In Washington, medical assisting programs are most commonly offered at the certificate level, and programs may take from one to two years to complete. Students can also pursue an associate degree. In addition to labs and lectures, many programs integrate clinical externship or practicum experiences that allow students to gain hands-on skills in the field.
Medical assisting programs usually have specific admission requirements that must be met either before beginning the program or before starting the clinical portion of the program. These may include proof of current immunizations (including TB tests), physical examination, criminal background check, drug screening and CPR for Healthcare Provider certification.
Clark College in Vancouver has an MA program that teaches students about the administrative and clinical duties performed by medical assistants. Consisting of 74 credits, the certificate program takes four quarters to complete. All students take the Clark College Compass Test to determine proficiency in English, mathematics, and reading; the test is also used in determining class placement. Instruction includes courses in medical terminology, pharmacology for health assistants, medical insurance, medical office administrative procedures, basic concepts in human anatomy and physiology, first aid for health professionals and AIDS education. The school also offers an associate's degree program in the field.
Columbia Basin College
Located in Pasco, Columbia Basin College has a medical assistant certificate program that can be completed in one year. Students receive a combination of theory and lab instruction through courses in pharmacology, career development for medical assistants, administrative medical assistant office procedures and medical terminology. Topping off the program is an externship that provides students with experience. Prior to acceptance into the program, applicants must complete the following prerequisite courses: medical terminology, general psychology, English composition and speech essentials (or public speaking). Students must have current first aid cards and must complete seven hours of HIV/AIDS blood-borne pathogens training.
Everett Community College
Everett Community College in Everett offers students the option of earning an Associate in Technical Arts or Associate in Applied Science - Transfer degree in addition to an MA certificate. The 83-credit MA certificate program prepares students for immediate work as medical assistants upon graduation. In addition to typical admission requirements, students must provide proof of medical insurance and completion of a seven-hour HIV course. Students complete courses in emergency care procedures, anatomy, and physiology, administrative skills, medical terminology, principles of phlebotomy and medication administration. The final semester includes a clinical externship.
Highline College, which is located in Des Moines, has a medical assistant program that provides students with job skills required for entry-level employment as MAs. Applicants should possess keyboarding skills and must have adequate COMPASS scores in reading and writing. Students learn to perform administrative and clinical duties, apply medico-legal knowledge to deal with confidentiality issues and communicate effectively with patients and professional staff members. Courses include medical office procedures, human diseases and pharmacology, emergency preparedness and clinical procedures. Additionally, the student completes a seminar in HIV/AIDs and participates in a clinical externship.
North Seattle College
The medical assisting certificate program at North Seattle College in Seattle offers a self-paced option that allows the student to learn at his or her own tempo. The program, which consists of modules, can be started in any quarter and be completed in a minimum of six quarters. Students can take as many or as few modules per quarter as they can handle. Classes are offered during the day and in the evenings. Students learn through online courses, open labs and a simulated classroom that allows students to perform MA procedures. The program requires 70 credits of coursework, which includes a clinical externship.
Olympic College, found in Bremerton, offers a medical assisting program that teaches students medical office and clinical skills. This 63-64 credit program focuses on preparing the student to assist physicians and other health professionals in the examination and treatment of patients. Applicants must take placement tests for reading, writing, and math and be able to type at least 35 wpm prior to admission to the program. Courses include anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology for medical assistants, medical law, ethics and bioethics, medical claims and coding, medical terminology and medical typing. The student obtains hands-on training through a clinical practicum course; an application for work experience must be completed the quarter prior to starting the clinical practicum.
Skagit Valley College
Students in the medical assistant certificate program at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon get to learn about the administrative and clinical aspects of working as medical assistants. Students learn to schedule appointments, handle phone calls, perform medical transcription and assist physicians with patient examinations. Extensive hands-on training is obtained during the clinical portion of the program. The 85-credit program can be completed in six quarters, and graduates should be prepared to take the AAMA certification exam.
Spokane Community College
The MA certificate program at Spokane Community College in Spokane can be completed in four quarters. Students learn to perform administrative duties such as maintaining medical records, scheduling patients, answering phones and performing medical transcription. Extensive hands-on clinical training has students preparing medications, collecting and processing specimens, taking vital signs and assisting physicians with exams. Students must have a GPA of 2.0 or better in each class before they can advance to the next quarter.
Walla Walla Community College
The medical assisting program at Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla includes courses that cover general healthcare concepts along with ones specific to medical assistants. In addition to completing coursework, students also obtain experience performing MA administrative and clinical duties. Students learn about medication administration, vital signs, phlebotomy, physical examinations, and diagnostic testing while also becoming familiar with medical office procedures. The four-quarter certificate program includes courses in pharmacology, HIV/AIDS education, clinical procedures, and medical insurance procedures. The final semester, which is held during the summer, has students complete a cooperative work experience.
Whatcom Community College
Located in Bellingham, Whatcom Community College has a medical assisting certificate program that requires the completion of 78-80 credits. Prior to beginning the core courses, students must complete prerequisite courses in medical computing or business computing, interpersonal communications or organizational communication, English composition and medical terminology. Core courses include medical law and ethics, medical insurances and finances, medical diagnostic coding and computerized medical billing. The student also completes three sequential courses on clinical procedures and a clinical practicum course to obtain hands-on training. Some of the courses are also offered in online/hybrid formats.
Becoming a medical assistant (MA) in Washington requires some sort of training, whether it's a formal program or on-the-job training. In addition, effective July 1, 2014, MAs must be certified, and they can only practice in the category for which they are certified, either medical assistant-certified, medical assistant-hemodialysis technician, medical assistant-phlebotomist or medical assistant-registered.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Medical Assisting Certificate Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)*|
|Clark College||Four-year, public; midsize city||Business Technology - Medical Assistant Certificate|| $4,287 in-state
|Columbia Basin College||Four-year, primarily associate's, public; midsize suburb||Medical Assistant Certificate|| $5,288 in-state
|Everett Community College||Two-year, public; midsize city||Medical Assisting Certificate|| $3,794 in-state
|Highline College||Four-year, public; large suburb||Medical Assistant Certificate|| $4,026 in-state
|North Seattle College||Four-year, public; large city||Medical Assisting Certificate||$4,461|
|Olympic College||Four-year, primarily associate's, public; small city||Medical Assisting Certificate of Specialization|| $3,771 n-state
|Skagit Valley College||Four-year, public; small city||Medical Assistant Certificate|| $4,200 in-state
|Spokane Community College||Two-year, public; midsize city||Medical Assistant Certificate|| $3,547 in-state
|Walla Walla Community College||Two-year, public; small city||Medical Assisting Certificate|| $4,455 in-state
|Whatcom Community College||Two-year, public; small city||Medical Assisting Certificate|| $4,551 in-state
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics.