As you research healthcare education, you may be wondering about the differences between Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), and Medical Assistants (MAs). While all three jobs are in the medical field and involve working with patients, some key distinctions exist between these roles. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between LVNs, CNAs, and MAs.
Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs): Duties
As stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) are responsible for providing direct patient care under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or physician. LVNs typically work in hospitals, but they can also work in other healthcare settings such as clinics, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies.¹ Some of their duties include:
- Taking vital signs
- Administering injections and medications
- Dressing wounds
- Provide basic comfort for patients¹
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs): Duties
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are also responsible for providing direct patient care. However, their duties are generally more limited than those of an LVN. CNAs typically work in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.² Their responsibilities may include:
- Bathing and feeding patients
- Transferring them to and from bed/wheelchairs
- Providing range-of-motion exercises2
Medical Assistants (MAs): Duties
Medical Assistants (MAs) support physicians and other healthcare professionals by performing administrative and clinical tasks. MAs typically work in doctor’s offices, but they can also work in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Their duties may include scheduling appointments, taking patient histories and vital signs, and preparing patients for examinations. MAs may also assist with limited tests such as x-rays or EKGs and give injectables under a physician’s or RN’s supervision.3
LVN vs. CNA vs. MA: Education and Training
Even though some duties appear to overlap, each profession requires its own education, training, and certification process.
What are the requirements for becoming an LVN?
To become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), several requirements must be met. First, you must graduate from an accredited LVN program. This can be done by completing a one-year diploma or certificate program or a two-year associate degree program. Upon completing the educational requirements, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Once you have passed the NCLEX-PN, you can apply for a license from your state’s Board of Nursing.1
What are the requirements for becoming a CNA?
Requirements vary by state, but becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) usually requires a high school diploma or equivalent, completing a state-approved educational program, and passing a competency evaluation. Most CNA programs take six to twelve weeks to complete, including classroom instruction and hands-on training. In some states, CNAs must maintain their licensure by completing continuing education courses regularly.2
What are the requirements for becoming an MA?
The requirements for becoming a medical assistant vary by state, but most states require medical assistants to complete a postsecondary medical assisting program and pass a credentialing exam. The program consists of classroom and laboratory subjects such as anatomy and medical terminology.3
LVN vs CNA vs MA: Job Outlook
Licensed Vocational Nurses
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for LVNs is expected to grow nationally by 6% from 2021-2031.1 The Employment Development Department of the State of California projects that in-state employment for LVNs will grow by 15.1% from 2018-2028.4
Certified Nursing Assistants
Nationally, overall employment for CNAs is projected to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031.2 In California, employment is expected to grow by 14.1% from 2018 to 2028.5
Nationally, overall employment for MAs is projected to grow 16% from 2021 to 2031.3 In California, employment is expected to grow 24.5% from 2018 to 2018.6
While all three occupations expect increases in employment both state and nationwide, vocational nursing provides the broadest scope of practice and can be a great steppingstone to more opportunities. Vocational nurses often have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as gerontology, as well as advance their careers by pursuing further education and training.1
Are you a current CNA or MA looking to take the next step?
If you’re a CNA or MA hoping to take the next step in your healthcare career, vocational nursing can be an opportunity to build on the skills you’ve already learned as a CNA or MA.
Stanbridge University’s Vocational Nursing Program
Ready to take your next step? Learn more about Stanbridge University’s Associate of Occupational Science in Vocational Nursing program.
1Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm. As viewed on November 1, 2022.
2Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nursing Assistants and Orderlies, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm. As viewed on November 1, 2022.
3Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Assistants, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm. As viewed on November 1, 2022.
4Source: Employment Development Department, State of California, Occupation Profile, Licensed Vocational Nurses, https://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/cgi/databrowsing/occExplorerQSDetails.asp?soccode=292061. As viewed on November 7, 2022.
5Source: Employment Development Department, State of California, Occupation Profile, Nursing Assistants, https://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/cgi/databrowsing/occExplorerQSDetails.asp?menuchoice=localAreaPro&soccode=311014%20%20%20%20&geogArea=0604000065. As viewed on November 7, 2022.
6Source: Employment Development Department, State of California, Occupation Profile, Medical Assistants, https://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/cgi/databrowsing/occExplorerQSDetails.asp?searchCriteria=clinical+medical+assistant&careerID=&menuChoice=occExplorer&geogArea=0601000000&soccode=319092&search=Explore+Occupation. As viewed on November 7, 2022.