Frequently Asked Questions


What do Medical Assistants do?

Medical Assistants are trained to do clinical procedures in the medical office environment such as basic medical lab work, EKGs, cast removal, assisting at minor outpatient surgeries, and many other procedures. Medical Assistants are also trained for a wide variety of tasks requiring front office, administrative and customer service skills in an outpatient setting, such as reception, and insurance billing and coding. Some Medical Assistants are hired to do only front office tasks, some positions are primarily clinical in nature, and some positions require both sets of skills.

What is the Medical Assisting degree/certificate?

WCC offers two options for aspiring medical assistants: an AS degree or a certificate. The difference between the two is in the number of general education/related instruction courses that a student completes. The program options run concurrently and are primarily a full-time course of study. The core courses for both the degree and certificate take 4-5 consecutive quarters to complete. All MA degree or certificate programs start each fall quarter annually. Program space is limited and a special application process and fee is required.

All students in the MA degree/certificate program take the same clinical training and administrative skill coursework. Upon graduating from the MA degree or certificate program, students are eligible to take an exam to become Certified Medical Assistants.

What is the difference between a Medical Assistant and a Nurse?

The training and work of a Medical Assistant is focused on the outpatient medical office environment. In contrast, Nurses (LPN and RN) are primarily trained to work in an inpatient acute care of long-term care medical environment.

How is selection into the program made and how will I be notified?

Selective entry applications for the Medical Assisting degree and certificate are accepted on a first come, first served basis until the program seat limits are met. Applicants are evaluated based on completed application packets, including all required information and fee payments. The applicant must demonstrate that all prerequisites will be completed prior to the beginning of the starting quarter.

All applicants can expect to receive notification of status of application by letter within 2-4 weeks following the application deadline. If accepted, applicants will also be notified of the date and time for the required orientation session. Enrollment authorizations will be issued during the orientation session. It is important that the Registration/Records Office has your current address and telephone number so your letter can be delivered in a timely manner. You may update your contact information online at My Student Info OASIS if you know your SID and PIN or in person at the Registration/Records Office in Laidlaw Center, room 101.

If accepted, are there additional program requirements?

Students entering the Medical Assisting degree or certificate programs are required to show proof of childhood immunizations and must acquire additional immunizations such as the adult MMR and Hepatitis series and a current PPD test for tuberculosis. Immunization forms and additional information will be available at the orientation session prior to the start of the program.

What are the requirements during/after the course of study?

Within the Medical Assisting degree or certificate programs courses must be taken in sequence as assigned in the program schedule. Any deviation must have the written approval of the program coordinator.

Students must maintain satisfactory academic progress in order to remain in the program. Please refer to the 2014-2016 WCC catalog and the Medical Assisting Handbook for more information.

Occupational exposures - The Medical Assistant may be exposed to various chemicals used in disinfection and sterilization, laboratory testing reagents, biohazard waste and blood-borne pathogens, and communicable diseases. While in the Medical Assisting program, students may have similar occupational exposures. Safety issues and concerns when dealing with occupational exposures are a major focus within the Medical Assisting program curriculum.

Prior to externship, medical assisting students are required to obtain/maintain provider level CPR and First Aid certificates and the Seven-Hour HIV/AIDS Education Certificate. These certifications are not offered as part of the regular MA program and must be completed by the student on their own time.

Are there Tech-Prep credits that I can transfer from my high school for the Medical Assisting program?

If you are currently in high school there are several courses that have articulated agreements between the high schools and WCC. Contact your high school counselor about Tech-Prep credits.

What is the job market like for Medical Assistants? What are the wages?

The employment outlook for this profession is in demand locally, state-wide, and nationally. Between 2010 and 2020, employment in this field in the local area is projected to increase 19%. Nationally, Medical Assisting is expected to grow much faster throughout this same time frame.

Starting wages in Whatcom County for Medical Assistants generally range between $12.62 and $14.68 per hour; the median wage is $16.44 per hour.

Is the Medical Assisting program accredited?

Whatcom Community College Medical Assisting Program is accredit by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) upon the recommendation of the Medical Assisting Education Review Board (MAERB). CAAHEP, 1361 Park Street, Clearwater, FL, 727-210-2350.