As someone who is entering the healthcare industry, you may be wondering which position is best for you: medical assistant or phlebotomist? Both careers require significant interaction with patients and directly support other medical personnel, such as doctors and nurses. The primary responsibility for phlebotomists is completing routine blood draws on patients. Medical assistants, however, complete more administrative and clinical work within the healthcare industry.
So which role is the one for you – medical assistant or phlebotomist? Although both career opportunities exist in all healthcare facilities, it is essential to learn more about the positions to prepare for and pursue the occupation you desire most.
While some programs offer on-the-job training for medical assistants, most employers require aspiring medical assistants to gain training through certificate programs or universities. As this is a highly administrative role, medical assistants are expected to have expertise in medical terminology, human anatomy, basic office tasks, billing and filing, and clinical tasks, such as gathering patient vital signs. These courses are often available at Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)- or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)-accredited institutions. Upon completion of one’s training, individuals will receive their certificates to practice as medical assistants.
Phlebotomists must receive their education through an accredited phlebotomy program. Schools such as PhlebotomyU prepare their students for the national phlebotomy to obtain their certificate. Most training programs enroll their phlebotomy students through the National Center for Competency Training (NCCT) for this exam, but other certification programs are credible as well. In addition, depending on the state, phlebotomists may be required to have additional certifications to practice in their state. For instance, California states that all phlebotomists must hold the national certificate and a Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT-1) license.
The duties of a medical assistant can vary depending on the needs of their employer. Some healthcare facilities may search for medical assistants who are more administrative and interpersonal to complete a wide range of tasks, such as gathering patient information and medical history, scheduling appointments, communicating with clients, and billing. Other medical assistants may be asked to complete more clinical work, such as measuring patient vital signs prior to speaking with a doctor. Overall, medical assistants with a diverse range of training may possess more responsibilities than a medical assistant specializing in solely administrative or clinical work.
Contrary to medical assistants, phlebotomist responsibilities are often consistent across healthcare facilities. The only exception is for mobile phlebotomists, who travel to their patients and have a different schedule each day. Phlebotomist roles are heavily technical, such that they focus on venipuncture, send blood samples to the lab, and maintain a sanitary work environment. Phlebotomists also have interpersonal and administrative components to their roles. Blood draws can cause patients to be nervous or worrisome, and developing a strong connection with the patient can ease their tension and allow more trust in the procedure. Phlebotomists must also complete paperwork for patient files and uphold confidentiality.
Phlebotomists and medical assistants’ salaries are comparable, ranging from $30,000-35,000 for entry-level positions. Of course, with either job, one’s salary can increase as they gain more years of experience, attend training, and earn new certificates.
Currently, 57% of medical assistants work at a physician office. Other major employers of medical assistants include hospitals, outpatient care centers and chiropractic offices.
On the other hand, hospitals are the biggest employer of phlebotomists followed by medical and diagnostic laboratories, physician offices and outpatient care centers. Phlebotomists can work in labs, whether it be for research purposes or testing blood samples for patient diagnoses. Unlike medical assistants, phlebotomists do not have to be hired directly through a healthcare institution, such as hospitals or clinics. Phlebotomists can also be employed through non-profit organizations to donate blood, such as the Red Cross. Other phlebotomists may work through a healthcare agency and serve as a mobile phlebotomist, traveling to their clients’ respective homes for blood draws and delivering the samples to a lab later in the day.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that medical assistant jobs will grow by 19% between 2019-2029. Likewise, phlebotomy jobs are projected to grow 17%. Therefore, a lot of career opportunities for medical assistants and phlebotomists.
If you believe phlebotomy is the career for you, we are here to assist you along your journey. At PhlebotomyU, we offer an accredited CPT-1 course for future phlebotomists, in which they gain over 80 hours of hands-on clinical training and 40-120 hours of practical experience through our externship program.
To learn more about the PhlebotomyU CPT-1 course, contact us today.