Search Schools

  • Next Step >
  • Next Step >

Medical Assistant vs Dental Assistant

Differences Between a Medical Assistant and a Dental Assistant

Medical Assistant vs Dental AssistantMedical assistants and dental assistants have surprisingly similar jobs. Both work alongside a doctor to provide high quality patient care. In addition, both often perform administrative duties in addition to clinical duties. Even though the jobs may seem to be one in the same, they provide vastly different experiences. Before you make a decision to enter one of these great careers, take the time to be familiar with the educational requirements, job duties, and career outlook of both. This will help you make an informed decision about which career best suits your personality, skills, and interests.

Training Requirements

Some medical assistants may be able to find on-the-job training, but increasing numbers of employers are choosing to hire only those with formal education and training. There are many online and traditional medical assistant training programs across the country, offering everything from certificates to degrees. Regardless of the level you choose, your training will include such topics as medical terminology, anatomy, billing procedures, and more. Depending upon the level of training you pursue, it will take between one and two years on average to complete your training. If you plan to become certified or registered after graduation, be sure to select a program that is accredited through the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

As with medical assisting, dental assistants may be able to find on-the-job training, but getting a formal education will ensure that you have more job opportunities and higher earning potential. The Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved 264 training programs. This agency is also responsible for administering the licensing examination that is required in 39 states. Dental assistant training may have many of the same components as medical assisting training, but will include oral health instruction, sterilization procedures, and more.

Duties and Responsibilities

Both medical assistants and dental assistants are often responsible for tasks including scheduling appointments, assisting with examinations, sterilizing instruments, explaining treatments to patients, and preparing exam rooms for patients. Both may also provide direct and indirect patient care, depending upon the location and employer.

The subject matter is the chief difference between medical assistants and dental assistants. Medical assistants work with different parts of patients’ bodies while dental assistants deal only with the mouth. Dental assistants must use suction to keep patients’ mouths dry during exams and procedures. They must also process x-rays and perform other dental care procedures alongside the dentist.

Employment & Salary

Both fields are expected to see above average growth over coming years, with medical assisting having a slight lead. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medical assisting field will experience 23% growth over coming years, slightly ahead of the 18% growth predicted for dental assisting. When it comes to earnings, dental assisting has a slight advantage. The current average salary for medical assistants is around $30,000 nationwide, slightly lower than the average salary for dental assisting, which is around $35,000 a year.

Whether medical assisting or dental assisting is right for you is a matter of personal choice. Both fields provide great employment opportunities and the chance to provide patient care and empathy to a variety of people. Both also allow you to work as a valuable member of a healthcare team. The only way to choose the career that fits your goals is to be well-informed of the differences as well as state regulations for each position.

Top