Medical Assistant vs LPN
A Comparison Between a Medical Assistant and an LPN
While choosing the right healthcare profession for you, you may consider both medical assisting and becoming a licensed practical nurse. What exactly are the differences between a medical assistant and an LPN? Choosing the one that is best can be somewhat confusing because the positions are similar in many ways. However, there are some distinct differences in the training, responsibilities, and career opportunities of each position. Here is what you need to know in order to make an informed choice between these two careers.
While there may be some positions available for medical assistants with no formal education, most positions require that the candidate complete an accredited medical assistant training program either through an online program or on campus. Generally, medical assistant training takes between one and two years to complete, depending upon the program and level of training. Medical assistants may also choose to become certified or registered after graduation in order to increase employment and earning potential.
Alternatively, those wishing to become licensed practical nurses must attend a state-approved educational program, which takes a minimum of one year to complete. Although some classes may be possible to complete online, students in these programs will be required to complete much of their training in person. After graduation, LPN candidates are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, before they can become employed as licensed practical nurses.
Duties and Responsibilities
While both positions work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse or physician, medical assistants and licensed practical nurses work in different settings and perform different tasks. Medical assistants typically work in physicians’ offices or clinics, performing both clerical and clinical duties. They are responsible for gathering and recording patient histories, maintaining records and running the front office. In addition, they work alongside physicians taking vital signs, performing preliminary examinations, giving patient instructions, and assisting physicians with tests and minor procedures.
Alternatively, licensed practical nurses often work in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. Their daily duties include responding to patient calls, taking vital signs, performing catheterizations, treating bedsores and dressing wounds, starting IVs, administering medications, and more. The duties of a licensed practical nurse are governed by state regulations and vary from one state to the next.
Employment & Salary
Both medical assistants and licensed practical nurses enjoy a bright employment future, with both professions having a predicted growth of at least 22% over the coming years. The major difference in employment potential for these two professions is in earnings. The average salary for a medical assistant is around $30,000 a year across the United States. On the other hand, a licensed practical nurse can expect to earn an average salary of around $42,490 a year. While the salary is substantially higher for a licensed practical nurse, this position also includes greater responsibilities and often does not offer the predictable daytime work schedule that most medical assistants enjoy.
Before you choose the career that is best for you, it is important to be fully informed not only of the education requirements and job responsibilities, but also of the earning potential and typical work hours. You must also carefully consider your individual interests and skills to ensure that the job duties of your chosen profession best fit your interests.