CNA vs Medical Assistant: What’s the Difference?

Discover the key differences between a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and a medical assistant (MA). Considering a career in healthcare? This is a must-read!

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Job descriptions

Medical assistants and CNAs (certified nurse assistants) both play important roles in healthcare. They work closely with patients, providing them with assistance and care. However, there are some key differences between these two positions.

Medical assistants typically have more clinical duties than CNAs. They may take patients’ vital signs, administer injections, measure blood pressure, and draw blood. They may also assist with minor surgical procedures, such as removing stitches. In contrast, CNAs generally have more hands-on duties, such as bathing and dressing patients, providing them with meals, and helping them to the restroom. CNAs may also provide emotional support to patients and their families.

Both Medical assistants and CNAs work under the supervision of licensed healthcare professionals. Medical assistants typically report to a nurse or doctor, while CNAs generally report to a nurse.

There are different educational requirements for medical assistants and CNAs. Medical assistants typically need to complete an accredited medical assisting program, which takes about one year to complete.CNAs must complete a state-approved training program, which takes about six to twelve weeks to complete. After completing their training programs, medical assistants and CNAs must pass a certification exam before they can begin working.

Duties and responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of a CNA may vary slightly from state to state, but in general, they include providing basic patient care, such as bathing, dressing and grooming; taking vital signs; and moving patients in and out of beds, wheelchair and automobiles. They also answer patients’ calls for assistance and record their activities and behaviors.

Medical assistants generally have more responsibilities than CNAs. In addition to the tasks CNAs perform, medical assistants also take patient medical histories, schedule appointments, prepare specimens for laboratory testing, perform basic laboratory tests on-site, explain patients’ medication schedules and side effects, authorize prescription refills and often work as billing and coding specialists. Some medical assistants are even trained in basic X-ray procedures.

Education and training

The education and training required for a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is vastly different from that of a medical assistant (MA). A CNA is required to complete an accredited nursing program and pass a state-approved certification exam, whereas an MA generally needs only a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training. CNAs are also supervised by licensed nurses, whereas MAs typically report to physicians.

The duties of a CNA are also different from those of an MA. CNAs typically provide basic patient care, such as bathing, dressing and feeding patients, while MAs more frequently perform administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments and handling billing. Both CNAs and MAs may take patient vitals signs and collect medical histories, but only CNAs are allowed to administer medication under the supervision of a licensed nurse.


There are a few key ways in which certified nurse assistants (CNAs) and medical assistants differ. One major difference is that CNAs must be certified in order to work, while medical assistants are not required to have any formal certification. This does not mean, however, that medical assistants are not qualified to do their job; in fact, many medical assistants have considerable training and experience.

Another key difference is that CNAs typically provide direct patient care, while medical assistants may or may not have direct patient contact, depending on their specific job duties. Medical assistants may also perform administrative tasks such as billing and scheduling appointments, while CNAs typically do not.

If you’re considering a career in either of these fields, it’s important to research the requirements and duties of each role to see which is a better fit for you.


The average salary for a CNA is $29,580 per year, while the average salary for a medical assistant is $32,860 per year. Both positions offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, but CNAs may have slightly more opportunities for advancement than medical assistants.

Job outlook

CNA vs Medical Assistant: What’s the Difference?
Between 2012 and 2022, the number of jobs for medical assistants is projected to grow by 29%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The number of jobs for CNAs is projected to grow by 11%, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Pros and cons

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Medical Assistants (MAs) are two of the most popular health care careers. They both provide vital assistance to patients, but there are some key differences between the two roles.

CNAs generally provide more direct patient care than MAs, such as bathing and dressing patients, checking their vitals, and helping them to eat and exercise. CNAs also often have more interaction with patients than MAs, as they are often the ones who provide emotional support and guidance.

MAs, on the other hand, generally have more administrative duties than CNAs. They may work in the front office, scheduling appointments and handling billing tasks. MAs may also perform basic clinical tasks such as taking patient histories and drawing blood.

Both CNAs and MAs play important roles in providing quality patient care. If you’re interested in a health care career, it’s important to research both options to see which one is right for you.

Key takeaways

CNA vs medical assistant: what’s the difference? Both have completed postsecondary education and have passed state-approved exams, but CNAs typically work in long-term care facilities while medical assistants usually work in doctors’ offices. The key difference between the two is the scope of their duties: CNAs are responsible for providing basic patient care, while medical assistants perform both clinical and administrative tasks.


CNA vs Medical Assistant: What’s the Difference?

The most common questions we receive are regarding the differences between certified nurse assistants (CNAs) and medical assistants (MAs). While both roles provide support to nurses and physicians in a variety of settings, there are some key distinctions that you should be aware of before making a decision about which career path is right for you. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about CNAs and MAs.

What is a CNA?
A CNA is a certified nurse assistant who provides basic patient care under the supervision of licensed nurses. CNAs typically work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies They may also provide support in non-clinical settings such as schools and prisons. Duties of CNAs include bathing, dressing, and grooming patients; taking vital signs; providing emotional support; and assisting with ambulation and range-of-motion exercises.

What is an MA?
A medical assistant is a multi-skilled health professional who provides both clinical and administrative support to physicians and other healthcare providers. MAs typically work in physician offices, clinics, and hospitals. They may also be employed by insurance companies, nursing homes and correctional facilities. Duties of MAs include taking medical histories and recording vital signs; performing basic laboratory tests; scheduling appointments; handling insurance billing; coding medical records preparing patients for examinations; assisting with procedures; and giving patient instructions on medication use and post-treatment care.

What are the differences between CNAs and MAs?
The main difference between CNAs and MAs is that CNAs provide hands-on patient care while MAs provide both clinical and administrative support. Another key difference is that CNAs must complete an accredited training program and pass a state-administered certification exam before they can begin working, while there is no formal educational or certification requirements for MAs. However, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have completed an accredited MA program and/or have earned professional certification from organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants or the National Healthcare Association.

Which role is right for me?
The answer to this question depends on your individual skills, interests, goals, and qualifications. If you enjoy working directly with patients and providing hands-on care, then a career as a CNA might be right for you. If you are interested in providing both clinical and administrative support to healthcare providers, then a career as an MA might be a better fit. Ultimately, the best way to decide which role is right for you is to speak with healthcare professionals in both roles to get a better understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities involved.

Further reading

Although both CNAs and medical assistants perform many of the same tasks, there are some key differences between the two positions. CNAs typically provide basic patient care and perform tasks such as bathing, dressing, and grooming patients. Medical assistants, on the other hand, are more likely to perform administrative and clinical tasks such as scheduling appointments, taking medical histories, and checking vital signs. In some cases, medical assistants may also be responsible for giving injections and administering medications.

If you’re considering a career in either field, it’s important to understand the difference between CNAs and medical assistants. Both positions offer the opportunity to help others and make a difference in the lives of patients. However, the nature of the work is different, so it’s important to choose the path that’s right for you.

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