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Difference Between CNA and MA

medicien-health-stethescope-pdCNA vs. MA

The healthcare industry has been confusing to the public, with so many professionals working under its belt. There are MDs, RNs, LPNs, NPs, Aides, TBAs, CNAs and MAs, among others. In this article, the disparity between the last two professionals (CNA and MA) will be made clearer.

Foremost, it is true that both CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) and MAs (Medical Assistants) have tasks that seem to be overlapping each other. This means that the two roles, to some extent, also share similar responsibilities. For one, MAs can do the basic tasks of health education, taking vital signs (temperature checks, BP checks, etc.), recording medical data, conducting in-house visits, especially when tasked by the doctor, and even instructing the patients on how they will take their medications properly. However, what separates them from CNAs, is that they cannot do bedside care, as opposed to Certified Nursing Assistants.

CNAs mostly interact with the patient in the presence of other nurses, like the Registered Nurse (RN) and the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). As stated, MAs usually mediate between the doctor and the patient.

One of the biggest differences between a CNA and an MA is that the latter cannot work inside nursing homes. They go to facilities like health care units that do not have any visible doctor who’s stationing within. As per law requirements, Medical Assistants really need to work in facilities where physicians are around to supervise their actions, and to direct their health care plans. Because of this, the MA’s work is usually seen to be confined within the physician’s clinic or office. On the contrary, since CNAs are under the supervision of either the LPN and or RN, they can work in more health care areas, even in the absence of the doctor.

In terms of employment freedom, CNAs obviously have the leverage over MAs. CNAs can easily pass, or get more certification, so as to improve their career path. They have more career options, and have the flexibility in occupying better healthcare roles.

In summary:

1. CNAs can do patient bedside care, like assisting in personal hygiene tasks, while MAs cannot.

2. CNAs mediate between the patient and other higher ranked nurses, whereas MAs can only mediate or act as a liaison between the patient and the doctor.

3. CNAs have more career options, and have better employment prospects than MAs.

4. CNAs can work in facilities that do not have a stationing doctor, while MAs mostly work near the doctor’s hospital clinics.

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  1. I disagree with this article, as an M.A. I worked in clinics yes but doing xrays and physical therapy and drawing blood also giving injections and writing scripts for the dr. and doing lab tests. This allows you to further your career in the medical field by specializing in one of these many fields, just by taking the courses for that specific speciality like doing xrays, venipuncture or lab tests or physical therapy. I feel it is much more rewarding than cleaning someones vomit up or their posterior; I also worked in a nursing home where I did care plans for the pts physical activity so they did get some physical therapy that way. We worked closely with the dr. and the lpns and the rns. so check out your facts before you print such a biased article please.
    Christine Mundrick, Warren, Mi

    • I just got certified as an MA through Branford hall. No slouch, got an “A”. I am having a heck of a time finding a job now after almost $20,000 bucks for school. Any ideas? Ilove Physical Therapy and of course just working with older people. I am 46. seems like a CNA gets the better deal. I do not want to work directly for some bad attitude doctor and like my space to freely go and work with patients! Think i messed up! Any ideas for me?
      Kevin Valentino

    • I think its important to bear in mind that every state has laws regulating what all licensed and unlicensed personnel can do, so check your state regulations. Here in Ohio, it is NEVER appropriate for a Dr to delegate tasks that require specific education for that task (eg. Administration of medications other than vaccines and topical ointments.) In addition, an MA can NOT write prescriptions under any circumstance, in any state, as Mr. Mundrick states above. This is strictly a task for the Doctor or Nurse Practitioner. I was a CNA before becoming a nurse and can honestly say this articles content is pretty accurate when it states there are more opportunities for CNAs, such as continuing to Nursing school, where the credits the MA has received would not even be considered. To me, an MA is just a glorified CNA with phlebotomy licensure, a typically smaller salary and a horrible job outlook. My advice would be to pursue the CNA licensure since its a shorter program, its less costly, and provides opportunities for advancement! In order for an MA to advance in his or her career, as Mr. Mundrick states, one must take additional courses in that specific field. This requires an Associates degree in Radiology or licensure as a nurse and since the MAs course work wouldn’t be considered for admission into an accredited school, it would really be a waste of time and money. Furthermore, a physician can train any person off the street to be an MA without having any licensure or medical experience, for that matter! Sooo…. why waste money on a certificate that will get you nowhere???

      • I meant Ms. Not Mr… sorry 🙂

      • Wow……I have no idea were you work in Ohio but this is crap. MA’s go to school way longer then CNA’s do. As an MA i have much more job opportunities that a CNA. I have work in a office, lab as a lab assistant, and in an ER. I the ER I work with some of the most critical pt’s. I am even in helping with the traumas. CNA’s wipe butts and give baths. And I am currently in nursing school, which has helped tremendously in my schooling!

        • i’m a cna and i dont wipe butts i am a lead med aid and make more then most MA’s i know so i will take my butt wiping job…… and i work with amazing residents and i think your attude is ugly and you dont sound every perfessional you really sound not make fun of people career choice just think one of these days you might need a cna to help you wipe your butt

        • I agree I’m an Ma also and I think its funny how CNA’s think they have the better job…haha we went to school longer and had more training and probably will save your life better than a lousy CNA haha

        • This article is right on in a office situation because my job as a CNA is direct patient care my job out ranks yours as a MA..Your nothing than a Medical Secretary

      • I started as a CNA and continued to become a MA. As a MA, I had to obtain an associate degree. I basically performed LPN work and was paid the same as an LPN. I am now a RN. If you want to advance in healthcare, become a registered nurse. Forget the CNA, LPN, and MA. However, I appreciate my experience because it has made me a better nurse. I do not consider myself above the “dirty work” like some nurses.

      • Yeah they dont teach you as long or as much cause CNA dont do much but clean people..MA’s you actually have to have a brain and guess what that cost money..who would have thought…hmmm


      • I agree with you ,,,
        I am a MA too and just worked for a Physician office but was more than that I had to do EKG, vitals, running back & front office , answering the ph and assisting the doctor when examinating the patient … All this by my self not mentioning calling for clearance , surgery, inventory…. And at the end they just threw me like garbage after my maternity leave, the dr didn’t even call me to ask how I was and it was his wife who called me one day to give me the Great news I was fired…she said the person who was covering me for my internship was in all ways better than me( she didn’t say those words but meant them in a way I didn’t do shit) and what was worse that ( that ) person who was covering me, was my friend, I Trained her, we were living In thesame apt, and she never ever saw my baby ( we were just across the hallway ) never dared to see him… At the end she turned her back on me, took my job, talked BS to patients about me, and now is my ememy with no reason…oh without mentioning I put my self at risk for her not to go to jail because she had her license suspended …..
        Well went beyond my point is that I am still confused see I want to study for something higher than a MA, but now reading all this I’m not sure if choosing LPN OR CNA… Is clear nobody wants to clean butt or poop but it’s a medical field and that’s part of it,,,, Thxs for reading I feel much better now…….

      • I agree!!! Ihave to pay back 14,000 to lincoln tech to become a MA!!!!!!! what a waste!!! well now im getting my CNA for free and will be paying me for the training at 12.16 hr then i will get more than that no good school would have ever offer or gave me!!! i regret going for ma! waste of my time and money that i will be paying for the next 30 yrs.

        • It’s free cause it is a crappy job literally!!!

        • Good luck with getting the CNA wages you mentioned. If you can great. You are doing far more physically demanding work and your body will pay the price. I know MA’s make less in some respects. However, Doctors give way better benefits including paid time off, health insurance, the ability to learn how to do x-rays, assist in surgeries, allow you to attempt to diagnose for fun, feed you with meals from Pharmacology reps, use company vehicles, do procedures like stitching someone up, take vacations with them, help pay for more training if you decide to go farther in your education (i.e. nursing school, P.A. school). My instructors doctor retired, and when he did he continued paying her weekly wages as though she still worked for him. He bought her a new car, her choice. Her had paid for her and her family to go to Europe with him. He got her a new car every few years. He paid for her continuing education courses. He gave her paid sick leave, and maternity. First thing they tell a CNA, if a dying patient offers you gifts like cars or vacations etc. You MUST BY LAW refuse these gifts.

    • I agree with you 100% I know CNA’s that think they have the better job than I do.. but in truth we as MA’s get the better expierience..and I would rather work next to doctor’s than a nurse only cause doctors are obviously higher ranked..doctors depend more on MA’s than CNA’s because a MA can do more, as a CNA only helps the nurses. I love working with doctors right next to them.. the are more willing to look at you higher and more able to do tasks than a measly CNA can’t. I have a 4.0 and I went to school longer than CNA’s usually go and I feel I know more about the medical field than a CNA would. I feel that a MA would have a better chance of saving your life compared to a CNA. MA’s have a more extensive training compared to a 9 week CNA program haha..Im certified in Phlebotomy, EKG’s, and I’m a Certified Registered MA, bet you a CNA cant do that. I dont wipe butts I take care of doctor’s needs and patients needs..more than just giving a bath haha
      Lindsay Shearer CPT,CET, CRMA

  2. I am going to get my certification on CNA but wondering if I do not get that certification and get hired will they pay less because I do not hold the certification. And Kevin how is that you cannot find a job as a MA? The discription of the job sounds like it was made by someone who has no clue on the real action of the job. Ive read else where in more detail what the CNAs do.

    • Blame the state of CT. Other states like MA and Fl allow MA’s to give immediate care and also administer Meds, Not CT. Here we are just vital takers and appointment makers. Basically a secretary with a stethescope and bp cup. Boring!!!!!!

      • Maybe it’s just the matter of being happy and not calling it a job so much. I’m a MA and love it. Yeeh… but will return to school for something esle. I’m young and have alot of other options.

    • Go for your CNA..I am a Licensed CNA in state of Michigan and I am making $14 per hour with experience as a CNA I am respected by doctors and Nurses I do my scope of practice plus I have Secretary skills (high school)of a MA..And MA are only Certified not Licensed

  3. I have six days left of class before I start clinicals. I am training to be a CNA. Iliad have seen advertising on Craigslist for medical assistants with no experience needed. In the ads itbsays.that they will be trained on the job. It’s not about who does what in the medical field, but a lot of times it really comes down to the money. Medical assistants are built in secretaries with LPN duties, yet doctors are actually just using the medical assistant because they can pay an MA less than LPN. A medical assistant is suppose to be supervised at all times but doctors break that law a lot. Why go to school and pay all that money to become a MA and get used and underpaid when youncan go to school for free and earn a CNA certificate and just work at a physician’s office as a medical assistant if you want added responsibility?

  4. No offense to the author, but this is the most poorly written article I have seen on this subject. CNA’s (that work in a clinic or hospital especially) used to have to know all of the MA’s job description not that long ago. It was only in the last decade things changed so local trade and community colleges could make money off of poor unsuspecting students by charging them up the wazoo for the menial tasks that CNA’s are still responsible for today. I find it strange that many articles don’t seem to mention that fact.
    I received my CNA license way back in the 80’s and let me tell you, we had to know everything the MA knows! Bp/Vital’s/Temp’s/blood draws/Training by physical therapist’s on how to transfer properly/care for pre and post op patients from ANY facility, not just the hospitals, recording medical data, working and taking orders directly from the Doctor’s and RN’s and Pharmacists, and even instructing the patients on how they will take their medications and preform ADL’s properly. We had to take phlebotomy because it was required and also learn how to give insulin shots. We were required to take clinical classes from a nursing home and rehabilitation center as well as from a hospital setting. There was no difference between an MA and a CNA throughout the 90’s going back. I find it funny that you all are fighting over this subject and can not use your heads to figure out that the schools are bending you all over and ramming the differences of your jobs up your bung holes because they can make more money by separating the work loads, wake up! MA’s can’t do CNA work, but CNA’s can do MA work in most states, not all. They were divided so schools can make more money. There is no better job description, there is only work…so run rabbits run…the schools need your mindless support and your money!

  5. I am a RMA and have a two year degree in medical assisting. I make the same as an LPN and have the same duties I worked as a CNA while in school and made 12,000 less a year as a CNA. So yes medical assistants make way more!

  6. This article is soo far off. MA students are trained to draw blood (phlebotomy), give intramuscular/intravenous/subcutaneous/intradermal injections, wrap wounds, remove stitches, do billing, do coding, administer medications, give the same level of emergency life support as a nurse (we take the same Red Cross Certification they do), perform basic lab tests including urinalysis, strep tests, HIV tests, take minor biopsies, assist in surgeries, lay out instruments using sterile field techniques, take EKG’s of hearts, take blood pressure, take respirations, take pulses, etc… A CNA is trained how to make beds, change bandages, give a patient their medicine (the patient must administer it to themselves), change patients diapers, bathe patients properly, move patients from bed to chair/toilet/etc using transfer belts. I took my express CNA training in 2 weeks, but my express MA training took me from January-September 9 MONTHS! Get your facts changed in this article or I’m reporting you to every Medical Assisting Organization I know of and we will raise a stink!

  7. I agree and disagree with a lot of thing that I have read, my only problem is as a RMA and a license Phlebotomy Tech I can’t find a proper job in either field so my next opposition is to continue my schooling. In my state I have to have my CNA before I can do my RN. Now where I work CNA can do 1 on 1 with the patient for suicide attempts MA can’t. There is good and bad in both areas. But that’s just my opinion.

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