Deciding Between Becoming a Medical Assistant vs. Nurse

If you're interested in pursuing a healthcare career, you may be considering becoming a medical assistant or nurse. Both are rewarding occupations but there are key differences that you should know about to decide which is right for you.

This guide compares medical assisting and nursing for things like responsibilities, education requirements, salaries, and more.

What is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants are healthcare professionals that assist with a variety of tasks in general practice and outpatient settings. They work with doctors, dentists, optometrists, and other medical professionals to provide clinical and administrative services. 

What is a Nurse?

Nurses are licensed medical personnel who provide healthcare services to patients in clinical settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, or medical clinics. They can also assist medical doctors in providing medical care to their patients. Nurses have vast knowledge of the field as opposed to medical assistants. Hence their main duties align with close proximities with patients regarding well being.

Medical Assistant vs. Nurse Education Requirements

Medical assistant programs take approximately one year to complete, while nursing training takes two to four years. Most medical assistants graduate from the program with a certificate or associate's degree, while most nurses graduate with a bachelor's degree. 

If you're deciding between becoming a medical assistant or nurse, it's important to consider how much each option will take you. Earning a bachelor's degree can cost well over $100,000 depending where you attend, whereas you get required training as a medical assistant for just a few thousand dollars.

In addition, consider how long you have to commit towards education. Medical assistants can get certified in as little as a few months while nursing will take two years at the very least.

>> Read More: Medical assistant degree info or How to get a medical assistant job with no experience

Salaries for Medical Assistants vs. Nurses

The average salary for medical assistants in the United States as of 2022 is $37,190 annually. On the other hand, a nurse earns $77,600 annually on average.

While this is a substantial difference, it's important to consider the time and financial commitment that the training of each costs, as mentioned above. While all nurses will have to obtain a degree, medical assistants can complete an online certification program in just a few months and for much cheaper.

For example, Stepful's Online Medical Assistant Program only takes four months to complete and costs just $1,999.

Responsibilities of Medical Assistants & Nurses

There are many similarities between medical assistant and nurse. Medical assistants help to provide care to patients in a variety of settings. They also perform administrative and certain clinical tasks as delegated by a registered nurse or doctor. You may be surprised to learn that the duties of the two professions overlap significantly.

Nurses work closely with surgeons, physicians, and other healthcare professionals to provide patient care. Nurses typically have a strong clinical background. They also have specific technical skills to carry out tasks such as administering and monitoring blood pressure, medications, vital signs, and performing physical and psychological assessments after surgery or hospitalization.

Medical assistants work primarily as dispatched to perform administrative and clinical tasks for nurses and doctors. They also will provide pharmaceutical assistance to medically dependent patients, maintain a supply of necessary medications throughout the day, assist with proper execution of procedures, and work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals such as physician assistants, certified nurse practitioners (CNP), phlebotomists, dietitians and social workers.

Future of Healthcare Assistants in the USA

The American health care industry is growing with an estimated 3% yearly increase. This growth rate is more significant than any other industry in America, including oil and gas, aerospace, or financial services industries.

Medical assisting and nursing are both great options if you want to get into healthcare.

To decide between the two, you should consider how much you are willing to spend on (or go into debt for) education, how long you have for classes, and which career better fits your skills.

Other Healthcare Career Comparisons

Here are some other career comparisons we've written that may help you decide which is best for you:

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