Differences Between Clinical Medical Assisting & LPN Nurses

by Luanne Kelchner
Practical nurses and clinical medical assistants take measurements and vital signs of patients.

Practical nurses and clinical medical assistants take measurements and vital signs of patients.

Both licensed practical nurses and clinical medical assistants provide direct care to patients. Although there are similarities between the two professions, differences exist in the education and licensing requirements, salaries and job duties of clinical medical assistants and licensed practical nurses. Exploring the differences between the two careers can help job seekers find the profession that best suits their needs and qualifications.

Job Duties and Responsibilities

Licensed practical nurses provide basic nursing care under the supervision and direction of registered nurses and physicians. The LPN checks the patient's vital signs, changes bandages, inserts catheters, bathes the patient and maintains medical records. Some states allow licensed practical nurses to administer medications. Clinical medical assistants also provide direct patient care in some facilities such as removing stitches, changing bandages and drawing blood. Medical assistants also perform laboratory tests in a medical facility and prepare patients for diagnostic testing such as X-rays.

Education Requirements

LPNs must complete an approved program to qualify for a state license to practice. Nursing programs include courses in biology, pharmacology and nursing practice. Students must also complete clinical experience in an approved education program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states do not require medical assistants to complete an approved training program, but certificate, diploma and associate degree programs are available at technical schools and community colleges. Employers of medical assistants may prefer applicants who have completed a training program. Courses in programs for medical assistants include medical terminology, mathematics, human diseases and disorders, clinical procedures, pharmacology and a clinical externship.

Licensing and Certification

All states require a license to work as a LPN. Aspiring practical nurses must complete an approved education program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for practical nurses. States do not require a license or certification to work as a medical assistant. Certification is available for medical assistants, which may enhance employment opportunities. The American Association of Medical Assistants, American Medical Technologists, National Center for Competency Testing and the National Healthcareer Association offer certifications for medical assistants.


The median annual salary for licensed practical nurses was $41,540 in 2012, and medical assistants earned a median salary of $29,370, according to the BLS. The industry that paid the highest salary was junior colleges with a mean annual wage of $49,320. Medical assistants earned the highest salaries from psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, with a mean annual salary of $42,250 in 2012, according to the BLS.

About the Author

Luanne Kelchner works out of Daytona Beach, Florida and has been freelance writing full time since 2008. Her ghostwriting work has covered a variety of topics but mainly focuses on health and home improvement articles. Kelchner has a degree from Southern New Hampshire University in English language and literature.

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