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.

Introduction to the basic operations of allied health careers and the legal and ethical issues students may encounter while working in the many different venues available for these fields.


  • Identify communication methods within the health care field and teamwork strategies
  • Compare the professional roles of health care workers within hospital practices
  • Compare the professional roles of health care workers within various community settings
  • Identify the characteristics of professional behavior and issues related to cultural differences
  • Describe the proper legal and ethical behaviors of a health care worker
  • Explain the primary elements of the Affordable Care Act
  • Distinguish among government (public) and private health insurance plans
  • Describe the United States healthcare system and settings
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.
This course teaches the skills and techniques of effectively developing, drafting, and revising college-level essays toward a specific purpose and audience: active reading, prewriting strategies, sentence and paragraph structure, thesis statements, varied patterns of development (such as illustration, comparison and contrast, and classification), critical reading toward revision of structure and organization, editing for standard written conventions, and use and documentation of outside sources. Students submit two prewriting assignments and three essays (process analysis, comparison and contrast, and argumentation).


  • Use writing skills to construct well-written sentences and active reading skills to understand and analyze text.
  • Develop paragraphs using topic sentences, adequate detail, supporting evidence, and transitions.
  • Contrast the revising and editing steps of the writing process.
  • Distinguish between different patterns of development.
  • Write a process analysis essay using prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing skills.
  • Recognize how to determine the reliability of secondary sources and to give proper credit to sources referenced in an essay.
  • Write a comparison and contrast essay by using persuasive writing techniques to defend a claim.
  • Create a sound written argument using techniques of drafting and evaluating sources.
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: Anatomy & Physiology for Health Professionals: An Interactive Journey, 4e

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.

Textbook: Anatomy & Physiology for Health Professionals: An Interactive Journey, 4e

(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

In this course, you'll understand how to appreciate music by learning about the roles of the composer and the listener, the principles of music theory and instrumentation, musically significant historical periods, and varying styles of music.

  • Identify the building blocks of music a composer can use to create a piece, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, form, and timbre.
  • Explain the evolution of Western music through history, from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century.
  • Differentiate between the music of the baroque era and the musical styles of previous time periods.
  • Recognize the major characteristics of classical music, including form, melody, and instrumentation.
  • Discuss the musical trends and innovations that occurred during the romantic era.
  • Trace the evolution of American popular music in the twentieth century.
  • Recognize the influence of world music on modern Western composition.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Experience 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 covers the psychology of biology and behavior, consciousness, memory, thought and language, intelligence, personality and gender, stress, and community influences.


  • Describe the science of psychology, basic structure and function of the human nervous system, and basic structure and function of the sensory system
  • Explain various states of consciousness, learning theories, and thought processes and development
  • Summarize the nature of human motivation and development, the human development cycle, and approaches to understanding and assessing personality
  • Prepare an essay on the topic of conditioning, memory, or motivation and emotion
  • Recognize psychological disorders and available treatments
  • Explain social psychology as it relates to attitudes, influences, behaviors, and stress
  • Use critical thinking skills to determine the likely causes of behaviors of individuals and groups discussed in case studies
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

The medical assistant externship provides you with hands-on training in a primary care clinic, an urgent care clinic, or a medical practice. The goal of this externship is to provide you with the hands-on experience necessary for developing your skills as a medical assistant. You'll practice under the direct supervision of a certified medical assistant, nurse, physician assistant, or medical doctor. This externship consists of 160 hours of clinical experience. You're required to complete and submit weekly timesheets signed by your externship preceptor.


  • Demonstrate the skills and abilities required of a medical assistant through an externship experience


  • Measuring vital signs
  • Practicing standard precautions
  • Taking a medical history
  • Administering medication
  • Administering injections
  • Scheduling patients and displaying office skills
  • Performing coding, billing, and collections in the office setting
  • Obtaining pediatric growth measurements
  • Obtaining lab specimens
  • Performing venipuncture and capillary puncture
  • Assisting a physician during an exam
  • Performing sterile technique
  • Operating 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.

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.

DEAC and SARA Accreditation Logos
instructor on computer phone.

A Committed Support System

While you can study independently, you’re not alone! With a dedicated Student Services department, the Student Community, and instructors just a call away, you’ll have access to the support you need.


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 animation.

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? 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.

group of people in a meeting.
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 access to high-speed internet to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 10® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running macOS® or later, Microsoft® Office 2019 or Microsoft 365®, and an email account to complete 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 macOS are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.