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Medical Assistant or Nursing Assistant – Which One is for You?

Central Coast College offers training to become a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant or a Certified Nursing Assistant. So which one is best for you? While both of these training programs can get you started on a career in the healthcare field in less than one year, there are some key differences between these two programs and the career options they can offer. Let’s look at some of the benefits of each program.

Nursing Assistant

Nursing Assistant is often considered an entry-level position. This certification is great for people who want to “get their feet wet,” as it were, in the medical field – trying out an entry-level job to test their interest in other career options in healthcare.

Nursing assistants work in nursing homes, home care, assisted living, Hospice, hospitals, community based long-term care, correctional institutions, and other long-term care settings. Nursing Assistants help patients of all ages perform the most basic daily tasks. A passion for helping patients and their families, a keen eye for detail, and the ability to follow instructions will serve you well in a career as a Nursing Assistant.

A Nursing Assistant may be required to keep detailed and accurate records on patients, interact with various kinds of medical or record-keeping software, transport patients or equipment, assist with feeding, cleaning, or administering medication to a patient, and other related tasks.

Nursing Assistants earn an hourly mean wage of $13.72/hour nationally, and $16.13 in California, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to O-Net, it is a growing occupation, so job openings are likely to increase. Nursing Assistants can be assigned swing shift work or the “graveyard” shift, but regardless of their assignment, the Nursing Assistant is an important member of the healthcare team.

At Central Coast College, our Nursing Assistant program prepares students to take the state exam to become a Certified Nursing Assistant in the state of California. For students who are passionate about serving others and want to enter into the healthcare field quickly, our nine-week course may be the option you’ve been looking for.

Medical Assistant

Medical Assistants may have more employment options open to them than are available for Nursing Assistants or other entry-level healthcare positions.

According to, Medical Assistants make, on average, a few dollars more per hour than a Nursing Assistant ($16.15 is the mean hourly wage in the US, $17.61 is the mean hourly wage in California). The projected job growth for Medical Assistants is expected to be higher than many other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical Assistants will likely be in high demand, and the proper training can offer many opportunities.

Medical Assistants work in some of the same environments as a Nursing Assistant. However, because of their more comprehensive training, they can also work at hospitals, urgent care clinics, specialists offices, and other healthcare facilities. Medical Assistants may keep patient records, administer medications, record patient vital signs, prepare laboratory samples, work with medical or laboratory equipment, and assist physicians with patient examinations. In some work places, a Medical Assistant may have a choice in selecting their own schedule or area of work.

A passion for helping people, strong communication skills, computer skills, and an ability to work in a fast-paced environment are some of the qualities that make a highly valuable Medical Assistant.

Central Coast College has a comprehensive forty-six week Medical Assisting program. While this program takes longer to complete than a Nursing Assistant program, a student who completes the program and goes on to become a Medical Assistant may have a higher starting wage, as well as more opportunities for advancement.

Contact Us Today

To learn more about our programs and/or a career as either a Nursing Assistant or a Medical Assistant, get in touch with one of our Admissions Advisors today!

To view Central Coast College’s full disclosures, click here.

Posted in: Allied Health