  • Identify and describe the components, functions, and disorders of blood, the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the urinary system, the reproductive system, and genetics.
  • Describe the processes of inflammation and coagulation.
  • Explain the disease mechanisms involved in the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
  • Describe different types of microorganisms.
  • Discuss the body’s defense mechanisms against infection.
  • Identify and describe the functions of water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, trace elements, and vitamins.
  • Explain the principles of healthy nutrition and describe nutritional disorders.
  • Identify and explain the functions of the reproductive system.
  • Describe the disorders of both male and female reproductive systems.
  • Define genetics, mutation, and lethal genes.
  • Describe selected genetic disorders.
  • Explain the potential of genetic engineering.
MAT106 Mathematics for Business and Finance 3 credits

This course will hone your math skills so you are able to successfully use them in business and finance industries.


  • Use percentages, discounts, and interest formulas.
  • Analyze present worth and sinking funds.
  • Understand how to buy in installments and price merchandise.
  • Explain depreciation, insurance, equations, and formulas.
  • Discuss an overview of investments and statistics.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Practical Business Math Procedures

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 2

ALH201 Pharmacology 3 credits

This course offers important information that’s essential for your health-care career. You’ll cover drug classifications, dosage calculations, mechanisms of action, therapeutic effects, and adverse reactions of drugs commonly used in medical offices.


  • Utilize the Physicians’ Desk Reference.
  • Discuss pharmacology basics.
  • Calculate basic pharmacology mathematics and dosages.
  • Explain medication administration.
  • Describe pharmacology for multisystem application.
  • Describe medications related to different body systems.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Pharmacology: Principles and Applications; PDR Nurse’s Drug Handbook

ENG121 Business and Technical Writing 3 credits

This course will cultivate your writing style allowing you to effectively create business compositions, documents, and presentations.


  • Develop sentences and paragraphs.
  • Format memos, letters, and emails.
  • Conduct research and correctly site sources.
  • Use proper grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.
  • Organize and prepare technical and business reports and proposals.
HIT203 Medical Coding 1 3 credits

This course begins with an overview of coding concepts, terms, and procedures. Explore the system that will replace the ICD-9 in late 2013, the ICD-10, and why it’s important to understand the ICD-9 before learning the new system. You’ll learn how to use the CPT manual and Level II National Codes (HCPCS) in general. Learn the codes for anesthesia, general surgery, the integumentary system, the musculoskeletal system, cardiology, obstetrics/gynecology, radiology, pathology, laboratory, and internal medicine.


  • Work directly with the ICD-9-CM manual; look up codes; and use them to create medical reports.
  • Discuss the components of government and private health care payer systems
  • Apply HIPAA regulations.
  • Describe the major components of the ICD-10 system, CPT manual, and Level II HCPCS manual.
  • Analyze key components for and apply Evaluation and Management coding.
  • Use CPT codes to describe procedures involving anesthesia and general surgical treatments.
  • Identify major diagnoses, procedures, and codes for the integumentary system, the musculoskeletal system, cardiology, maternal care and delivery, female genitals, and radiology.
  • Differentiate between types of pathology codes.
  • Differentiate between inpatient and outpatient reporting guidelines.

Additional Course Materials:


  • Step-by-Step Medical Coding
  • ICD-9-CM Manual
  • CPT Manual

Supplement: Transition to ICD-10-CM/PCS

HIT115 Reimbursement Methodologies 3 credits

In this course, you’ll learn about the different insurance types, what rules govern the submission of claims to each type of insurance, and how to manage outgoing claims and incoming reimbursements.


  • Discuss managed care organizations, government insurance, and workers’ compensation plans.
  • Practice correct ICD-9-CM, CPT, HCPCS, and place of service coding techniques.
  • Describe auditing concepts and implement internal auditing.
  • Differentiate between physician and hospital billing concepts.
  • Explain electronic claims submission, payment adjudication, refunds, and appeals.

Additional Course Materials:
Textbook: Comprehensive Health Insurance

HIT207 Medical Transcription 1 3 credits

In this course, you’ll get started with your transcription work by learning how to use the foot pedal and software provided with the course.


  • Operate the transcription hardware and software provided with the course.
  • Identify the types of medical reports you will be transcribing.
  • Transcribe without editing.
  • Proofread your reports after you’re finished and correct any errors.
  • Flag material, if needed.
  • Identify various types of transcription reports.
  • Transcribe reports related to the fields of dermatology, otorhinolaryngology, and ophthalmology.
  • Transcribe reports related to the fields of pulmonary medicine, cardiology, hematology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, urology, nephrology, obstetrics, and gynecology.
  • Transcribe reports related to the fields of orthopedics, neurology, psychiatry, pathology, and radiology.


  • Transcribe practice reports
  • Complete a research project

Additional Course Materials:


  • Medical Transcription Fundamentals and Practice
  • Medical Dictionary


  • HIV/AIDS Awareness
  • Career Development

Learning Aid: Foot pedal and Transcription software

Core Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

HIT109-Confidentiality of Health Information

This course will introduce you to the legal and ethical considerations that affect a medical office.


  • Study the requirements, function, use, and content of medical records and rules pertaining to security and destruction.
  • Summarize who has the right of access to health information and the legal basis for the right.

HIT204-Medical Coding 2

In this course, you'll learn about general coding guidelines for inpatient and outpatient procedures and physician office coding using ICD-9-CM, HCPCS Level I, and HCPS Level II procedure coding.


  • Identify diagnoses and procedures contained on medical reports.
  • Discuss HCPCS procedural coding for different settings.

Additional Course Materials:


  • Clinical Coding Workout
  • ICD-9-CM Manual
  • CPT Manual

NTR203-Sports Nutrition

Learn the essential knowledge and skills about sports nutrition.


  • Discuss the latest research and information on caloric needs.
  • Create and manage a dietetic regiment for optimizing performance.
Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 3

SCI140 Nutrition 3 credits

This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.


  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Nutrition for Life

HUM106 Interpersonal Communication 1 credit

Learn how to improve your use of words, gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions, listening skills, and overall physical appearance to better communicate your message. This course is designed to help you develop professional relationships in the workplace.


  • Understand and explain the components of communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
  • Develop effective listening and observation skills.
  • Recognize prejudice in interpersonal relations.
  • Describe personal traits essential for successful interpersonal relations.
HIT130 Electronic Medical Records 3 credits

In this course, you’ll be introduced to billing cycles and how health information technology is used in medical offices. You’ll also learn about basic accounting transaction terminology and apply this information to enter patient charges and payments.


  • Review the medical billing cycle.
  • Explain how computers are used for medical billing.
  • Use Medisoft software to perform medical office procedures.
  • Perform charge and payment transactions for patient services.
  • Post payments.
  • Create standard reports, collection letters, and reminders.
  • Set up patient appointments, input office hours, and create schedules.

Additional Course Materials:

Textbook: Computers in the Medical Office

Software: Medisoft®

ALH210 Clinical Procedures Theory 3 credits

This course is designed to introduce you to clinical procedures and equipment as well as disease prevention and common medications.


  • Describe the role of pathogenic organisms in disease—how they grow, infect people, and get transmitted from one person to another.
  • Outline the steps that must be taken to control and prevent infection, in compliance with existing regulations.
  • List and explain procedures used in patient assessment and examination.
  • Specify the normal ranges for vital signs.
  • Name and describe a wide range of diagnostic tests commonly used in medical offices and clinical laboratories, and tell how a patient should be instructed concerning preparation for each one.
  • Describe the equipment used to perform and procedures for the more common treatments.
  • Name the major drug or medication categories and specify the different ways in which the medications may be administered.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Clinical Medical Assisting

MAS205 Clinical Procedures Lab 1 credit

In this lab, you’ll be initiated into the clinical aspects of medical assisting. Demonstrate competencies in each clinical skill by videotaping or attending another college. Each skill must be successfully demonstrated and approved by Penn Foster faculty in order to earn credit for the course and advancement to the externship.


  • Sterilize and disinfect equipment and yourself.
  • Measure vital signs.
  • Complete a basic screening exam.
  • Document medical records.
  • Review complete medical history.

Additional Course Material:
Learning Aid: Clinical Skills Kit

Note that all costs associated with the Clinical Procedures Lab course are not included in the tuition.

MAS220 Externship 4 credits

When you complete all the academic courses and the clinical procedures lab, you’ll intern in a health-care setting, either a family practice or a clinic. Use your knowledge and skills derived from the medical assistant program.


  • Demonstrate competencies in the areas of clinical, administrative, and general medical assisting.


  • Students must locate a site for this externship with guidelines provided by the college.
  • All costs associated with this externship are the responsibility of the student.
  • Obtain professional liability insurance.
  • Provide proof of health insurance coverage.
  • Complete a health verification form.
  • Become CPR certified prior to the start of the externship.
  • Engage in weekly discussions with a faculty member during your externship and the externship supervisors to measure progress.
  • Complete 200 hours.
Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

You will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. You will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows® 7 or later, Microsoft® Office 2013, and an email account to complete your program with Penn Foster.

Graduation Requirements

  • Complete the General Studies for Medical Assistants courses and all 3 semesters of Medical Assistant core courses.
  • Pass all courses.
  • Achieve a cumulative Quality Point Average (QPA) of 2.0 or higher.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.
Although this outline covers the General Studies for Medical Assistants courses and all three semesters of your program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.
Credits earned in Penn Foster programs may transfer to some, but not all, learning institutions. If you are planning to continue your education with another school after you earn your degree from Penn Foster, you should check with that school regarding credit transfer policies
This program requires the student to complete an externship in Semester 3. Students will be required to obtain professional liability insurance, health insurance, and complete a health verification form prior to the start of their externship. All costs associated with this externship are the responsibility of the student. Students are expected to complete a minimum of 200 hours of practice. It is the responsibility of the student to secure a site for the field placement(s).
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Residents of Minnesota will receive the Associate of Applied Science upon completing this program.
Microsoft, Windows, Excel, PowerPoint, and Vista are registered trademarks and Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Medisoft is a registered trademark of McKesson Corporation in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a Medical Assistant sample lesson, click here.

Medical Assistant Program Details

Penn Foster will help you gain the knowledge and skills you need:

  • Record patient histories and process billing information
  • Schedule patient appointments and manage electronic health records
  • Help the physician with patient examinations

¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook," 2014-15 Edition, Medical Assistants, on the Internet here (visited March 18, 2014).

This program requires the student to complete an externship in Semester 3. Students will be required to obtain professional liability insurance, health insurance, and complete a health verification form prior to the start of their externship. All costs associated with this externship are the responsibility of the student. Students are expected to complete a minimum of 200 hours of practice. It is the responsibility of the student to secure a site for the field placement(s).

Medical Assistants schedule patient appointments, measure patient vital signs, and manage health records in hospitals, insurance companies, or for government agencies. Here are a few qualities that effective medical assistants have in common:

  • Sociable: Spending time with others is fun and rewarding.
  • Detail oriented: It’s important to have a sharp eye and check things twice.
  • Friendly: You make others feel welcome and relaxed in potentially stressful situations.
  • Reliable: Patients and doctors can rely on you to work hard and perform consistently.

After working as a medical assistant for years, I decided to earn my degree at Penn Foster College. It was a personal achievement that I felt I needed and after my employer found out, I received a nice raise! The personal fulfillment and professional reward in finishing school far exceeds anything else you can possibly do! You will not regret it. Penn Foster revolves around all of your other responsibilities so there's no excuse! Day or night, you can study on your time to achieve your goals. Penn Foster was my dream school come true. I'm so glad I started and so proud to have completed my degree! Penn Foster has given me the motivation to successfully complete two programs, given me a significant pay increase, and now I'm registering for nursing school. Let Penn Foster show you just how much of a success you can be! Penn Foster is challenging and in return, it's highly rewarding. Talk about an ego boost.

- Tayha C., Medical Assistant graduate

Having a degree will increase my chances of being put at the top of the promotion list. I suggest Penn Foster programs all of the time to my coworkers. I am in the military, and Penn Foster is a very military-friendly school. I got all of my materials shipped to me while I was overseas for deployment.

- Amy G., Penn Foster College graduate

After earning my degree I received a pay increase and a promotion to a supervisor position. The instructors are superb, helpful, and are there with you every step of the way. Also, the student services representatives are courteous and understanding; they are there to answer any questions you may have. After each assignment I completed, the staff of Penn Foster always had encouraging statements that helped me to stay on course. Congrats to Penn Foster College on being the best and bringing the best out of me.

- Shawn C., Penn Foster College graduate

We make sure you have everything you need:

  • Graduate debt free with 0% interest
  • 15% discount on all Ren-Lor stethoscopes - look for the Penn Foster stethoscope under the Colleges section!
  • Books and learning aids, including Medisoft® software, transcription software and control foot pedals, Venitech IV Trainer, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and video camera
  • Study Planner App to customize your study plans and keep track of your progress
  • Instructional support from our world-class faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online campus, plus immediate membership in the Medical Assistant academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

What certifications are available to students of the Medical Assistant Associate Degree Program at Penn Foster?

You’ll be eligible to sit for both the RMA (Registered Medical Assistant) and CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) examinations.

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