What's the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Nursing Assistant? | Career Training | The Salter School
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What's the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Nursing Assistant?

Category(ies): Professional Medical Assistant

difference between medical assistant and nursing assistantFind out which path is better for you

If you are looking for a fast career training option, you may be considering becoming a medical assistant or a nursing assistant. These are both entry-level positions in the field of healthcare where you play an active role in patient care. What is the difference between these two jobs? Which one is better suited for you? Find out more below!

What do medical assistants and nursing assistants do?

Medical assistants are typically part of a medical team and may report directly to a physician, whereas nursing assistants tend to report to head nurses.

Medical assistants often work in doctors’ office, although there are some hospital-based positions as well. Their job is to help to keep a physician’s day running more smoothly by:

  • Showing patients to their rooms
  • Taking patient histories
  • Handling specimens
  • Measuring patients’ vital signs
  • Removing sutures or caring for a wound
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Updating electronic health records

Nursing assistants more often work in nursing homes, rehab centers, and other long-term facilities. They help the nursing team by providing hands-on basic care for patients, which could be:

  • Assisting a patient with bathing or personal hygiene
  • Assisting a patient with mobility (walking, getting into a wheelchair)
  • Checking a patient’s vital signs
  • Assisting a patient with eating/feeding
  • Updating a patient’s chart

How do you become a medical assistant or nursing assistant?

The training program for medical assistants and nursing assistants is different. Typically the medical assistant training program is longer, taking about one year. In a medical assistant program, you will learn about anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, record-keeping, medical procedures, vital signs, administering injections, drawing blood, and more.

A nursing assistant program, on the other hand, is typically much shorter and can be completed in as little as three months. The skills required are not quite as intense as those of a medical assistant. You will be learning about basic patient care and how to manage the needs of patients living in long-term care.

While medical assistants and nursing assistants both play an important role in the healthcare industry, their everyday responsibilities and training programs are different. Understanding the difference between these two career paths is the first step in deciding which one is better for you.  


For more information on medical assisting, contact the Salter School in Massachusetts, where we offer a training program that could be a good fit for you. We hope your future career path begins with us.

The Salter School Malden campus is no longer accepting new enrollments.