Medical Assistant Online Program Curriculum | Penn Foster College
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Medical Assistant Degree Curriculum Details

Your four semester Medical Assistant Associate Degree curriculum consists of courses and labs covering healthcare fundamentals such as clinical procedures, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and more!

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

To provide students with the concepts and skills to gain employment in an outpatient setting. Students will be prepared to perform administrative and clinical duties under the direction of a physician, mid-level provider, or licensed nurse.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to...
  • Demonstrate a high-level of proficiency in analytical, quantitative, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills using correct medical terminology
  • Discuss elements of the liberal arts and social sciences as they relate to human behavior and expression
  • Explain the role, responsibilities, scope of practice, standards of care, and credentials of medical assistants
  • Using correct terminology, differentiate among the structures and their functions within the six levels of structural organization of the human body
  • Explain the importance of diet and nutrition including the elements of a proper diet, nutrition guidelines, and options for patients that require special diets or diet modifications
  • Identify etiology, processes, symptoms, and treatments for common diseases
  • Apply ethical standards and legal responsibilities, including those related to the confidentiality of personal health information, to patient care
  • Perform clinical and laboratory procedures applicable to the role of medical assistant in medical office and laboratory settings
  • Perform administrative duties applicable to the role of a medical assistant in medical office and laboratory settings

Semester 1

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.

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program. This course gives an introduction to health care, the health care industry, and the roles that health care workers play in that industry.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites
  • Compare the professional roles of health care workers within various health care agencies
  • Distinguish government (public) and private health insurance plans
  • Identify methods to communicate within the health care field
  • Explain the scope of practice as it applies to various roles in the health care field
  • Identify safe practice as it relates to the role of a health care worker
  • List methods for including others in patient care
  • Describe the proper legal and ethical behaviors of a health care worker
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.
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.

Get the skills and techniques you need to develop, draft, and revise college-level essays.


  • Identify your purpose and audience. Read actively and critically.
  • Edit for standard written conventions.
  • Submit three essays (process analysis, classification and division, and argumentation) and a course journal.

Additional Course Material
Textbook: Successful College Writing

In this course, you’ll learn how law affects medical offices, the origin of law that affects medical professionals, the basics of the process of litigation and its alternatives, the common-law basis for the confidentiality of health-care information, and the laws regulating health-care information collected and maintained by government agencies.


  • 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 professionals
  • Explain the impact of healthcare legislation changes on medical professionals
  • Explain defenses against medical malpractice and criminal charges
  • Identify the various ethical issues that medical 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
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.


  • Identify word parts and write medical terms accurately
  • Utilize suffixes to build medical terminologies related to surgical procedures, medical conditions, specialists, and specialties
  • Recognize and use prefixes in writing medical terms
  • Distinguish and analyze medical terms associated with the digestive system
  • Identify and be familiar with medical terminologies pertaining to the integumentary system

Textbook: Medical Terminology 8th edition

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

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.

Textbook: Nutrition for Life

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.

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

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.
(Choose one) ...

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 the main genres of literature — fiction, poetry, and drama.


  • Explain how to effectively read fiction for both knowledge and enjoyment
  • Identify different styles and forms of poetry
  • Use what you've learned in this course to discuss, write about, and understand literature
  • Prepare a critical interpretation of fiction or poetry based on what you've learned in this course
  • Discuss how literary dramas differ from fiction and poetry
  • Identify different strategies of critical literary analysis
This course provides an introduction to the various methods of organizing material for a professional setting. Students will compose business documents using the ABC method. These include memos, emails, outlines, reports and proposals, descriptions, and organizing materials. Students also work on honing their grammar skills.


  • Describe the basics of the writing process and the ABC method of organizing material for a document
  • Identify the parts of speech in a sentence
  • Demonstrate correct pronoun use
  • Choose proper and effective words for writing documents
  • Identify the elements of a well-written sentence
  • Demonstrate how to use length, directness, emphasis, and variety to craft impactful sentences
  • Explain how to construct a coherent paragraph
  • Describe how to write an effective cover letter and resume
  • Format and write an interoffice memorandum, a routine business letter, and an effective email
  • Identify the different ways to write for blogs, the Internet, and social media
  • Describe how to create an organized formal outline
  • Identify the types of research and methods of documentation used in business and technical writing
  • Explain how to create visual interest and clarity in reports with illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, and overall design
  • Explain the purpose and importance of various types of informal reports
  • Describe the nature of formal reports and identify their components
  • Differentiate among external, internal, informal, and formal proposals
  • Describe an object or a process and prepare a set of instructions
  • Describe the preparation and submission of professional and technical articles and manuals
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.
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

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.


  • Define job descriptions pertaining to a position and options for certification
  • Understand managed care, insurance coverage, key elements of contracts, ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS, CPT, and HCPCS coding
  • Describe government billing guidelines, Medicaid benefits, and TRICARE eligibility
  • Explain what filing a medical claim entails as well as reimbursement follow-up and workers’compensation

Textbook: Comprehensive Health Insurance

The course begins with an overview of coding concepts, terms, and procedures. It explores the system that replaced the ICD-9 in October 2015, the ICD-10. Students will code diagnoses using ICD-10-CM and will code procedures uisng ICD-10-PCS. Students will also learn about general coding guidelines for inpatient and outpatient procedures and physician office coding using ICD-10-CM, HCPCS Level I, and HCPCS Level II procedure coding.


  • Describe the purpose of coding and the documentation used in coding
  • Assign the equivalent ICD-10 codes using the ICD-10 coding manual
  • Assign ICD-10-PCS codes in appropriate coding situations
  • Assign codes for services and procedures using CPT and HCPCS Level II
  • Describe the relationship between HCPCS Level I and HCPCS Level II
  • Outline the types of services and procedures described in the CPT
  • Describe the types of patients seen in the outpatient setting


  • Step-By-Step Medical Coding
  • ICD-10-CM
  • CPT
  • HCPCS Level II

Learning Aid: Certification Test Prep

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.


  • Discuss the history of electronic health records
  • Perform administrative health information management functions
  • Build an electronic health record
  • Enter information into an electronic health record
  • Utilize templates to increase productivity

Textbook: The Electronic Health Record for the Physician's Office with SimChart for the Medical Office

Simulation: SimChart for the Medical Office

Learning Aid: Certification Test Prep

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.

Textbook: Psychology and Your Life

This course introduces basic algebraic concepts that you’ll need to be successful in your career.


  • Understand the systems of equations, polynomials, and radicals.
  • Factor polynomial expressions.
  • Simplify rational expressions.

Textbook: Intermediate Algebra

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 4

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.


  • Apply pharmacological and mathematical principles in medication calculations
  • Explain drug classifications and the effects of each
  • Describe drug therapies used to treat endocrine, circulatory, and cardiac problems
  • Explain drug therapies used to treat respiratory and gastrointestinal systems problems
  • Describe drug therapies used to treat nervous system and psychiatric problems
  • Explain drug therapies used to treat the musculoskeletal and reproductive systems problems

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

In this course, you'll learn about the theoretical principles and clinical skills that are essential to working as a medical assistant. These tasks range from such things as greeting patients and getting information from them to administering injectable medication to patient teaching on various specialty procedures and their plan of care.


  • Identify the essential skills used in medical assisting
  • Explain therapeutic communication, vital signs, and other skills needed for successful patient interactions
  • Describe the procedures used when assisting with medication
  • Identify essential diagnostic procedures and the skills needed to do them
  • Explain the procedures used when analyzing blood and urine

Textbook: Kinn's: The Clincal Medical Assistant

In this course, you'll learn about assisting doctors and other healthcare professionals within an ambulatory care setting. You'll examine the role of a medical assistant within the major specialty areas and while helping with minor surgical procedures.


  • Describe the procedures used when assisting in ophthalmology, otolaryngology, dermatology, and gastroenterology
  • Describe the procedures used when assisting in urology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and orthopedic medicine
  • Describe the procedures used when assisting in neurology, endocrinology, pulmonary medicine, cardiology, and geriatrics
  • Describe the instruments and procedures used when assisting with minor surgeries

Textbook: Kinn's: The Clincal Medical Assistant

In this course, you’ll gain simulated and practical experience to develop the skills that you’ll need for your clinical externship as a medical assistant. You’ll receive a clinical skills kit that will allow you to perform the hands-on training for required skill sets. You will demonstrate competencies in each clinical skill by recording yourself performing the skill, or by performing the skill under the supervision of an approved proctor. Each skill must be successfully demonstrated and approved by a Penn Foster instructor in order to earn credit for the course and advance to the externship. All costs associated with this course are the responsibility of the student. These costs are not included in the tuition.


  • Measure blood pressure, a radial and apical pulse, and respiratory rate, as well as an oral temperature using a digital thermometer
  • Identify and locate pulse sites
  • Don and remove sterile gloves and personal protective equipment
  • Demonstrate aseptic hand washing
  • Withdraw medications from a vial
  • Identify and locate intramuscular and subcutaneous injection sites
  • Administer oral medications
  • Sterilize and disinfest surfaces and equipment
  • Recognize appropriate site placement for EKG leads
  • Identify veins for venipuncture
  • Collect a sputum specimen
  • Understand the regulations of OSHA and CLIA
  • Provide patient education for a mid-stream urine specimens and metered dose inhalers
  • Perform pediatric mensuration

Textbook: Kinn's: The Clincal Medical Assistant

This is the final course of your Medical Assistant program. You will complete 160 unpaid hours to develop and apply the skills you have learned to a real life setting. You’ll be required to complete a daily journal of your experiences and document how you are meeting the course objectives. All costs associated with this course are the responsibility of the student. These costs are not included in the tuition.


  • Measuring vital signs
  • Practice standard precautions
  • Taking a medical history
  • Medication administration
  • Administer injections
  • Patient scheduling and office skills
  • Perform coding, billing, and collections in the office setting.
  • Obtain pediatric growth measurements
  • Obtaining lab specimens
  • Perform venipuncture and capillary puncture
  • Assisting a physician during an exam
  • Perform sterile technique
  • Operate an autoclave
  • Teaching patients self-examination and providing patient education
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.

Additional Details

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered in the Penn Foster College Program. Prospective students should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where they plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in this Program. Click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.
Please review your state board requirements that are applicable to your field of study. State boards may impose a variety of different requirements, which vary from state to state.
The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for many Penn Foster College courses. Students who plan to continue their education with another school after completing coursework at Penn Foster College should check with that school regarding credit transfer policies. No form of accreditation guarantees that any learning institution will accept credits from any school as transfer credits.
Graduates of this program will receive NHA certification prep materials and a voucher to cover the cost of the CCMA exam. These valuable certification prep materials can help you prepare and sit for your Certified Clinical Medical Assistant certification. The total value of these materials is $235 and are available to graduates for no additional costs!

As mentioned above, licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state. Prior to requesting any of the NHA CCMA-related materials provided to graduates of this program, students should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where they plan to work to determine the certifications recognized in their state.

Penn Foster College Accreditation & Licensing Details

Penn Foster College has been nationally accredited for over 40 years, and has met the high standards of integrity and performance set by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) in Washington, D.C. Penn Foster College has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations and licensing. We also participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

Surround Sound Support

Surround Sound Support

Whether you prefer chat, text, email, or phone, our faculty is here to help you achieve your goals. Penn Foster students also have access to our expert team of Success Coaches to help with budgeting for your education, career guidance, or simply some extra motivation.
Over the course of the Penn Foster Medical Assistant program, you will have the opportunity to attend live or recorded webinars to help you better understand your lessons. The live webinars will allow you to ask our instructors questions in real time.
Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools

Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools

Our customizable goal-setting tools will help you create a schedule and stick to it. Need some extra time to complete a lesson or take an exam? Not a problem - you can adjust your study plan at any time to set a pace that works for you.

Student Community

Looking to connect with other Penn Foster students? Our Student Community is the perfect place for you to interact with your peers - as well as Penn Foster faculty and staff - to discuss your online learning experience, congratulate fellow students, and share your Penn Foster experience.
Penn Foster Student Community
Penn Foster Sample Lesson

Sample Medical Assistant Lesson

Penn Foster courses are written in a way that is easy to understand, and materials are broken down into manageable lessons. Take a look at what a medical assistant course would look like.
Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.
Access to Microsoft® Office 365 is a requirement for this program.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered 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.
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