What is the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and an LPN?

difference between medical assistants and LPNsMedical Assistants and LPNs share similar duties

If you are looking into starting a career in the field of healthcare, you may be exploring options such as becoming a medical assistant or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Because these two professions are somewhat similar, it may be difficult to know which one to choose. Remember, there is no “right” or “wrong” choice—it is simply choosing what works best for you.

Similarities between Medical Assistant and LPN Careers

There are many similarities between the career path of a medical assistant and an LPN. To begin, the training for each career takes roughly one year. Once you enter the job field, some of the job responsibilities will the same. Both medical assistants and LPNs might be required to do any of the following skills on-the-job:

  • Record a patient’s medical history
  • Measure blood pressure and temperature (vital signs)
  • Administer an electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG)
  • Collect blood samples and other lab specimens
  • Prepare and administer medication
  • Assist with minor procedures, such as removing sutures or changing dressings

Differences between Medical Assistants and LPNs

When making your decision, consider some of the differences between these two professions. Think about what you are looking for in a working environment, what sorts of patients you are hoping to serve, the type of hours you want, and the pay scale you are targeting.

Work Environment and Hours

Medical Assistants often work in ambulatory care, such as doctors’ offices, specialty offices, and outpatient care centers. The patients they serve tend to have short-term care needs. As a medical assistant, your hours are likely to be daytime hours, with some weekend and holiday work. While office work is most common, there are also opportunities for hospital-based medical assistants.

LPNs often work in hospital settings, such as long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and home health care. The patients they serve tend to be elderly patients with longer-term care needs. As an LPN, your hours may be daytime, nighttime, weekends, holidays, or shift work. While hospital-based work is most common, there are also some opportunities for office-based LPNs.


While both training programs take about one year to complete, there are some significant differences in training. Medical Assistants are trained in both clinical care procedures and medical office administrative tasks. LPNs receive more training in specialized medical procedures but less training in office administration. LPNs are required to pass their licensing test before they can practice.

Job opportunities and pay scale

The job opportunities vary from region to region. Before deciding on your career path, be sure to check job listings in your area. Are there more jobs listed for Medical Assistants or for LPNs? Job earnings will also differ from region to region, based on factors such as the standard of living, the demand for healthcare professionals, and the work setting. Compare job listings, and calculate the average pay for each position. Determine whether most positions exist in hospitals or medical offices. Be sure to balance all of these factors with your personal goals.

As you continue your research, look into a wide range of resources. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good resource for comparing possible career choices. Both the Medical Assistant profile and the LPN profile give details on the job responsibilities, outlook for the future, median salary, and other helpful information. Take some time to do your research, and find out what is the best career option for you.


This article was provided by the Harris School of Business. The Harris School offers a medical assistant training program in a number of campuses located in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. If you are interested in learning more about this program, or any of our career-focused programs, please complete our online form, and a representative will contact you shortly.