CNA vs Medical Assistant: What’s The Difference?

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Medical Assistants (MAs) are two roles often lumped together.

It may seem like they’re the same, but these two have distinct responsibilities and functions.

Keep on reading to learn more about each position and determine which one is right for you.

Similarities and Differences of CNAs and MAs

Both CNAs and MAs support the healthcare team to help run the healthcare facility smoothly.

So let’s understand the similarities and differences of each role in healthcare.

RoleProvides basic care and helps patients with activities of daily livingCompletes administrative and clinical tasks
SupervisorSenior nursesDoctors and physicians
  • Clean and bathe patients
  • Help patients use the toilet and dress
  • Turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Listen to and record patients’ health concerns and report that information to nurses
  • Measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Serve meals and help patients eat
  • Record patient history and personal information
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Help physicians with patient examinations
  • Give patients injections or medications as directed by physicians and as permitted by state law
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Enter patient information into medical records
Common workplaces
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospitals
  • Retirement communities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Home healthcare agencies
  • Government
  • Physician’s offices
  • Chiropractors’ offices
  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers
  • At least 75 hours of CNA training program
  • Takes four to 12 weeks to complete
  • Postsecondary non-degree education programs
    • Certificate
    • Diploma
    • Associate degree
  • Takes one to two years to complete
Certification and licenses
  • Complete the state-approved CNA training program
  • Pass the state competency evaluation exam
  • Certification is optional but recommended
  • For the certification, you must:
    • Complete an accredited program
    • Pass the exam
TitleCertified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
Valued qualities
  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • Communication skills
  • Physical stamina
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Technical skills
Career advancementCNA to…

  • Registered Nurse
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
MA to…

  • Managerial positions
  • Physician Assistant
  • Registered Nurse
  • Nurse Practitioner
Job outlook8% projected employment growth by 203018% projected employment growth by 2030
Salary$30,310 average annual salary$37,190 average annual salary

Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

Which Role Is Right for Me?

Whether a CNA or MA, it depends on your preference.

You can be a CNA if you want to…

  • Provide more hands-on nursing care to patients
  • Advance to a nursing (RN or LPN) position

Or you can be an MA if you…

  • Like to do more administrative duties and less physical labor
  • Are more comfortable dealing with technology

Whichever your future career may be, know that both CNA and MA play important jobs in healthcare.

As such, you’ll have plenty of job opportunities that await you.

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