It's an old and familiar question in the world of medical office administration. Is a diploma sufficient education to become an effective and valuable medical office administrator? Or, is an associate's degree necessary and preferred by employers?
We want our Concorde Medical Office Administration students and prospective students to be as well-informed as possible. So we sought the opinions and knowledge of a couple of our resident MOA program directors. Whether you should obtain a diploma or degree depends on what role you want in a medical office.
Medical Office Administration: Diploma vs. Degree
"The first focus to answer this question is, what role does the MOA student want to play in a medical office?" asked Michael Meyer, DO, MA/MOA Program Director at Concorde's campus in Orlando, Fla. "As a scheduler, receptionist or file clerk, a diploma program is quite adequate. If, however, they seek to use MOA as a step toward coding certification and eventual revenue cycle management, then a longer program may be necessary."
Meyer said an associate's degree program usually requires one year of hands-on coding with cases. They can successfully pass the national certifications in coding that way. Two common certifications for outpatient coding both are obtainable in a two-year associate's degree program. The American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) requires two years of coding experience to remove the apprentice status from a coder. A longer course is preferred.
"There are, however, many positions in the demographic entry and patient billing realm that do not require this level of certification," Meyer said. "The AAPC offers a certification in billing as well which requires only about one year of real-world billing experience, easily done after a diploma course introduces you to the materials."
"The real focus of the MOA program is office administration more than management. The business of a medical office is revenue cycle-based. All aspects of this cycle are discussed in our diploma program."
More thoughts on Medical Office Administration: Diploma vs. Degree
Elysia Cochran, Medical Office Administration Program Director at Concorde's campus in Jacksonville, Fla., offered the following thoughts on the topic.
- Students coming in with a degree already are likely going to make more money straight out of the MOA program. It also will be easier for these students to obtain employment at a higher end position out of school. It is not absolutely necessary for a student to have a degree to be successful, however.
- Students coming into MOA with no prior education will likely not get paid as much fresh out of school. They will likely have to start at a lower end position and work their way up. Once they demonstrate they are management material, the can work their way up to supervisory roles.
"In our experience with some of the office managers we work with, it is often the students who came in and completed just the diploma program that end up making the best supervisors," Cochran said. "When you have a student who had to start at the bottom of a company and work their way up, they generally are more compassionate to their employees that they are supervising. They are more willing to jump in and assist with getting the job done because they remember times when they wished they had a supervisor help when they were overwhelmed."
These are all important things to consider when deciding on medical office assistant programs.