For many, the decision to enter the healthcare field is an easy one. They enjoy helping people and making a difference, plus jobs in healthcare offer long-term security and stability. However, it isn’t always so easy to decide on which specific healthcare career to go for. Two popular choices are to become a Medical Assistant (MA) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Deciding which direction to go can be confusing, as many people confuse the roles of an MA and an LPN. While they do have a few similarities and overlapping job duties, they are actually quite different. By taking a closer look at what the job duties and requirements entail, you can determine which career choice you’re better suited for.
There are no formal education requirements to becoming a Medical Assistant, however, most MA’s attend a post-secondary institute to receive their training, which is a combination of educational classes and hands on training. Many of these programs require an internship or externship followed by a certificate of completion, and typically take approximately one year to complete. Not all states require that a Medical Assistant take an exam to become certified, however, it varies between states and employers, and these days, many employers are personally requiring their MA’s to be certified before hiring them.
In order to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, one must complete a state approved training program that teaches them the basic nursing concepts. It is also required that students attend and complete supervised clinical practice as part of their training program. Many vocational schools, as well as community colleges, offer LPN programs. At the completion of a Licensed Practical Nurse program, students will take a state certification exam. Passing this test and becoming licensed is a state requirement, so preparing for and passing the exam is a must.
Most Medical Assistants are trained to work in both the front and back office, with the ability to perform both clinical and administrative duties like gathering insurance and information from patients, scheduling appointments, taking vital signs, preparing patients for exams and procedures, administering vaccinations, performing basic lab tests, and collecting and preparing lab specimens.
A Licensed Practical Nurse typically focuses on the physical care of a patient, such as administering medications or vaccinations, helping patients with personal hygiene, checking vital signs, and providing patient care. There is still some paperwork involved as an LPN, such as documentation, especially when it comes to administering medications or injections.
While there might be some overlapping similarities in job duties between both an MA and an LPN, an MA works strictly under the oversight of a Physician, whereas an LPN works under the direction of a Physician and other nurses.
Medical Assistants typically work in clinics, outpatient centers, and private practices; they may occasionally work in hospitals, but usually in the offices of healthcare practitioners.
Licensed Practical Nurses work with patients in a variety of healthcare settings, including nursing homes, group homes, prisons or jails, rehab facilities, doctor’s offices, and assisted living facilities.
Salary and Outlook
As is the case with most healthcare careers, both Licensed Practical Nurses and Medical Assistants remain highly in demand, providing good job security for years to come.
However, when it comes to salary, LPN’s typically earn more than an MA. This is due to the higher education requirements, as well as the more in-depth patient care provided by LPN’s. Here at Athena Career Academy we offer both MA and LPN programs with flexible schedules to fit into your busy life. Contact us today to learn more about these rewarding career paths.