Medical Assistant vs Practical Nursing student

Medical Assistant (MA) vs. Practical Nursing (PN)

Choosing the Right Path in Healthcare

Choosing a career in healthcare often means deciding among various paths, each with its own set of roles, responsibilities, and educational requirements. Two popular choices are becoming a Medical Assistant (MA) and a Practical Nurse (PN). Both roles are crucial in healthcare settings but differ significantly in their job scope, educational requirements, career opportunities, and potential earnings. Let’s explore these two professions to help you make an informed decision about which path might be right for you.

What is a Medical Assistant (MA)?

Medical Assistants are key members of the healthcare team who perform administrative and clinical tasks to support the work of physicians and other health professionals. According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), these professionals can work in various healthcare settings, including medical offices, clinics, and hospitals.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Administrative duties (e.g., scheduling appointments, managing medical records, billing and coding)
  • Clinical tasks (e.g., taking medical histories, assisting with examinations, drawing blood, administering medications as directed by a physician)
  • Patient interaction (e.g., explaining treatment procedures to patients, answering questions)

Educational Requirements:

Most Medical Assistants hold a certificate or diploma from a postsecondary medical assisting program, which typically takes about one year to complete, as outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What is a Practical Nurse (PN)?

Practical Nurses, also known as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), care for the sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. The National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses provides resources and standards for PNs.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Providing basic patient care (e.g., changing bandages, wound care, administering medications).
  • Monitoring patient health and maintaining medical records.
  • Performing diagnostic tests.
  • Assisting with patient hygiene and other daily activities.

Educational Requirements:

Becoming a PN requires completing a practical nursing program, typically available at community colleges and technical schools. These programs usually take about one year to complete and include both classroom study and supervised clinical practice. Graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to get licensed.

Career Outlook and Opportunities

The demand for both MAs and PNs is growing. The BLS projects that employment for Medical Assistants will grow 18% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. Similarly, employment for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses (which includes PNs) is projected to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029.

Salary Expectations

Salaries can vary based on location, experience, and the specific healthcare setting. According to the BLS (2020), the median annual wage for Medical Assistants was around $35,850. For Practical Nurses, it was slightly higher, with a median annual wage of about $48,820.

Making Your Choice

Choosing between becoming an MA and a PN should be based on your interests, career goals, and the kind of patient interaction you prefer. MAs often undertake a variety of tasks that range from administrative work to direct patient care, which can offer more diversity day-to-day. In contrast, PNs focus more intensively on patient care, which might be preferable for those who are interested in a more hands-on nursing role.

Ultimately, both paths offer rewarding careers in the healthcare field with opportunities for growth and advancement. It’s advisable to speak with professionals in each field and possibly shadow them to better understand what each career would entail.


  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): [](
  • American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA): [](
  • National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses: [](
  • “” on Medical Assistants and Practical Nurses: [](

This blog provides a foundational comparison of the MA and PN roles, their training, and potential career paths. Interested individuals should seek more detailed information from educational institutions and professional bodies specific to their region.