Medical Assistant vs CNA: Difference and Comparison

The health sector is getting more and more important all over the world. There are several job roles in the health sector other than doctors.

Medical assistants and CNA or certified nursing assistants are the important parts of the health sector. Though they have some similar job roles, and responsibilities, their job roles are different from each other in fundamental ways.

Key Takeaways

  1. Medical assistants perform both administrative and clinical tasks in healthcare settings.
  2. CNAs provide basic patient care, working under the supervision of a nurse.
  3. Training and certification requirements differ for each role, with medical assistants having broader responsibilities.

Medical Assistant vs CNA

Medical assistants are professionals trained to perform both administrative and clinical duties in medical offices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are healthcare professionals who provide direct patient care and assist with activities of daily living.

Medical Assistant vs CNA

A medical assistant (MA) is a healthcare professional who assists doctors in health care centers, hospitals, clinics. MA helps in running hospitals and clinics smoothly.

A medical assistant handles both administration and health care duties. In the administration area, MA does everything from arranging appointments with doctors to billing and in the clinical area, the duties of a MA are to take vital signs from the patient, take medication history and compile it. 

CNA refers to a health care professional who assists nurses by providing several types of basic health care services to the patients who are unable to do their work alone.

In addition, a CNA also does several other clinical duties like taking significant signs recording the health conditions of the patients daily, and reporting them to the nurse and doctors.

A CNA builds a communication bridge between the patients and other health care professionals.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMedical assistantCNA
AssistancePhysicians, nurses, and patients.     Senior nurses, patients.
SkillBasic administration skills related to medical work, medical skills, patient communication skills.     Knowing basic medical terminology, communication skills, compassion and empathy, patience, optimism, and flexibility.
Educational needs Generally, a high school diploma is needed. Formal educational training is not mandatory everywhere.     Formal education with training is essential for becoming a CNA.
Patient interaction  patient interaction is less compared to CNA.     Patient interaction is high as their primary job is to assist patients and provide them care.
Salary36,930 US dollars in the United States (BLS report).     32,050 US dollars in the United States (BLS report).

What is Medical Assistant?

In the medical sector, many job roles support the whole health care system. A medical assistant is a health professional who supports physicians, nurses, and even patients regularly.

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They are considered to be one of the most important patient care teams that cover significant elements of the patient care lifestyle including assisting with treatment and diagnosis, recording patient’s medical history, supporting other medical professionals, and ensuring patient comfort.

A medical assistant plays a vital role in the health system as a MA handles both administrative and clinical responsibilities. A medical assistant needs to work with people of all ages from children to adults to elderly people, who can get several types of health care services from a MA, including providing preventive care for healthy patients, critical health care to the ill.

As medical assistants need to perform a wide range of tasks (clinical, administrative, and supportive tasks), they need to be detail-oriented, well-trained, and have excellent communication skills.

Their work varies from rooming and greeting patients to providing administrative support to taking patient history and billing, and so on.

A medical assistant works in various healthcare settings which include doctors’ clinics, hospitals, and also in rehabilitation centers, occupational health offices, and assisted living homes. A medical assistant can work on the shifts flexibly. 

medical assistant

What is CNA?

A CNA or certified nursing assistant is another important part of the health care setting who assists patients and senior nurses by providing a wide range of health care or clinical support. 

Some of their main responsibilities are bathing, moving or turning patients who are not able to move by themselves, gathering a supply of the medicines, grooming patients by shaving them, brushing teeth and hair, answering calls from the patients, feeding patients, documenting their liquid and food intake, information documentation, taking care of wounds, assisting senior nurses and doctors in some medical procedures, stocking medical supplies, and so on. 

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A CNA needs to take proper education and training for performing all the responsibilities. For becoming a CNA, a state-approved training program is a must.

If the program doesn’t have approval from the state, the state won’t approve its students as CNA. An educational program for the CNA includes mixed clinical training and classroom instruction.

As the demand for health care services has increased dramatically, it is hoped that the demand for this profession will also grow soon.

According to a report of BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) of the United States, by the time of 2029, CNA employment will grow by 8 percent.


Main Differences Between Medical Assistant and CNA 

  1. A medical assistant mainly assists physicians, patients, and their families, whereas a CNA assists senior nurses and patients. They rarely interact with the patient family.
  2. For becoming a medical assistant, a general high school diploma is enough, educational programs or training are not necessary everywhere. But for becoming a CNA proper certified nursing training and educational programs are essential.
  3. A medical assistant interacts less with the patients compared to a CNA, as they provide both clinical and administrative support. A CNA, on the other hand, mainly provides medical care to the patients. The patient interaction is much higher than the job role of a medical assistant.
  4. A medical assistant needs to have Basic administration skills related to medical work, medical skills, patient communication skills, whereas a CNA needs to know basic medical terminology, communication skills, compassion and empathy, patience, optimism, and flexibility, as they mainly focus on giving care to the patients.
  5. The average monthly salary of a medical assistant in the United States is 36,930 US dollars as of May 2020 (According to the BLS report), whereas the monthly salary of a CNA is slightly less than a medical assistant, 32,050 US dollars as of May 2020.
Difference Between Medical Assistant and CNA

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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