CMA VS LPN | What’s the difference?

cma vs lpn

Have you ever wondered how similar the role of a certified medical assistant (CMA) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN) might be? Are you actively seeking to join the healthcare profession and curious about the difference between a CMA vs LPN? Don’t worry; you’re not alone…

Join us as we explore the difference between a CMA vs LPN, who both play vital roles in the healthcare industry. Find out how the levels of training and education vary, as well as the different job responsibilities and the healthcare facilities where they can be found working.

Learn about our medical career training programs today!

Comparing careers CMA vs LPN

Of course, deciding between the two careers may initially seem tricky, if you aren’t aware of the differences. However, each profession and its corresponding job responsibilities attract certain personalities and skill sets, making the decision simpler than you may think.

Firstly, for most, becoming a Certified Medical Assistant or a Licensed Practical Nurse is a popular path for those aspiring to pursue a healthcare career. After all, both options provide fast-track avenues into the industry, particularly if you are looking for a rewarding career change. But, while both careers involve working closely with patients and other healthcare professionals – perhaps even in the same healthcare facilities – it’s crucial to acknowledge that their job duties may vary.

LPN duties

LPNs, also referred to as Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), are healthcare professionals who work under the direction of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians. Taking a look at the job responsibilities of an LPN, these professionals’ primary focus is providing clinical and supportive care.

Being an LPN entails primarily focusing on providing hands-on patient care and delivering support with medical procedures. Key responsibilities and clinical skills required for this role include:

  • Administering medication and injections to patients
  • Taking vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Actively assisting with medical procedures
  • Dressing wounds and changing bandages
  • Collecting samples for testing
  • Documenting patient information and medical histories

Certified medical assistant duties

At first glance, the differences between LPN vs certified medical assistant roles may seem somewhat unclear. However, upon closer inspection the responsibilities of a certified medical assistant can draw upon a stronger administrative skill set. Although, they are often required to assist with specific clinical duties as a component of their job responsibilities too.

Among the tasks that a medical assistant might be responsible for are:

  • Administrative tasks, such as diary scheduling and answering phone calls
  • Preparing waiting rooms and examination rooms
  • Taking patient vital signs, including pulse rate and oxygen levels
  • Recording patient medical histories and symptoms
  • Scheduling follow-up appointments and maintaining patient records

The career outlook for LPNs compared to certified medical assistants

If you’re exploring options for a career in the healthcare industry and are still deciding whether to pursue becoming a certified medical assistant or licensed practical nurse we have some exciting news for you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that both vocational career outlooks benefit when it comes to projected employment growth. BLS reports that employment of LPNs is expected to grow by 6% from 2021-2031.1 There is a good employment outlook for medical assistants as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 16% from 2021-2031. 2

Which is better, Practical nurse or medical assistant

So, while it’s unlikely to be a clear-cut decision, you may already have a preference when comparing these two career paths. However, there are some additional factors you may want to consider before you decide to commit to one of these exciting new professions.

Medical assistant vs practical nurse education and qualification

Although both professions offer a direct route to entering the healthcare field, it’s important to acknowledge that LPNs are licensed healthcare professionals, while medical assistants can become certified and do not have the same level of responsibilities. As a result, LPNs undergo more comprehensive medical training and possess a higher level of clinical expertise.

So, while both roles could see you enter the healthcare workforce in just over a year, opting for a career as a licensed practical nurse requires more time.

CMA vs LPN workplace settings

As we’ve seen, one of the key differences between the two positions lies in the range of clinical abilities and duties demanded. So, while many healthcare facilities can employ both certified medical assistants and LPNs, there are specific clinical environments where the proportion of one or the other may be higher.

For example, medical assistants are more commonly found providing more general clinical support and administration in healthcare settings such as:

  • Physician offices
  • Medical clinics
  • Outpatient care centers

While LPNs work in a wider variety of healthcare settings, offering more advanced clinical support, including:

  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Home health agencies
  • Hospitals

Pursuing a Medical assistant career and practical nurse career

Despite these two professions sharing numerous similarities, it’s crucial to prioritize the profession that corresponds with your desired career path. So, when choosing between a medical assistant and a practical nurse training program, it’s essential to factor in your professional aspirations and the work settings that appeal to you the most, not necessarily the fastest pathway to enter the healthcare field.

Become a licensed practical nurse

In order to qualify as a licensed practical nurse, you’ll need to take your state’s National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). You can be eligible to take the exam after completing a state-approved training program. Practical Nursing schools such as Dorsey College allow you to complete your training in around one year.

Selecting an LPN education program such as the Practical Nurse program at Dorsey College ensures that you receive a specialized curriculum that is an important preparation to take the NCLEX-PN exam.

Become a Certified medical assistant

Though most states don’t require you to be certified in order to become a medical assistant, typically those who have been through formal training and obtain certification can stand out when looking for employment. A medical assistant training program designed to prepare you for certification may be something you wish to consider when evaluating your options between schools.

Two great healthcare professions

Whether you become a licensed practical nurse or a certified medical assistant, you’ll provide a pivotal function in the healthcare industry. Both positions can reward you with immense job satisfaction and a solid career outlook.

With specialized education and training, you can join the medical field as a medical assistant or practical nurse. Ultimately, it’s essential to base your decision according to your strengths, personal interests, preferred work setting, and job duties when deciding between pursuing either career.

Dorsey College medical training programs

Are you ready to take the first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding career in the medical field? Then look no further than Dorsey College’s medical training programs in Michigan!

Our Medical Assistant and Practical Nurse training programs offer a comprehensive education. Our programs can equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in the healthcare industry.

At Dorsey College, we understand that everyone has different schedules and commitments, which is why we offer flexible class schedules, including day and evening classes. Please note – class schedules will vary by program and by campus. In addition, our industry-current facilities provide laboratories complete with patient simulators for on campus for hands-on training.

So, whether you choose to pursue a career as a practical nurse or medical assistant, Dorsey College has medical training programs to help you graduate and thrive in the healthcare sector.

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(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses,
at (visited April 12, 2023).

(2) Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Assistants,
at (visited April 12, 2023).