Medical Reception Degrees: Associate & Online Training Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate degree in medical reception? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and medical reception training programs.
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Studying Medical Reception: Degrees at a Glance

As the first point-of-contact between clients and medical office staff, medical receptionists serve as the default personality of medical offices and health care practices. Receptionists support the daily operations of hospitals, clinics and physicians' offices by using their knowledge of administrative, information management and technology. Specialists in the field maintain patient records, set appointments, greet patients and monitor facility access. The job requires a strong foundation in office administration, medical terminology and interpersonal skills. Colleges offer programs that provide training in common office technologies, business procedures and basic finance to provide a well-rounded education.

The associate degree will prepare you for entry-level administrative opportunities in nursing facilities, doctor's offices or hospitals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that those in this field could expect faster than average (21-24%) job growth for several career paths over the 2010-2020 decade (

Associate Online Training
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level administrative careers in a medical setting People who want a career in medical information management
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Receptionist or information clerk ($27,000)*
- Medical secretary ($32,000)*
- Medical records and health information technician ($36,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 2-3 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits
- Internship or field experience
- Capstone project
- Negative criminal background check
Roughly 60 credits
- Internship or field experience
- Practicum
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes, with some programs requiring in-person experience through a practicum

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate of Applied Science in Medical Administration

The associate degree in medical administration provides the educational foundation required to function professionally in a number of medical and non-medical settings. Medical settings require employees well versed in industry terminology and information management practices. Because federal regulations - including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - require medical facilities to adhere to specific standards, employers prefer candidates with an understanding of health care legislation. Programs emphasize the development of technological proficiency, customer services practices and medical terminology. You will learn effective communication, medical transcription and office administration skills. Additionally, some programs provide the training to seek industry-standard certification.

Pros and Cons


  • Degree flexibility will provide the training required to work outside the medical field
  • Some programs offer in-depth training in industry-standard technologies
  • The degree may increase your marketability because most jobs only require a high school diploma


  • Receptionists earned relatively low annual salaries ($27,000)*
  • The program will not prepare you for a career in health information management
  • Access to industry-standard certification may require work experience and may lessen your marketability

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The associate degree coursework provides the training required to develop competent administrative and interpersonal skills. The curriculum places emphasis on a foundation in business operations, records management and office administration through roughly 60 credits of coursework in general education, finance and health information technology. Following are common courses offered by programs:

  • Economics
  • Medical office procedures
  • Applied accounting
  • Keyboarding
  • Communication skills
  • Medical transcription
  • Medical language

Online Degree Info

Several schools offer the medical administration associate degree in a distance-education format. Programs closely mirror traditional classes in subject matter and generally take the same amount of time to complete. Colleges may design their programs to meet the needs of working professionals seeking advancement and access to the appropriate technology is essential to your success.

Stand Out with This Degree

Employers look for job candidates who possess solid technology skills. In addition, your clerical skills and experience will play a role in your marketability. Following are a few things you can do to increase your competitiveness:

  • Take multiple courses in standard medical office technology. Spreadsheets and word processing software represent a significant portion of a receptionist's skill set, although learning about data management technologies can increase your marketability.
  • Participate in internships offered in the branch of medicine you prefer to work. For example, if you want to work in a nursing facility, ensure you take advantage of field experience opportunities at an appropriate office.

Degree Alternatives

Receptionist opportunities pay relatively low salaries and advancement requires experience and proven leadership skills. Regulatory practices that affect the health care industry require employees skilled in the management of health records and technology. Many schools offer an associate degree in health information technology. The program will prepare you for entry-level medical records and health information technician opportunities. The BLS reports that employees in the field earned a mean annual wage of $36,000 and could expect faster than average job growth.

Online Training in Health Information Technology

Medical records professionals and health information technicians manage patient data to ensure security, privacy and accuracy using traditional methods and digital systems. The online Associate of Applied Science degree in health information management provides the supervisory and technical skills required for entry-level opportunities. Programs emphasize the development of medical terminology, coding basics and reimbursement practices. In addition to a foundation in health care records management, programs offer training in medical information systems. Many programs require that you successfully pass a criminal background check prior to enrollment.

Pros and Cons


  • Medical records professionals and health technicians were expected to enjoy faster-than-average job growth (21%) form 2010-2020*
  • Mean annual salaries for medical records professionals and health technicians were roughly $9,000 more than salaries earned by receptionists ($27,000)*
  • The focus on technology and information systems makes the education transferable to careers in other industries


  • An extensive application process that requires a background check may discourage some applicants
  • Taking the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification will cost more and take more time to complete your educational goals
  • Advancement to management opportunities may require that you continue your education

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The associate degree combines professional practice, theoretical and laboratory coursework. You will learn data analysis, records systems development, coding and research. Programs require roughly 60 credits in subject matter, elective and general education courses. Some colleges require an intricate application process and entry may be competitive. You will take courses in health information management, code sets, International Classification of Diseases (ICD) coding, basic medical science, quality management, medical terminology and information management science. Some programs require a capstone and practicum.

Online Degree Options

Multiple schools offer the Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology online. You can find the program as a complete online experience. Courses are quite similar to those offered through traditional means and you may find 2- or 3-year programs offered online. Keep in mind that only programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) will provide the foundation to take the RHIT certification exam.

Stand Out with This Degree

Employers increasingly prefer candidates who possess professional certification; usually they require the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification conferred by the Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management (CCHIIM). In order to achieve certification, you must graduate from a program accredited by CAHIIM. You can register to take the RHIT certification during your last term of study. In addition, if you pursue work at a cancer registrar, seeking state-approved certification can also improve job prospects.

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