Medical assistants play a very valuable role, but they are NOT nurses !
Medical assistants play a very valuable
role, but they are NOT nurses !

Should I Go for LPN or Medical Assisting?

You want to work in healthcare, but may be confused whether to choose a career as a medical assistant or licensed practical nurse. In the past decade, positions for licensed practical nurses have changed dramatically. Where once LPNs were dominant in physician offices, the profession is mostly found in nursing homes and hospitals. The medical assisting profession has stepped into traditional LPN roles in physician offices and ambulatory care centers.

Despite sharing similar duties, a pay difference remains between the two professions. This may discourage medical assisting students who realize they may perform more for less. However, some key differences exist between LPNs and medical assistants beyond pay.

So, how do you decide between the professions? Here are some tips to help you make an informed choice:

What Are Career Differences Between an LPN and Medical Assistant?

Understanding differences between an LPN and medical assistant is important to making a career choice.

Where to find work

Most LPN jobs exist in hospitals, nursing care facilities and home health care. These positions often consist of night, weekend and holiday shifts and may be full or part time. LPNs working in these settings often care for the elderly and infirm, or patients hospitalized due to illness or surgery. In some states, LPNs are allowed to assist in childbirth and infant care. LPNs may care for patients with long-term and end-of-life needs.

Medical assistants are mostly employed in physician offices and ambulatory care centers, like outpatient surgical centers and radiology clinics. These positions often consist of daytime shifts and may include some holiday and weekend shifts as well. Medical assistants provide general patient care for a variety of illness, surgical and non-invasive procedures and yearly health exams. Medical assistants generally care for patients with short-term care needs.

What are the Salary Differences?

Salaries for both LPNs and medical assistants depend on many things, including location, the type of medical facility in which you’re employed, the job description and experience. Some positions ask for either an LPN or medical assistant because the job description is the same for both professions. There may not be a pay difference between the professions in this case.

However, some jobs may demand an LPN because specific nursing duties are required and a pay difference will exist. Pay also widely depends on location, as some areas of the United States pay higher than others.

LPN salaries:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2017, the median annual salary for an LPN was around $43,000. Top salaries were around $60,000 while the bottom ten percent of LPNs earned less than $30,000.

Medical assistant salaries:

The median earnings for medical assistants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, were $33,500 in 2017. The top 10% earned almost $40,000 and bottom 10% around $28,000.

Article Written by Elizabeth Otto

Elizabeth Otto is a freelance writer specializing in medical and health articles. Otto has worked as a certified medical assistant in specialty practice since 1994 and is also a nationally registered emergency medical technician.

Comments

9 Responses to “Should I Go for LPN or Medical Assisting?”
  1. Danielle W. says:

    I am an LPN working in MN. During nursing school our training was not geared toward working in mostly long term care. We learned all the skills needed to work in long term care,hospitals or ambulatory care(clinics). I have worked at my clinic for 9 yrs. I work in the ER, Inpatient and the clinic. Aside from rooming patients i also do EKG’s, start and maintain IV’s, give meds and injections, do nurse visits, scheduling as well as assist the providers with exams and minor sugical procedures. If you are planning to spend 2 yrs in school, you may as well get your LPN. I love my job,my pay,my hours and my patients! Good luck!

    • Jeanie says:

      I have a question for you! I recently got my EMT-B and had clinical hours at the ER. I loved it and wanted to become a nurse. Will LPN be enough certificate for me to work at the ER?

      Thank you!

    • Scarlett says:

      Thanks that was very helpful! I was a CNA for 2 years, I have just completed the PSS course. I will be working
      as a PSS for a year— just want to know what should be my next step? I’m thinking about LPN program, but it’s
      difficult to find a course. Are online courses good??

  2. Tiffany says:

    Danielle is correct in terms.of schooling that you are looking to acquire. I am currently a Medical Assisting student and our program is an 11 month certificate program though certain prereqs were required before acceptance.

    In addition to the above description, MAs basically experience the best of both worlds in the healthcare setting. The duties.listed above are primarily clinical and lab, but the CMA and RMA exams are divided into General, Clinical, and Administrative sections. MAs also learn admin duties: how to manage an office, receptionist work, medical coding and billing, insurance claim filing, filing patient charts, restocking and ordering office supplies, the gruesome aspect that is often overlooked. MAs are literally.the right hand man of the physician in their medical offices.

    If you are looking to expand your career later in healthcare, I think this is a wonderful field to experience everything. I have a bachelor but plan to pursue my masters later for Physician Assistant. Need experience first though ;). Good luck!

    • Tiffany says:

      Both professions also practice giving injections. There’s quite a bit of overlap and differences. It just depends on the location.

  3. Kerry says:

    I am an LPN in MI with 22 years of experience. As a rule of thumb here LPN’s for the most part do not work in the hospital setting any longer, we were trained in college to treat a variety of patient types not just long term elderly care. Before I became an LPN I was a Medical Assistant working for several different specialist types of Drs. I was a medical assistant who did not need a degree to hold that position and in fact I ran a couple of offices by myself thru the years running the front and the back. As a nurse I worked in a hospital setting for about 15 years, also hospice care, home care and was the Director of Nursing at a Assisted Living Facility. Many LPN’s these days work in Dr. offices. If you want more hands on with the patients then LPN is the way to go.

  4. Cheryl Knutson LPN says:

    Ihave been a Lpn for 25 years in a medical clinic. My company is trying to change my title to a MA. Can they change a LPN to a CMA just because they want to? I am entitled to the degree and title that I HAVE EARNED. Please help. I live in Wi. I am licensed in Wi and pay for my license.

  5. Beth says:

    I can’t imagine why they would want to change your title other than possibly for insurance purposes? Perhaps there is less liability for the practice if they have MAs on staff rather than LPNS? Just a guess.
    Regardless, you are a Licensed Practical Nurse. You have earned that title, you pay for it by maintaining your licensure every year or 2 years, and you were HIRED as an LPN.
    Unless your duties have changed drastically and you’re being demoted, you shouldnt allow them to change your title.
    Good Luck

  6. Tiffany collins says:

    Times are changing and I’m fixing to graduate with my medical assisting degree. I see really no difference in LPN and Medical Assisting. Except the pay. Which in my opinion Medical Assistants are however to go a step beyond. We are trained to run the front office and due insurance. We are required to learn ICD-10 coding and CPT coding. In my state the hospital is turning to demand any medical assistant be certified. And any that is not are offered flexibility to go to school. And doing away with LPN. We come with a broad spectrum of training front and back. They get more bang for buck . But salary should be higher that’s a debate that’s in full swing now

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