The Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a CNA

Job seekers that want to get into the medical industry can get a great start in their career by training to be a medical assistant or a certified nurse’s aide (CNA). While there are many similarities between these two professions, there are also a great number of differences in the job functions they perform and the physical locations where they work.

Medical Assistant & Certified Nurse’s Aide in New York

Below, we’ve outlined the major differences between medical assistants and CNAs and how you can begin training right now to become either.

What Is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant performs a number of tasks designed to help prepare patients for their meeting with the doctor. This means that if you decide to become a medical assistant, your day-to-day job would have you sanitizing exam rooms, taking patient vitals, assembling patient medical histories, and preparing medical equipment for use.

Aside from the medical tasks, a medical assistant can also be expected to take on the roles of a typical assistant job, including answering phones, scheduling appointments, and retrieving insurance information. This means that medical assistants are more often on the administrative side of things, ensuring that everything in the hospital runs smoothly and efficiently.

What Is a Certified Nurse’s Aide?

As aides to the nurses, CNAs often spend much less time with doctors and paperwork, and much more time with nurses and patients. Those that choose to become a CNA will find themselves changing linens, helping patients with tasks, monitoring their vitals, turning them to prevent bedsores, and giving bed baths.

If you decide to become a CNA, you’ll often be the one caring for patients the most and ensuring that they stay healthy and safe during their hospital stay.

CNA with Patient

The Differences

Although these jobs may seem very similar on the outside (and certainly to patients with no understanding of hospital infrastructure), there are many distinct differences that may impact your decision regarding which path to pursue

Location – Medical assistants can mostly be found in medical offices and clinics under the direct supervision of a licensed physician. CNAs can also be found in a hospital setting, but mostly for bedside care. The majority of CNAs that come out of CNA training programs can be found in nursing facilities and other long-term care centers.

Certification – Both jobs need different forms of certification in order to gain employment. To become a certified medical assistant, you’ll need to go through an accredited course. However, those wishing to be a certified nurse’s aide will need to take an approved course and also pass a certification exam for their state. For this reason, it’s advisable that residents of New York find a certified nursing assistant training program in NYC to learn local laws that will help them pass the state exam.

Pay – Depending on experience and location, medical assistants can expect to be paid an average of $13.87 an hour, or about $28,000 a year. Meanwhile, certified nurse’s aides make about $11.54 an hour, or $24,010 a year. However, it’s important to note that the average salary gained by both professions will largely depend on the tasks that they perform day to day. For instance, a CNA that can perform complex duties like drawing blood or assisting during surgery will probably be paid more than a medical assistant that mostly performs administrative duties.

Job Potential – Although the outlook for both jobs is quite positive, due to an aging global population, medical assistants are seeing 11% more growth in available positions than CNAs. Those wishing to advance their careers further in the medical industry would be well served by preparing for certification or even going back to school to become a full-time nurse.


1.  http://work.chron.com/salary-comparison-medical-assistants-vs-cnas-11442.html