Application Steps for the Medical Assisting Program
- Apply to Peninsula College and declare Medical Assisting as your program of study.
- Have all official transcripts forwarded to PC for review (Note: this can take up to 10 weeks).
- Schedule an Assessment Placement test. Complete pre-requisite courses.
- Meet with the Program Director to form a Academic Plan.
- Register for Application course on Canvas, item number 0007.
- Specific immunizations are required as part of the application process, and some series may take 5 to 6 months to complete. Applicants are encouraged to plan accordingly, see the Medical Assisting Student Handbook.
- If accepted, complete background check and obtain required supplies and equipment.
- Register for fall quarter classes and purchase required texts.
- Attend mandatory New Student Orientation prior to start of fall quarter
- Click here to view the Medical Assisting application timeline.
Medical Assisting FAQs
1. What is a medical assistant?
Medical assistants are highly skilled health workers that are trained in both clinical and administrative skills and procedures. This training means they are prepared to work in the exam rooms or offices of outpatient clinics.
Medical assistants work in ambulatory care facilities where they take vitals, transcribe medical histories, and assist physicians with procedures. In Washington, medical assistants-certified have a broad scope of practice: they perform EKGs, give injections, apply casts, draw blood, remove sutures, and perform wound care.
2. Do medical assistants have opportunities for career advancement?
Some people like to work as medical assistants to gain experience before pursuing other healthcare occupations. For example, you can work as a medical assistant while you complete prerequisite classes for programs in nursing or physical therapy assisting.
Medical assistants can also move into clinic management. Some medical assistants work with their employer to train as surgery technicians or laboratory technicians. Medical assistants who are certified can also seek additional credentials from Washington State in order to perform expanded duties. Additional credentials enable them to perform hemodialysis, phlebotomy, or forensic blood draws.
3. What is the difference between an MA-C and a CMA?
The MA-C (medical assistant-certified) credential is issued by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). The MA-C credential requires formal training—such as the Medical Assisting Program at Peninsula College—and passage of a national credentialing exam approved by the DOH. The MA-C credential is not recognized in other states.
The CMA (certified medical assistant) credential is issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). This credential is nationally recognized, and is widely considered to be the gold standard of medical assistant credentials. Only people who have graduated from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (such as the CAAHEP-accredited Medical Assisting Program at Peninsula College) can sit for the CMA (AAMA) exam. You must pass the CMA (AAMA) exam to earn the CMA (AAMA) credential.
4. What is the difference between a medical assistant-registered and a medical assistant-certified?
In Washington, you need to be registered or certified by the Washington State Department of Health to work a medical assistant. Medical assistants-registered (MA-R) require endorsement by an employer. Medical assistants-certified (MA-C) have formal training and have passed one of five DOH-approved national credentialing exams. MA-Cs also have a much broader scope of practice than MA-Rs. This training, credentialing, and ability to complete more tasks on the job means MA-Cs have more flexibility and earn more income than MA-Rs.
5. Can I work while I attend the Medical Assisting Program?
Some students are able to fulfill the requirements of being full-time students and full-time employees. However, most working students either reduce their work hours or reduce their course load by completing the Program over a longer period as part-time students. You should meet with a financial aid advisor and the Program Director when considering how to balance work and school. Many students receive scholarships or financial aid.
6. What is the difference between the Medical Assisting Program certificate and AAS degree?
All Medical Assisting Program graduates earn a Medical Assisting Certificate from Peninsula College. Twenty five additional general education credits are required to earn an AAS degree. Students can complete these five courses before or after completing their core Medical Assisting Program courses. Students might also test out of these courses, or be able to transfer credits from other degrees and other institutions to Peninsula College.
7. Does the Medical Assisting Program include an internship?
The Medical Assisting Program requires an unpaid clinical externship as part of its curriculum. This externship provides unpaid clinical experience during which students can observe, engage, practice, and network. The Program Director or Practicum Coordinator handles clinic placements; students do not secure
their own externship site.
8. Where can I work when I graduate?
Because you must pass a national credentialing exam to graduate, you will be eligible to apply to work at any outpatient facility hiring medical assistants in the United States. Outpatient clinics include primary care, urgent care facilities, and specialty clinics. Examples of specialty clinics are pediatric, obstetric, orthopedic, gynecology, dermatology, cardiology, and podiatry clinics. You might also work in a location that is not an outpatient clinic, though your title would not be “medical assistant.”
9. Will I be able to find a job when I graduate?
The demand for medical assistants is extremely high, and is projected to remain high for at least another decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth from 2016 to 2026 is projected to be twenty-nine percent. This growth is significantly larger than the average job growth for all occupations, which is seven percent.
The vast majority of Peninsula College’s Medical Assisting Program graduates find employment as medical assistants within weeks of graduating. Job placement statistics for our graduates can be found at pencol.edu/medical-assisting.
10. How much money will I earn after I graduate?
As of fall 2019, local employers were paying a starting wage of $16 to $19 per hour. Wages always depend on the employer, and on personal experience. Most employers provide benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance, paid vacation, and sick leave. Some local employers also offer sign-on and retention bonuses, full-ride scholarships, or support their employees’ continuing education through tuition reimbursement or scholarships.