What’s the Difference between a Certified Nurse Assistant & a Medical Assistant

What’s the Difference between a Certified Nurse Assistant & a Medical Assistant

By Manhattan Institute
Posted in CNA, Medical Assistant
On April 25, 2019

As the healthcare industry continues to expand, there is a high demand for allied health professionals. Certified Nurse Assistant and Medical Assistant are two careers that play an important role in patient healthcare. While both require excellent communication skills and a passion for helping patients with a variety of needs, the training and job description for these careers are quite different. Read on for a brief overview of these two careers, and to decide which is best for you.

Certified Nurse Assistant

A Certified Nurse Assistant helps patients with a variety of personal care tasks, from daily grooming and bathing to checking vitals or occasionally assisting a Registered Nurse. As a CNA, you will work closely with both your patients and their other care providers. You’ll also play a vital role in communicating your patients’ condition and needs with doctors and nurses. Some CNAs work on-site in medical facilities, while others travel to their patients and provide in-home care.


Certified Nurse Assistant training lasts about four weeks and includes classroom training and an externship. You’ll also be required to pass a state exam to complete your certification.

Medical Assistant

A medical assistant also works closely with patients and the doctor. As a Medical Assistant, you will work in an office setting, where you’ll be cross-trained in both administrative and clinical work. On any given day, your duties can range from taking a patient’s vitals and collecting specimens to handling insurance and billing tasks.


The Medical Assistant program consists of classroom training and an externship, and can be completed in less than a year.

What’s the difference?

Both positions are rewarding careers that can provide growth opportunities within the medical field. Here is a quick review of the primary differences between a CNA and a Medical Assistant

Certified Nurse Assistant

- Certification in as little as four weeks
- Services provided in a medical facility OR in patient’s home
- Helps with daily patient needs (washing, grooming, checking vitals)
- Little to no administrative work

Medical Assistant

- Certification in 9-12 months
- Services provided in a medical facility only
- Helps with a variety of clinical duties (obtaining vitals, updating records, collecting lab specimens, assist with exams and medical procedures)
- Cross-trained in administrative duties (clerical duties, patient procedures, billing & insurance, and more)

If either of these careers appeals to you, the Manhattan Institute can help! For more than 20 years, we’ve been helping people start rewarding careers in the healthcare industry.  Contact us today or check out our upcoming class schedules for more information!