Healthcare team discussing a patient's chart

How to Prepare for Medical Office Administrator School

Tips for Surviving MOA School: Expectations, Requirements, and Challenges

Healthcare team discussing a patient's chart

Medical Office Administrators (MOAs), or medical record technicians, are the unsung heroes who provide vital “behind-the-scenes” support to countless healthcare facilities across the country. In fact, it’s their top job to help medical offices run smoothly and efficiently.

Many have described the MOA role as a vital and satisfying career in healthcare. If you are interested in launching a career in this profession, we put together an inclusive guide that will give you all the tips, tricks, and resources you will need to enter MOA school with confidence. Continue reading to learn about the benefits, requirements, and challenges that go along with MOA training and enrollment into an MOA program.

(Click here to learn more about the MOA program at Unitek College)

Why Become a Medical Office Administrator?

The reasons to become a Medical Office Administrator can vary depending on your career goals and aspirations. Some Medical Office Administrators love their jobs because it offers meaningful purpose and personal gratification in their lives. Other MOAs love their careers for its increased job security and steady pay.

One thing is for certain. The healthcare industry is full of interesting and exciting specialties, careers, and people. There will always be a demand for well-qualified healthcare professionals, and numerous career paths to choose from. This is particularly evident when you consider the predicted job growth for MOAs, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

(Read our comprehensive career guide on How to Become a Medical Office Administrator)

Find the Best Medical Office Administrator Program for You

Now that you’ve decided to pursue Medical Office Administration, the next step is to find the program that’s best for you. There are several questions you should consider when searching for an MOA program. In your research, you should ascertain as much information as possible in relation to your selection criteria, including factors such as the cost, length, location, accreditation, and certification opportunities for these programs.

Furthermore, the best Medical Office Administration school or program should be tailored to your individual needs. For example, some students may prefer smaller class sizes, while others might place more value in the amount of time set aside for clinical externships. Before you decide to enroll anywhere, do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions when meeting with admissions representatives.

Here are some sample questions you could ask when applying for MOA school:

  • What are the tuition costs and financial aid options?
  • What are the academic prerequisites?
  • How long does it take to complete the program?
  • What specific topics are covered?
  • Are there any clinical externships or simulations?
  • What percentage of students graduate?
  • What percentage of graduates find employment?

Medical Office Administration Courses

You should also consider the school’s coursework/curriculum. The curriculum should provide you a glimpse into your future roles and responsibilities as a Medical Office Administrator.

For example, below are course descriptions for the MOA program at Unitek College:

Fundamentals of Health Care: This course introduces students to the principles of medical law and ethics, including HIPAA and the Patient’s Bill of Rights. They use prefixes, suffixes, and root words to create medical terms related to body position, planes, and cellular structure.

Computer Fundamentals: In this course, students use the computer to practice keyboarding skills and perform basic office functions. They draft appropriate office correspondence and email communications.

Medical Office Administration: The course introduces students to front office operations. These include, among others:

  • Procedures used to open and close the office
  • Patient intake methods
  • Telephone etiquette
  • Patient communication techniques
  • Appointment management
  • File creation
  • Medical terms related to the urinary and reproductive systems

Business Practices in the Medical Office: In this course, students use Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks to perform general accounting and bookkeeping functions. They learn how to create ledgers, process payments, and more.

Health Records Management: This course introduces students to the laws and regulations that govern patient medical records. Students use software to create, audit, and modify electronic health records. Secure data transfer procedures are also discussed.

Medical Insurance Billing: This course presents information about various types of insurance plans, including HMOs, PPOs, Group Plans, and Medicare. Students also:

  • Familiarize themselves with forms used by insurance plans, Medicaid, Workman’s Compensation, and Disability
  • Use software to process and submit mock billing forms
  • Troubleshoot and correct denied claims

Medical Insurance Coding: This course introduces students to several coding procedures. Additionally, they learn coding principles, code modifiers, and how to apply the correct code to inpatient and outpatient procedures.

Medical Office Externship: The externship is a field experience that is completed as the final course in the program. Students will have the opportunity to work in a real-world environment and practice the skills they acquired in class.

Two students sitting on the grass

How to Get into Medical Office Administration School?

Depending on each school’s admissions requirements, many MOA programs will have a unique set of obligations and prerequisites. Make sure you carefully check the school’s website or speak with an admissions representative to better understand those entry requirements.

How Long is Medical Office Administration School?

In the U.S., most aspiring MOAs will acquire a postsecondary certificate. Depending on your location and employer, you may also need an associates degree. Formal MOA training may take anywhere from nine months to two years to complete, depending on whether it’s a certificate/diploma or degree program.

Option 1: Medical Office Administration Certification

These certificate or diploma programs typically require about a year of school. Most are offered by vocational schools or community colleges. The classes often cover topics like:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Communication
  • Health data requirements and standards
  • Classification and coding systems
  • Healthcare reimbursement methods
  • Healthcare statistics
  • Computer systems

Option 2: Associate Degree

Some schools also offer an associate degree for aspiring MOAs. In these programs, general education courses are usually combined with health information technology education. Most associate degree programs can be completed in about two years.

For associate-degree programs, Medical Office Administration courses are similar to those in the certificate/diploma programs.

What are the MOA School Prerequisites?

Most Medical Office Administrator program will have prerequisites that must be completed prior to starting. While some colleges may have stricter MOA school requirements, others implement more lenient or accepting prerequisites. To give you a better idea, here are a few general MOA program requirements you may come across:

  • Career planning session and admissions interview
  • Submit proof of high school education or equivalent
  • Entrance assessment test
  • Admissions application
  • Enrollment agreement
  • Financing arrangements and, if applicable, all documents needed to obtain an official award letter for Federal Student Aid

While a background check is not always required for admission into an MOA program, you may still need to pass one for your externship opportunity.

Entrance examination requirement may also vary by college. At Unitek College, for instance, MOA program applicants must achieve a passing score of 12 or higher on the “Scholastic Level Exam – Q” (SLE-Q).

A syringe with a row of bottles

Immunization Requirements

Many MOA programs may also require up-to-date immunizations from their students before they can begin their training externships. At Unitek College, for example, MOA students must provide proof of the following immunizations by the end of the third successfully completed module of the program:

  • One Step PPD (TB)
  • 2 x MMR (measles, mumps & rubella)
  • 2 x Varicella (chicken-pox)
  • 3 x Hepatitis B

PPD results must be dated within six months of the externship start date. Students must show current immunity to Rubella (German measles), Rubeola, Varicella (Chicken Pox), mumps & Hepatitis B. Keep in mind that verbal confirmation of the above is not acceptable. Students need to provide one of the below forms:

  1. Document printed out from the Primary Care Provider that shows the exact immunization(s) & date(s) given along with the Primary Care Provider signature.
  2. Print out from Primary Care Provider showing exact titer(s) & result(s) indicating immunity.
  3. Legal California Immunization Record card showing the immunizations & the date given, or the results of a titer & dates of test, along with the Primary Care Provider signature.

MOA Soft Skills & Other Important Qualities

Although not strictly required, most MOAs possess qualities like the following:

  • A detail-oriented nature, as medical record technicians must be accurate when recording and coding patient information.
  • Integrityas medical record technicians should exercise discretion when working with patient information.
  • Interpersonal skills, as medical record technicians need to be able to discuss patient information with other professionals (i.e. physicians and finance personnel).
  • Analytical skills, as medical record technicians must understand medical records/diagnoses and determine how to code them in a patient’s medical records.
  • Technical skills, as medical record technicians will need to use the electronic health record (EHR) system that their employer has adopted.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Medical Office Administrator?

Out-of-pocket school costs will often depend on your situation. They are also influenced by the location, school, and type of program. In general, MOA tuition costs can range anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 per year.

It is crucial that you research your chosen schools and ask your admissions representatives about their tuition costs and financial aid options. You might be eligible for financial aid, which can cover many college expenses, including:

  • Tuition
  • Transportation
  • Room and Board
  • Books
  • Computer Equipment
  • Living Expenses

Is Medical Office Administrator School Hard?

You may be wondering how hard is Medical Office Administrator school, when compared to other degrees? It all depends on the person as well as their strengths and weaknesses. To determine how challenging it may be for you, start by compiling a list of your strengths and weakness. Think about your personality type, as well as your interests and motivations. Most importantly, decide which aspects of your MOA program are non-negotiable. For example, if you work full time, you may already know that an online or hybrid-online program format is imperative to your success.

Many people tend to think that success is a straight and linear path. For most people, it’s just the opposite: Failure leads to success. While some exams or clinical simulations may be intense, keep in mind that your program is designed to prepare you for the field.

The difficulty of your studies may also depend on the type of program you select. While degree programs lay the foundation for higher study—and potentially more job opportunities—they also require more time in school. Additionally, they are usually not required for entry-level MOA or medical records technician positions.

If you need to launch your career sooner, you can normally complete MOA training for a diploma program in a year or less. These programs may not set the foundation for higher study, but they will equip you with the necessary skillset to launch a successful MOA career.

(Click here to discover the Highest Paying Cities for Medical Office Administrators)

Female student using a laptop

Medical Office Administrator Certification

Do You Need a License or Certificate to Be an MOA?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many employers prefer to hire Medical Office Administrators who possess certification. Even if they hire an applicant who isn’t certified, they may expect them to earn certification soon after they’re hired.

There are various MOA credentials you can seek, such as:

  1. Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) –
  2. Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS) –
  3. Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) –

You may find that some organizations base certification on passing an exam. Others may just require that you graduate from an accredited program. Moreover, some certifications will require experience in a work setting.

After you are certified, you will likely need to renew your certification on a regular basis. You may be required to complete continuing education courses as well.

Medical Office Administrator School Tips

When it comes to surviving MOA school, keep in mind that thousands of students graduate from MOA programs every year. We have no doubt that you will be one of them, too! And if you need help, there are numerous MOA school study tips at your disposal.

Here are just some of our study tips for MOA students, plus a few for graduates seeking certification.

  • Eat Before Class – We’re starting the list with an obvious one, but it’s so important that we’re doing it anyway. Hunger can have a BIG impact on your ability to focus. You may not retain critical information if your stomach is growling throughout the lecture.
  • Get Enough Sleep – This is another important tip that is somewhat obvious. If you think hunger can influence your studies, just wait and see what a lack of sleep can do! (We’re kidding; don’t skimp on sleep.) Every night, aim for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
  • Dress for Comfort – Depending on your program, you might need to be on your feet during class. Alternatively, you might spend hours at a desk or in a lecture hall. Remember: Comfort is king.
  • Ask, Ask, Ask – If there’s something you don’t understand, it’s vital that you ask questions and comprehend the material. For those who don’t want to ask with others present, you can always email your teacher or speak to them after class.
  • Record Your Lectures – See if your instructor would be okay with you recording their lectures. If they don’t mind, then you can use your phone’s voice recorder function. This could help you study and ensure that you truly understand each topic.
  • Look at Content Outlines – If you’d like to seek certification and become a CMA, check out the content outline provided by the AAMA. They list basic categories that will be covered during the test. You’ll also find general structure, subcategories, etc.
  • Complete Practice Exams – Although the AAMA doesn’t offer practice tests that cover every area of the exam, they do provide tests for the topics of anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology. Complete these tests before you study to gauge what knowledge you have and where you need to improve. After a few study sessions, take them again to see if they have been effective.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to look for resources at your campus. You just might find many experienced people, study aids, labs, and other tools that are available to you.

Medical receptionist assisting a male patient

Begin your MOA Journey at Unitek College

Without a doubt, Medical Office Administrators play an important role in healthcare. The profession is also expected to grow. In fact, the BLS has predicted that employment opportunities will increase 8 percent by 2029. As the baby-boomer population ages, demand for preventive medical services will increase. As a result, physicians will add more Medical Office Administrators to their team to perform administrative tasks, allowing doctors to see more patients.

There are many schools that can offer a high-quality MOA education. These vocational schools can give you the knowledge and skillset to succeed in your new career. At Unitek College, it would be our honor to help you achieve the healthcare career of your dreams.

Learn more about our MOA program, today!