To become a medical assistant in Washington you will need to be licensed through the Department of Health. To successfully achieve this you must navigate the following steps:
|Learn About Medical Assistant Career Paths in Washington|
|Become a Qualified Medical Assistant|
|Apply for a Washington Medical Assistant License|
|Maintain Your Medical Assistant License in Washington|
The Washington State Department of Health has comprehensive regulations in place for medical assistants, requiring licensure and defining a scope of practice.
Washington law defines four different types of medical assistants, each with unique licensing requirements:
- Medical Assistant – Certified
- Medical Assistant – Registered
- Medical Assistant – Hemodialysis Technician
- Medical Assistant – Phlebotomist
Across the state there are approximately 14,040 licensed medical assistants providing their valuable services to Washington State residents. These professionals can work anywhere medical and health services are provided. They are concentrated in the following areas:
- 7,360 in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region
- 6,320 in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan area
- 4,880 in the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area
- 1,190 in Spokane
- 1,040 in the Tacoma metro area
- 540 in the Tri-Cities Kennewick-Pasco-Richland area
- 500 in the Bremmerton-Silverdale area
- 490 in Yakima
- 430 in Olympia
Step 1. Learn About Medical Assistant Career Paths in Washington
Washington State Department of Health licensing requirements for the four recognized medical assistant designations are:
Medical Assistant – Certified
There are two components to becoming a Medical Assistant–Certified in Washington: education and an examination. To start with, you will need to complete one of the following education requirements:
- Graduate from a medical assisting training program that is accredited by either:
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- Graduate from a college or university that is accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency approved by the US Department of Education. This program must be comprised of at least 720 hours of medical assistant training, including at least 160 hours in a clinical externship.
- Graduate from an apprentice program that is approved by the state
- Complete at least 720 hours of medical assistant college education
- Earn an equivalent amount of military training that is related to medical assisting
You must also pass one of the following certification exams offered through a national accrediting organization:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Exam
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Exam
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Exam
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Exam
If you meet these requirements, but have not yet taken an exam, you can also apply for a temporary interim certification that will allow you to practice as a medical assistant while you wait to take an exam.
Medical Assistant – Registered
Becoming a Medical Assistant–Registered is not as complex as becoming Certified, however, your employment options would also be limited. Becoming a Medical Assistant–Registered requires your employer to fill out a Healthcare Practitioner Endorsement that clearly states the tasks you will be delegated. You are only allowed to work for an employer who has agreed to fill out this form on your behalf.
Before your Medical Assistant–Registered license is issued you will also need to complete seven hours of AIDS training and education.
Medical Assistant – Hemodialysis Technician
Education is the main component when it comes to becoming a Medical Assistant–Hemodialysis Technician in Washington. You will need to meet one of the following requirements to receive a license in this area of expertise:
- Complete a hemodialysis program that:
- Is approved by your employer’s medical director and governing members
- Is under the direction of a nurse
- Is focused on kidney dialysis machines and equipment
- Provides direct patient care including sensitivity training
- Earn a national credential as a hemodialysis technician that includes the study of:
- Principles of dialysis and fluid management
- Caring for patients with kidney failure
- Dialysis documentation and procedures
- Laboratory testing procedures and critical alert values
- Dialysis emergencies and other complications arising from dialysis
- Safety and infection control
- Dialysis medication use and side effects
- Complete an equivalent training program or experience as part of the US military
Before your license will be approved you will also need to demonstrate that you have basic math skills, a current CPR certification, and that you have completed seven hours of AIDS training.
Medical Assistant – Phlebotomist
To become a licensed Medical Assistant–Phlebotomist you will need to have seven hours of AIDS training and also meet one of the following education requirements:
- Complete a college or university phlebotomy training program that is regionally accredited or accredited by an institution approved by the US Department of Education
- Complete a phlebotomy training program that is approved by your employer
- Have an equivalent training or education through the US military
Step 2. Become a Qualified Medical Assistant
Education is the most important factor in becoming qualified for all types of medical assistant jobs in Washington. As you attend one of the medical assistant schools located in Washington in pursuit of an associate’s degree or certificate, you can expect to take courses that cover:
- Medical assistant terminology
- Medical assistant emergency procedures
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical assistant clinical and administrative procedures
- Medical insurance billing and coding
- Software applications and medical assistant computer operations
- Medical assistant practicum, internship, or externship
National Certification (Required for Becoming a Medical Assistant – Certified)
To become a Medical Assistant–Certified requires passing one of the following national exams:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Exam – this is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To be eligible for the CMA Exam you must complete a medical assistant certification program that is accredited by either CAAHEP or ABHES.
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Exam – this exam is sponsored by American Medical Technologists (AMT). There are a number of paths to eligibility to take the RMA Exam.
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Exam – this exam is sponsored by the National Healthcareer Assocation.
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Exam – the NCMA Exam is sponsored by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) and there are several routes to become eligible to take this exam.
Universal Minimum Requirements
As you complete this process keep in mind that all prospective medical assistants must disclose a number of factors that may affect whether or not you will be issued a license:
- Any physical or mental health issues
- History of substance and chemical abuse
- Any previous instances where you have lost a license
- Any pending professional liability claims or past disciplinary action
- Any previous felony convictions
You will also need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and be fluent in the English language.
Step 3. Apply for a Washington Medical Assistant License
Once you have met the requirements for the type of medical assistant license you are applying for, you can send the appropriate application to the Washington State Department of Health:
- Medical Assistant – Certified or Interim Application
- Medical Assistant – Registered
- Medical Assistant – Hemodialysis Technician Application
- Medical Assistant – Phlebotomist
The Department of Health is currently undergoing an expansion of the applications it offers through its online application webpage. At present you can also apply to become a Medical Assistant – Registered through the online application process.
As you fill out your application you must also submit proof that you have completed your education and other requirements. When submitting official transcripts, you will need to have the school through which you obtained your medical assistant degree send this to the Department of Health.
Step 4. Maintain Your Medical Assistant License in Washington
All types of medical assistant licenses expire every two years on your birthday. You can renew your medical assistant license online, through the mail, or in person at the Department of Health’s office located at:
Town Center 2
111 Israel Rd SE
Tumwater, WA 98501
As you develop your career as a medical assistant, you may also consider a bachelor’s degree or more advanced credential in the medical sciences, which can open additional career doors and improve your qualifications for the most competitive medical assistant jobs in Washington. Medical assistants with education can progress through a career ladder that includes:
- Nursing assistant
- Registered nurse
- Physician assistant
- Nurse practitioner
You will find resources through professional organizations like the Washington State Society of Medical Assistants (WSSMA). The state’s Department of Health also maintains an updates webpage that details legislative and rule changes regarding the field of medical assisting.