CNA vs. Medical Assistant – Key Differences Explained

The allied health industry is growing quickly, and holds exciting opportunities for those aspiring to begin a career in medical services. Have you ever thought about becoming a medical assistant or a certified nursing assistant (CNA)? If so, you may be wondering what the similarities and differences are between these two career paths.

Why Become a CNA

A certified nursing assistant, or commonly referred to as a CNA, plays a very important role in the ongoing care of sick patients. CNAs may work in a hospital, but are most often found in home health care agencies or nursing homes. This is because the job duties of a CNA are very focused around caring for the daily needs of patients in long-term care facilities. People who become CNAs generally like helping those in need, as this is the core of the job.Job duties may include cleaning and bathing patients, helping patients dress and use the toilet, making sure a patient is physically comfortable, serving and assisting with meals, taking vital signs and reporting patient feedback to registered nurses. A large part of the job is tending to patients’ daily needs, so people who become CNAs must enjoy performing physical acts of service. Being patient, kind, and compassionate to the emotional needs of patients is also helpful. People often become CNAs because of the fulfilling, intimate nature of the work.

Why Become a Medical Assistant

A medical assistant has a wide range of workplace opportunities, such as hospitals, physician offices, or other healthcare facilities, such as a chiropractor’s office. Because their skillsets are applicable across many different settings, the actual job duties of a medical assistant may vary from place to place. Medical assistants may perform a wide variety of administrative or clinical tasks, which can keep the work fresh and exciting.A medical assistant’s job is very important in keeping a medical practice running smoothly. Clinical tasks may include helping doctors with physical examinations, measuring vital signs, giving patients injections or medications as directed by the physician, and preparing blood samples for laboratory testing.On the administrative side, tasks may include scheduling appointments, recording patient history and information, and managing medical records. People may aspire to become medical assistants for the diverse, detail-oriented nature of the work. This medical career path may also provide opportunities for advancement through additional specialization, or the ability to transfer to a new and different work environment.

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The Difference between Medical Assistants and Nursing Assistants

Of course, choosing a career path that is compatible with your personality, character, and desires is very important. In addition to the considering the fundamental nature of the job, external factors like salary, job growth, and length and cost of training may inform your decision.

Median Salaries Compared

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a CNA is $30,830 per year, as of 2020.
  • According to BLS, the median salary for a medical assistant is $35,850 per year, as of 2020.

Please visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website for more salary information.

Job Growth Differences

  • According to BLS, the expected job growth for CNAs between 2019 and 2029 is 8%.
  • According to BLS, the expected job growth for medical assistants between 2019 and 2029 is 19%, which is much faster than average.

Length of Training Programs

Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) offers a basic nursing assistant program at our East Peoria and Springfield, IL campuses to prepare students to take the CNA certification exam, which is necessary to gain an entry-level position as a CNA in the state of Illinois. This nursing assistant program is 7 weeks long, requiring 144 clock hours. Daytime classes are available, and a certificate is awarded upon completion. This vocational training course teaches students basic nursing principles and provides a setting for students to practice skills in preparation for the CNA certification exam.MTI also offers a medical assistant program to prepare students for entry-level work as a medical assistant. This vocational training program is 9 months long and teaches students the skills they will need on the job. Upon completion of the program, the student will receive a diploma. For certification, a student will be scheduled to sit for the National Medical Assistant Certification Exam.  This 9-month-long medical assistant training program provides the education and related work experience required for students to qualify for an entry-level job in the field of medical assisting.

Which Career Path is right for you?