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LPN vs Medical Assistant

Posted: June 29, 2021

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If you love helping people in a healthcare setting, then you’ll likely have a fulfilling career as either an LPN or medical assistant. So, which path is right for you? The team at Career Quest Learning Centers can help you determine how you’d like to start your new healthcare career.

First, you’ll need to discover whether career training is right for you. Take our Career Training Readiness Quiz to find out!

What’s the Difference Between an LPN and Medical Assistant?

LPN and medical assistant careers have a lot in common, but there are several key elements that set them apart. You can learn about those differences in the table below:

 Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)Medical Assistant
Length of training1+ years8 months
Required certificationsNCLEX-PNNone (optional certification available)
Job dutiesMostly clinicalClinical and administrative
Work environmentMostly hospitals and long-term care facilitiesMostly physicians’ offices
Career growth rate9%***19%+

LPN vs Medical Assistant Training and Certification Requirements

Before you embark on your new career as an LPN or medical assistant, you’ll need to get the right training. Each path requires different levels of training, so make sure to choose the one that gets you into your new career in a timeframe that aligns with your goals.

LPN Training and Certifications

To become an LPN, you’ll need to complete an approved educational program. This often takes roughly one year to complete, but may take longer, depending on your course schedule. Once you complete your training, you’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to become certified.

Certification is required to become an LPN.

Medical Assistant Training and Certifications

To become a medical assistant, you can get your new career started quickly by enrolling in a certificate program. At Career Quest, our medical assistant certificate takes just 8 months to complete. That means you can get started in your new role in less than one year.

While medical assistants aren’t required to be certified, you may be able to boost your income potential by becoming a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). Our medical assistant diploma is designed to prepare students to take certifications that map to their program. That includes the CMA certification. Students who meet certain requirements may also be able to sit for this certification for no additional charge.

Job Duties of an LPN and Medical Assistant

In many ways, the duties you’ll complete on the job as an LPN or medical assistant may overlap quite a bit. Both roles perform basic clinical tasks, like:

  • Taking patient vitals
  • Recording patient symptoms and health histories
  • Administering medications and vaccinations
  • Collecting samples for testing

However, LPNs will often exclusively perform clinical tasks under the supervision of a nurse or physician. As a medical assistant, you’ll have even more variety in your day as you switch between those basic clinical tasks and administrative tasks, like scheduling patients and taking payments.

You can get a good idea of where the job duties of an LPN and medical assistant vary in the chart below:

Licensed Practical NurseBothMedical Assistant
Assisting with wound care

Helping patients dress, bathe, and use the restroom

Inserting urinary catheters

Cares for patients with ventilator tubes

Performing emergency CPR

Following a care plan under the direction of an RN
Taking patient vitals

Recording patient symptoms and health histories

Administering medications and vaccinations

Collecting samples for testing  
Collecting insurance information and paperwork

Scheduling patient appointments, answering phones, and checking in patients

Performing basic bookkeeping and medical billing tasks

Sterilizing equipment needed for patient examinations and procedures

LPN vs Medical Assistant Work Environment and Hours

While LPNs and medical assistants both act as assistants to healthcare professionals, they tend to work in different healthcare environments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 53% of LPNs work in either nursing and residential care facilities or hospitals.*

As a medical assistant, you’ll largely work in physicians’ offices for outpatient care. In fact, the U.S. BLS indicates that 57% of medical assistants work in physicians’ offices.** Due to this, you may be more likely to work daytime hours as a medical assistant. This is ideal for anyone who may want to have evenings and weekends off to spend time with family.

On the other hand, LPNs may work more overnight, off-hours, or weekend shifts.

Career Growth Rate and Outlook

Both LPNs and medical assistants are highly sought after in the medical field. They play an important part in assisting healthcare personnel as they help patients find answers to their medical questions. Both careers are growing faster than average, so they’re sure to offer plenty of stability.  

According to the U.S. BLS, the LPN career is expected to grow by 9% between 2019 and 2029.*** The medical assistant career is expected to grow at a much faster rate of 19% between 2019 and 2029.+ Not only is the medical assistant field itself growing more quickly, but it also offers plenty of growth options for professionals in this role.  

Career Growth Options as a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants who want to do more clinical work as an LPN can simply complete the necessary training and certification requirements. With firsthand experience in a medical setting, many medical assistants find that their skills are easily transferable.

With experience in the administrative side of things, you can also grow from a medical assistant into the role of a medical office administrator or medical office manager. Professionals in these roles are responsible for the front and back office and may even supervise other administrative employees.

The 15-month Medical Office Administration (AAS) degree at Career Quest can help you move into that role. Students who go on to complete their AAS degree after completing our medical assistant certificate may also qualify for our AAS Early Enrollment Discount on their tuition.

Start Your New Career with Career Quest

Whether you want to become an LPN or medical assistant, going back to school can be a major consideration—and we want to help. Check out our guide on going back to school or contact the Career Quest Admissions team!

In addition to providing top-notch career training in a variety of healthcare fields, we offer support to our students through services like:

  • Tuition discounts for qualifying students
  • Small class sizes
  • Flexible online classes
  • Career preparation in our Career Services Department
  • Lifetime career placement assistance
  • Inclusive tuition
  • And more!

If you’re ready to begin your new career, contact our Admissions team to find out how our accredited career college can help you take the next step. Classes are filling up, so reach out and enroll today!

*https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm#tab-3

**https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm#tab-3 

***https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm

+https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm