Choose Your Program Wisely: Medical Assistant, Certified Nursing Assistant, or Licensed Practical Nurse
Posted Monday, Oct 2, 2017 by Altierus
You know you want to create forward motion in your life, move up in the world, and earn a prosperous salary. Healthcare is a booming industry and a field you’ve been eager to enter, but is a career as a medical assistant right for you? Because there are many different paths to a career in healthcare, it can be difficult to find the right fit. This article will help you compare and contrast the roles, programs, and potential career paths of a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant, and licensed practical nurse.
Choosing the right career path for you
Before you decide if a medical assistant program is right for you, you should learn about some entry-points into the world of healthcare. Take a moment to get some quick facts and insights on the roles of a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant, and licensed practical nurse.
Median salary: $31,540 annually
Lowest 10% earned less than: $22,870 annually
Program length: 1-2 years
Job outlook: projected to grow 23% from 2014 to 2024*
What medical assistants do
Depending on the specific position and location, medical assistants may help with a number of important administrative and medical tasks such as scheduling appointments, greeting patients, and coding patient information. Additionally, they may also help with medical tasks such as taking vital signs, preparing blood samples for lab tests, and even helping a physician with patient exams. As the use of electronic health records increases, medical assistants are also tasked with learning how to use technology and medical coding tools in order to complete patient health records.
Become a medical assistant
- Complete postsecondary program: Most medical assistants complete an education program, leading to a degree, diploma or certificate. These programs usually only take 1-2 years to complete. Typically, programs contain class and lab segments with lessons in anatomy and medical terminology.
- Get certification: Most employers prefer to hire certified individuals, so try to look for a program that offers preparation for industry testing and certification.
- On-the-job training: Especially for those who do not have a certificate or postsecondary education, on-the-job training could take several months to complete.
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Median Salary: $26,590 annually
Lowest 10% earned less than: $20,040 annually
Program length: 4-12 weeks
Job outlook: projected to grow 17% from 2014 to 2024*
What certified nursing assistants do
Certified nursing assistants help with the basic daily care activities for their patients or residents. The common duties of a certified nursing assistant include bathing, repositioning, dressing, feeding and transferring patients, as well as helping with some medical tasks like taking vital signs.
Become a certified nursing assistant
- Complete approved education program: Certified nursing assistants must complete an education program approved by their state. Typically, this will include classroom instruction as well as clinical training.
- Pass the competency exam: This exam allows nursing assistants to add the certified nursing assistant designation to their title, but the titles can vary from state to state.
- On-the-job training: Typically, certified nursing assistants will still undergo some on-the-job training to learn the ins and outs of their facility’s policies and rules.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Median Salary: $44,090 annually
Lowest 10% earned less than: $32,510 annually
Program length: 1-2 years
Job outlook: projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024*
What licensed practical nurses do
Under the direction of physicians and nurses, licensed practical nurses perform any number of care-related activities throughout the day. They may help monitor patients’ health, change bandages, insert catheters, help with bathing and dressing, or pass on patient concerns to other medical professionals. Specific duties depend on where (state and location) a licensed practical nurse is employed, and what authority and certifications they hold.
Become a licensed practical nurse
- Complete an approved educational program: Licensed practical nurses must complete educational programs that combine nursing, biology and pharmacology and supervised clinical experience. These programs typically award a certificate, degree, or diploma.
- Pass the NCLEX exam: Those wanting to be a licensed practical nurse must complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).
- Get CPR & other certifications (optional): Employers may prefer licensed practical nurses who are also trained in CPR and other certifications such as IV therapy and gerontology.
A career path made for you
Now that you have some facts about the differences between a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant, and licensed practical nurse, spend some time learning more about the specifics of each career path, then pick a program that meets your goals and expectations. Ultimately, you want a program that provides you with the courses and information you’ll actually use, while also offering hands-on-experience you’ll want before your first job. Want to get started? Check out the medical assistant program from Altierus and find a program close by.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Medical Assistants, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Nursing Assistants and Orderlies, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm
Programs and schedules vary by campus. For more information about graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, please visit www.altierus.org/disclosures