What’s the Difference Between a CNA and MA?

Many people want to start a career in the healthcare field, and for a good reason. The healthcare industry continues to grow rapidly, and the variety of jobs available is expanding as well. Working in healthcare also gives you the chance to help people and make a difference in their lives when they need it most.

There are so many opportunities to begin a healthcare career that it can be confusing to try and figure it out on your own. With this in mind, we’re going to help by explaining the difference between a certified nursing assistant and a medical assistant.

Career Outlook


The career outlook for medical assistants is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for medical assistants in the United States from 2019-2029 is 19%, well above the 4% average growth rate for all occupations. This means that there will be even more medical assistants needed in the future, and employers will need qualified people to fill these positions.

For certified nursing assistants in the United States, the BLS estimates that the growth rate will be 8% between 2019 and 2029. This is still more than the average rate of 4% but not anywhere near as high as the growth rate for medical assistants.

Skills Required

Medical assistants perform various duties while on the job, including both clinical and administrative tasks that focus on assessing patients and helping doctors with patient care and treatment. Skills a medical assistant needs to learn include taking vital signs, helping with examinations, giving injections, preparing lab tests, and handling patient information.

At United, medical assisting students have the opportunity to practice their hands-on skills in a real healthcare setting as part of an externship. This real-world experience sets students up for success as they begin applying for jobs and start their careers.

Certified nursing assistants focus more on direct patient care and help with daily living activities. Performing baths and cleaning patients, helping patients get dressed and use the bathroom, moving patients between beds and wheelchairs, feeding patients, and changing linens are all common necessary skills of certified nursing assistants.

Training Needed

To start a career in medical assisting, you will need specialized training that prepares you for this specific job. Most medical assisting degree programs can be completed in under two years and include classroom instruction and hands-on skills. It’s also a good idea to choose a medical assistant program that includes preparation for professional certifications, as many employers prefer candidates who have these credentials.

For example, in our Medical Assisting program here at United, students learn valuable knowledge and practice their hands-on skills in their medical assisting classes, labs, and externship. Students also prepare for healthcare certifications specific to being a medical assistant, including the National Certified Clinical Medical Assistant*, Certified EKG Technician**, and Certified Phlebotomy Technician** certifications.

To become a certified nursing assistant, specialized training is required for this career path, and it is usually completed in under six months. The training must be state-approved and typically teaches direct patient care, patient safety, and documentation. CNAs must also pass a competency exam and complete a number of hours of hands-on clinical training, which varies by state.

Work Environment

According to BLS data, medical assistants are most likely to work in physician’s offices, with 57% employed there in 2019. Another 15% is working in hospitals, and the rest in outpatient care centers and at chiropractors. Most medical assistants are full-time employees with 40-hour workweeks. Medical assisting professionals who work in medical facilities that are always open, like hospitals, may work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

According to the BLS, certified nursing assistants are more likely to work in nursing care facilities, with 37% working there, and hospitals, with 27% working there. The remainder of nursing assistants work in retirement and assisted living facilities, home healthcare services, and government. The job duties are more physically demanding and strenuous, as CNAs are on their feet a lot of the time and expected to lift over 50 pounds. Most certified nursing assistants work full time, but some work part-time. They may work longer shifts and more on nights, weekends, and holidays.

Get Started

Now you know the difference between medical assistants and certified nursing assistants! If you’ve decided to go with medical assisting for your career, we may have the perfect Medical Assisting program for you. With hands-on training, academic support, and career services, we can help you reach your career goals. Request information today to get started!

 

*Certification is contingent upon passing the corresponding industry certification exam. Required/included in tuition/fees.

*Certification is contingent upon passing the corresponding industry certification exam. Optional at own expense.

Medical Assisting – Program Highlight

With the ever increasing demand for medical professionals, becoming a Medical Assistant can be a great career path for anyone who wants to break into the healthcare field.

At United Career Institute, we designed our healthcare training programs to meet the needs of local employers, so you can gain the education and skills necessary to succeed in your medical career.

Medical Assisting

Read on to learn all about our Medical Assisting program and how it can launch you into a great healthcare career!

What You’ll Learn

As part of the Medical Assisting program at UCI, you’ll prepare for a successful career with hands-on training that enables you to successfully care for patients while on the job. Checking vital signs, performing lab tests, assisting with minor surgeries, conducting eye exams, and practicing phlebotomy are just a few of the clinical skills you will learn in your medical assisting classes.

You will also learn valuable front-office skills including how to manage a medical office, process insurance claims, transcribe medical charts, and practice HIPAA procedures.

With the increasing need for healthcare professionals in Westmoreland County, these clinical and front-office skills are extremely valuable to local employers.

Career Opportunities

As the medical field continues to grow and expand, so do the career opportunities. Healthcare employers need candidates who have the education, skills, and training necessary to get the job done.

By earning your Medical Assisting specialized associate degree at United Career Institute, you can be prepared for a career as a Medical Assistant in many types of facilities, such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, blood banks, and long-term care facilities.

Professional Certifications

Earning professional certifications allows you to put your career on the fast track. They show potential employers that you are qualified, can get the job done, and have met the standards established by the third-party organizations that host the certification exams.

With technology and best practices changing over time, healthcare certifications help you stay current in the medical field. Because certifications are preferred by many employers, you will have more career opportunities once you’ve earned this stamp of approval.

As part of the United Career Institute’s  Medical Assisting program, you are prepared to sit for numerous professional certifications from the National Healthcareer Association, including National Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, Certified EKG Technician, and Certified Phlebotomy Technician.

Student Success at UCI

Student success is our top priority and we strive to educate, encourage, and empower students to reach their career goals. With academic advising, personalized attention, career services, and hands-on training, students have the support necessary for professional success.

Ready to kick start your career?

Take the next step to begin your career as a Medical Assistant today. Request information now to get started!