Choosing a Healthcare Career Path: Medical Assisting (MA) vs. State Tested Nursing Aide (STNA)

Are you interested in the healthcare field, but unsure which path is right for you?

Most aspiring healthcare professionals look to jumpstart their career by entering the field as a medical assistant (MA) or a state tested nursing aide (STNA). While these two professions hold similarities, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

State Tested Nursing Aide (STNA)

Depending on the state you work in, this profession’s official name varies:

  • Ohio: State Tested Nurse Aides (STNAs)
  • West Virginia: Nursing Assistants (NAs)
  • Michigan: Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs)
  • New Hampshire: Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNAs)

To become a state tested nursing aide, you must complete a state approved STNA program. The minimum training requirements in Ohio are 59 hours of classroom work and 16 hours of clinical training, for a total of 75 hours. Once the STNA program has been completed, you will be eligible to take the Ohio STNA certification exam.

In the state of Ohio, the annual mean salary for STNAs is $25,150, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What healthcare settings do STNAs work in?

Working under the direction and supervision of a registered nurse, STNAs typically work in nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and hospices as:

  • Caregivers
  • Home Health Aides
  • Patient Care Assistants
  • Clinical Assistants

STNA Job Description

STNAs care for patients in need of long term care, and they help patients with basic hygiene maintenance, according to The specific duties of an STNA include, but are not limited to:

  • Bedside care
  • Changing bed linens
  • Bathing assistance
  • Restroom assistance
  • Feeding assistance
  • Helping patients feel comfortable in bed and prevent bed soreness
  • Assisting patients in mobility tasks, such as walking and getting in and out of bed

Medical Assisting (MA)

To gain employment as a medical assistant, you should complete a state approved medical assisting diploma program. Most programs can either be one year in length and result in a diploma, or two years in length and result in an associate degree.

Aspiring medical assistants who graduate from a program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) qualify to take the AAMA certification exam to become a Certified Medical Assistant. This certification must be renewed every five years. Accreditations from CAAHEP and ABHES are the gold standard for medical assistants throughout the United States.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 23% through 2024, making medical assisting one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. The annual mean salary for medical assistants is $ $30,590.

What healthcare settings do medical assistants work in?

Unlike STNAs, medical assistants have the opportunity to specialize and work in a wide array of medical settings, including:

  • Cardiology
  • Chiropractic
  • EKG Technician
  • Family Medicine
  • Geriatrics
  • OB/GYN
  • Orthopedic
  • Oncology
  • Pediatric
  • Podiatry

Medical Assistant Job Description

Working under the direction and supervision of physicians, MAs typically work in medical clinics or offices performing both administrative and clinical duties (front- and back-office duties). The specific duties of an MA include, but are not limited to:

Clinical Duties:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Taking vital signs
  • Taking electrocardiograms
  • Drawing blood
  • Changing dressings
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients
  • Prepping patients for exams
  • Assisting physicians during exams
  • Completing basic laboratory tests
  • Instructing patients about medication and special diets

Administrative Duties:

  • Answering telephones
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Greeting and assisting patients in the waiting room
  • Updating electronic health records
  • Billing, coding, and filling out insurance forms
  • Arranging for hospital admissions and laboratory services


Which path is right for you and your future goals?

If you believe becoming a medical assistant is right for you, discover how you can get the comprehensive, top-rated, hands-on training you need to begin a fulfilling and in-demand medical assisting career at Ohio Business College.

Already a medical assistant but not certified? Get your certified Ohio state medical assisting diploma through Ohio Business College’s medical assisting bridge program.

If you have additional questions, contact us today. We’re here to answer all of your questions and help you take your next professional steps.