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Medication Aide vs. Medical Assistant: What Are the Differences?

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

A career in the medical field can be both rewarding and challenging. Two common positions in this industry are that of a medication aide and a medical assistant. Though these roles share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a medication aide and a medical assistant, and we provide additional medical professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Medication Aide?

A Medication Aide is a certified professional who works under the supervision of a licensed nurse to administer medication to patients. They are responsible for ensuring that patients receive their medications safely and correctly. Medication Aides typically work in hospitals, nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. They may also work in home health care or hospice settings. Medication Aides must be detail-oriented and able to follow instructions carefully. They must also be able to keep accurate records of all medications administered.

What is a Medical Assistant?

Medical Assistants work in doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics to support the work of physicians and other medical staff. They may perform administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, handling billing and coding information or greeting patients. They may also perform clinical tasks such as taking medical histories, recording vital signs, preparing patients for examinations, assisting with procedures or giving injections. Medical Assistants must be able to multitask and be detail-oriented to ensure that patients receive high-quality care. They must also have excellent communication skills to relay information between patients and medical staff.

Medication Aide vs. Medical Assistant

Here are the main differences between a medication aide and a medical assistant.

Job Duties

Medical assistants and medication aides have some of the same job duties. These include taking patient histories, recording vital signs and conducting physical exams. However, medication aides only administer medications as directed by a physician. They may prepare them or verify that a nurse has prepared them correctly.

Another difference is that medical assistants can perform more advanced tasks than medication aides. Medical assistants can assist with procedures like colonoscopies and gynecological exams. They also help with other healthcare services like nutrition counseling and health education.

Job Requirements

A medication aide is a position that typically requires on-the-job training, though some states may require certification. A medical assistant, on the other hand, needs to complete an accredited postsecondary medical assisting program, which takes about one year to complete. After completing their education, medical assistants must pass a credentialing exam, such as the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), to earn their credential.

Work Environment

Medical assistants and medication aides work in a variety of environments, depending on the type of facility where they’re employed. For example, medical assistants may work in hospitals, doctor’s offices or other healthcare facilities. Medication aides typically work in pharmacies, nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Both positions also have some commonalities when it comes to working hours. Most full-time employees in these professions work 40 hours per week, although part-time employees may work fewer hours. Some employers require overtime for both roles, but this is often voluntary.


Both medication aides and medical assistants need to have customer service skills. They will be interacting with patients on a daily basis and need to be able to build rapport, answer questions and provide instructions in a clear and concise manner.

Both medication aides and medical assistants need to have basic math skills. This is necessary for tasks such as measuring medications, calculating dosages and keeping track of inventory.

Medical assistants also need to have strong administrative skills. This includes scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, billing and coding insurance forms and handling correspondence. Medication aides do not typically need to have these skills as they are not responsible for the same administrative tasks.

Medication aides need to have strong organizational skills. This is necessary for tasks such as stocking supplies, organizing patient files and keeping the medication storage area clean and tidy. Medical assistants do not typically need to have these skills as they are not responsible for the same tasks.


The average salary for a medication aide is $35,573 per year, while the average salary for a medical assistant is $41,159 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the state in which you work, the type of facility you work in and your level of experience.


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