Certified Medical Assistant Vs. Certified Nursing Assistant Vs. LPN

Feb 27, 2019

Although all of these healthcare professionals may gather medical information and record information in patients' records, the scope of their responsibilities varies. Read on to compare the training requirements, duties and incomes of these careers.

Comparing Certified Medical Assistants, Certified Nursing Assistants & LPNs

Certified medical assistants, certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are all medical professionals who provide healthcare services to patients. Their specific roles and responsibilities vary, and while certified medical assistants are currently experiencing the highest rate of job growth, LPNs have a significantly higher median salary.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Certified Medical Assistants Postsecondary Program & Exam $31,540 29%
Certified Nursing Assistants Postsecondary Program and Exam $26,590 11%
LPNs Certificate or Diploma & Exam $44,090 (licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses) 12% (licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Certified Medical Assistants, Certified Nursing Assistants & LPNs

Certified medical assistants complete administrative duties and work with patients to take medical information, update patient records and prepare them to see a doctor. Certified nursing assistants provide general medical care to patients. They look after their basic physical needs by taking them food, helping them wash and other similar direct care tasks. Licensed practical nurses may update records and assist with direct patient care as well, but they perform other medical procedures such as inserting catheters. LPNs may provide medical information to patients, work in maternity wards and may also supervise other staff.

Certified Medical Assistants

Certified medical assistants can work varied hours at any time of the day or night, depending on whether they work in a hospital, clinic or doctor's office. They typically perform a combination of tasks related to direct patient care and administrative duties. As medical professionals, they must maintain confidentiality and not disclose information about patients. Attention to detail is also important so that they gather all relevant data when performing their tasks. They may assist doctors who are treating or examining patients, or prepare patients for their appointments. Some exclusively focus on administrative work while others assist podiatrists or other doctors with a medical specialty. Though an accredited postsecondary program is not strictly required, it satisfies certification eligibility requirements in lieu of experience and improves overall prospects.

Job responsibilities of a certified medical assistant include:

  • Gathering patient data
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Providing medications to patients
  • Updating medical files
  • Recording patient's heart rate, temperature and blood pressure
  • Having biological samples sent for testing

Certified Nursing Assistants

Certified nursing assistants help patients with daily living tasks. It's common for them to spend long periods of time working on their feet. They may be required to move patients, so they need to be physically capable of performing these types of tasks. It's common for certified nursing assistants to work in hospitals, nursing homes or other medical facilities. In nursing homes, they may serve as main patient caregivers. They typically work day, evening and overnight shifts and may work evenings and holidays as well. They assist with direct patient care.

Job responsibilities of a certified nursing assistant include:

  • Taking a patient's vital signs
  • Bathing patients
  • Helping patients move
  • Informing nurses of patient concerns
  • Giving patients medication
  • Getting patients the appropriate food


LPNs are licensed nurses who work under registered nurses and doctors. They need physical strength to help patients move and need to be able to communicate well with patients to discuss their treatment. It's most common for LPNs to work in nursing homes or hospitals, where they may work shifts around the clock. Some work in doctor's offices. LPNs provide medical care and assistance to patients. In certain states they are allowed to give patients medications and IV drips.

Job responsibilities of a LPN include:

  • Checking on patients and their condition
  • Helping patients get dressed
  • Updating patient records and charts
  • Updating other medical staff about patients
  • Catheterizing patients
  • Redressing injuries with clean bandages

Related Careers

There are a number of other healthcare careers that share similar training requirements and involve comparable duties as the careers discussed in this article. Use the links here to learn more about similar healthcare career options.

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