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Medical Scribe vs. Medical Assistant: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A medical scribe is a type of medical assistant who specializes in documenting patient visits. They work with physicians and other medical staff to ensure that patient records are accurate and up-to-date. Medical assistants perform a variety of administrative and clinical tasks to support the work of physicians and other medical professionals. In this article, we compare and contrast the job duties, education requirements and pay of medical scribes and medical assistants.

What is a Medical Scribe?

Medical Scribes are responsible for documenting patient interactions in real-time using an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. They work closely with physicians and other medical staff to ensure that all patient information is accurately and completely documented. Medical Scribes also help to keep the physician’s schedule organized and may be responsible for pre-registering patients or scheduling follow-up appointments. In some cases, Medical Scribes may also be responsible for charting vital signs or collecting lab specimens.

What is a Medical Assistant?

Medical Assistants are multi-skilled professionals who perform both administrative and clinical duties in doctor’s offices, clinics and other healthcare facilities. They work alongside physicians, nurses and other medical staff to support the delivery of patient care. Medical Assistants typically complete a postsecondary education program and are certified by an accredited organization. They must pass a national exam to earn their certification. Medical Assistants perform a variety of administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments, verifying insurance coverage and maintaining medical records. They also perform clinical duties, such as taking medical histories, measuring vital signs and assisting with minor medical procedures.

Medical Scribe vs. Medical Assistant

Here are the main differences between a medical scribe and a medical assistant.

Job Duties

Medical assistants and medical scribes share some of their job duties. These common tasks include taking patient histories, performing lab tests, administering medications and assisting doctors during examinations and procedures. However, the specific duties of a medical scribe and medical assistant differ because of the level of involvement with patients they have.

As a medical scribe, you typically perform tasks that assist the physician without interacting with the patient. This can include recording information from diagnostic tests or writing treatment plans. Medical assistants also perform these types of tasks, but they often do so while in direct contact with the patient. For example, a medical assistant may help an individual complete an application for Social Security Disability while a scribe may only collect the application information.

Job Requirements

Medical scribes typically need to have at least a high school diploma, although some employers prefer candidates who have completed some college coursework. Many scribe programs also require applicants to pass a basic skills test and a background check. Some scribe programs may also require candidates to shadow a medical scribe before being accepted into the program.

Medical assistants usually need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some jobs may require postsecondary education, such as a certificate from a medical assistant program. Many medical assistant programs can be completed in less than a year and often include an externship, which gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field. Medical assistants must also pass a certification exam, such as the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

Work Environment

Medical scribes and medical assistants both work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices and nursing homes. Medical scribes often work for physicians who travel to different locations or provide emergency care. They may also work with doctors who have their own private practice.

Medical assistants typically work in a doctor’s office or hospital setting. Some medical assistants choose to specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as radiology or surgery.


Both medical scribes and medical assistants need to have excellent communication skills. Medical scribes take down notes during patient visits, so they need to be able to listen attentively and write clearly. Medical assistants also need to be good communicators as they often act as a liaison between patients and doctors. They may need to explain procedures or test results to patients, so it is important that they are able to communicate complex information in a way that is easy for patients to understand.

Both medical scribes and medical assistants need to have strong organizational skills. Medical scribes need to be able to keep track of a lot of information and be able to organize it in a way that is easily accessible to the doctor. Medical assistants need to be able to keep track of patients’ appointments and medical records. They may also be responsible for ordering supplies, so it is important that they are able to stay organized and keep track of inventory.

Medical scribes need to have strong writing skills as they are responsible for taking down notes during patient visits. Medical assistants need to have strong computer skills as they often use electronic medical records systems.


Medical scribes can earn an average salary of $37,790 per year, while medical assistants can earn an average salary of $41,159 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the state in which you work, the size of the company you work for and your level of experience.


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