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Medical Assistant vs LPN – What Is the Difference? 

Professionals are crucial for the success of the healthcare system. Two professions that often pique the interest of aspiring healthcare professionals are Medical Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). Both roles serve as vital support staff within the healthcare spectrum, but there are essential distinctions between them. 

Keep reading to learn the critical aspects of medical assistant vs LPN to help you understand the differences between the two professions more comprehensively.

Medical Assistant vs LPN: What’s the Difference?

Medical Assistants, abbreviated as MAs, are clinically trained support staff who assist doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers, usually in a medical office or clinic setting. Their responsibilities may include a combination of administrative tasks, patient care and minor medical procedures.

On the other hand, LPNs are licensed nursing professionals who provide primary hands-on nursing care under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or physician in various healthcare settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers.

Understanding the differences between medical assistant vs. LPN is crucial for individuals considering a career in either of these fields. It allows them to choose the right academic and training path tailored to their interests and aspirations.

Education Requirements

Medical assistants typically complete a certificate or diploma program within nine months to a year. These programs cover basic medical knowledge, administrative tasks and clinical skills. Some choose to pursue an associate degree program, which usually takes around two years to complete. These courses offer a more comprehensive education, including additional anatomy, physiology and medical terminology coursework.

LPNs must complete a state-approved diploma program, which typically takes 12 to 18 months. Their education focuses on nursing skills, patient care, pharmacology and basic medical procedures. Those who want to advance their careers can enroll in LPN-to-RN bridge programs. This allows them to earn an Associate or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Depending on the degree level, these programs usually take one to two years to complete.

Differences in Education Length and Focus

The critical differences in education between LPN vs medical assistant lie in the length of the programs and the depth of clinical training. Medical assistant programs are generally shorter and focus on a broader range of administrative and clinical skills. In contrast, LPN programs focus more on nursing care and require a more extended study period to prepare for direct patient care responsibilities.

When comparing the education requirements for medical assistant vs LPN roles, it’s essential to consider factors such as program length, curriculum focus and career goals. Both paths offer opportunities for entry into the healthcare field, with LPNs typically having a more specialized nursing role and potentially higher earning potential than medical assistants.

Licensing and Certification

Medical assistants can obtain certification to improve their qualifications and job prospects. The two main certifications available for them are the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), which is facilitated through the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Although certification may not be mandatory for medical assistants in some states, other areas may require specific certifications or different levels of accreditation that employers recognize.


LPNs, on the other hand, need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam to obtain a license to practice. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) conducts this assessment, which tests a candidate’s essential knowledge and skills for safe and effective practice as an LPN. Apart from passing the NCLEX-PN exam, LPNs must also meet state-specific licensing requirements, which may involve completing an approved nursing program and undergoing a criminal background check.

Differences in Licensing Exams and Requirements

The main difference in licensing between medical assistant vs. LPN is the type of exam and the level of certification required. MAs typically pursue voluntary certification, while LPNs must pass a national licensing exam (NCLEX-PN) to practice as nurses.

Salary and Job Growth

When comparing the LPN salary vs medical assistant, there are notable differences in median earnings. According to recent data, the median annual wage for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) tends to be higher than that of medical assistants. LPNs typically earn a median salary of around $59,730 annually, while medical assistants’ median salary is approximately $42,000 annually.

In terms of job growth, both medical assistants and LPNs can expect favorable prospects. The healthcare industry continues to expand, driving demand for skilled healthcare professionals across various roles.

The job outlook for medical assistants is promising, with a projected growth rate of around 14% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations. Similarly, LPNs can anticipate a steady demand for their services. The projected job growth rate for LPNs is about 5% from 2022 to 2032, also faster than the average for all occupations. 

Factors Influencing Salary and Job Growth

Several factors influence the LPN salary vs medical assistant trajectories, which include:

  • Location: Salaries may vary based on geographical location, with urban areas or regions with higher costs of living typically offering higher salaries.
  • Experience and Certification: Experienced and certified professionals in both roles may command higher salaries and have better job prospects.
  • Healthcare Setting: The type of healthcare facility can also impact salaries, with hospitals and specialty clinics often paying more than outpatient care centers or physician offices.
  • Industry Trends: Ongoing trends in healthcare, such as telemedicine expansion or changes in healthcare policies, can influence job availability and salary trends.

When considering an LPN vs medical assistant career, understanding the salary and job outlook factors can immensely help you decide your ideal professional path. 

Making the Right Choice for Your Healthcare Career

Choosing between a certified medical assistant vs LPN career depends on your personal preferences and career growth opportunities; though, completion of a medical assistant program is likely to improve chances of success in the nursing school. The knowledge and valuable clinical experience gained as a MA can be very helpful in the nursing program. However, no matter which path you choose, you’ll want to ensure you receive the best education and training possible to prepare you for the competitive yet rewarding healthcare field.

Texas Health School has provided high-quality educational programs for individuals interested in pursuing in-demand healthcare jobs since 2002. Our Allied Health programs offer hands-on training experience and incorporate the latest developments in technology and treatments. Additionally, we proudly state that our programs are fully accredited, ensuring you receive the best possible education.

When you enroll in Texas Health School, you’ll gain access to the resources and support you need to embark on a successful healthcare career, whether you’re considering a certified medical assistant vs LPN role. 

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