Medical Assistant VS Patient Care Technician

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You might be searching for a new job and you could consider the medical field since it will always need more personnel.

Two of the easier positions you are likely to be chosen for are that of a medical assistant or patient care technician.

If you’re not familiar with the healthcare industry, you’re not likely to knowhow are these jobs different or alike.

Through this article, we aim to answer your questions regarding this, so keep on reading!

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What Is a Medical Assistant?

We’ll start by looking at what a medical assistant is, by presenting the requirements for the job and the duties related to the position.

Medical Assistant Job Description and Duties

A medical assistant helps other medical personnel, such as doctors and nurses, by completing a series of tasks.

These tasks include:

  • Making appointments
  • Answering questions from patients
  • Keeping accurate records
  • Filling out various forms
  • Preparing the patient to be seen by their doctor
  • Administering various treatments
  • Administering immunizations

These duties may of course vary from day to day even within the same workplace.

It’s important to note that medical assistants don’t need supervision to complete their duties.

Medical Assistant Job Requirements

The job of a medical assistant has prerequisites as far as education, certification, and personal abilities.

Let’s have a look at the ideal candidate based on aptitudes.

These are:

  • Good communication skills
  • Self-control
  • Able to work both alone and as part of a team
  • Physical stamina
  • Detail-oriented
  • Reliable
  • Compassionate
  • Knowledge of medical terminology

Depending on where you’ll apply for such a position, it’s highly likely for the employer to ask for additional prerequisites to be met.

Medical Assistant Education and Certification

According to US federal law, medical assistants are not mandated to be certified.

However, getting some education and certification in the medical field will help you find employment faster.

Since there are no laws regarding the certification aspect, there are also no laws regarding the education needed for the position or credential.

When searching for a program, you’ll need to ensure that the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs accredited it.

Depending on the program you choose, you can study the following topics:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Billing and Coding
  • Insurance
  • Patient care
  • Phlebotomy
  • Medical insurance
  • Pharmacology
  • Bookkeeping
  • Medical law
  • Medical ethics
  • Endocrinology
  • Laboratory procedures

The programs available to those who are interested in this career path are varied and issue either certificates, diplomas, and even degrees.

The catch is that each type of credential takes a different amount of time to earn.

Certificates can be earned in a few months and up to a year.

Degrees take at least 2 years to be earned, though depending on the type of degree, you could be spending up to 4 years studying.

These are some of the degrees you can earn:

  • Healthcare Management
  • Health Sciences
  • Nursing

The best certification to earn are:

  • Certified Medical Assistant from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Registered Medical Assistant from American Medical Technologists
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant from the National Health Career Association
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant from the National Health Career Association

Medical Assistant VS Patient Care Technician

What Is a Patient Care Technician?

It’s now the time to clarify what a patient care technician is by analyzing the same aspects as for the medical assistant.

Patient Care Technician Job Description and Duties

PCTs, unlike medical assistants, are personnel who work under the supervision of doctors or nurses.

This is because they’re expected to perform various medical procedures, as we’ll soon see.

Their role is to provide care to the patient, under various forms, such as:

  • Helping with personal hygiene
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Drawing samples of blood
  • Collecting urine samples
  • Sending the samples to the lab
  • Performing CPR
  • Administering IVs
  • Helping the patients reach various places in the facility

These are just a few of the duties of a patient care tech.

These could also differ based on the patients assigned to the PCT, just like for the medical assistants.

Patient Care Technician Job Requirements

As you can imagine, those hired for this position will have to meet some prerequisites.

These relate both to abilities and credentials.

Related to attributes, here are the most important:

  • Compassion
  • Detail-oriented
  • Certification for CPR, EKG
  • Clean criminal record
  • Physical stamina
  • Good communication skills
  • Registration with the Nurse Aide Registry of the state of residence
  • Being able to anticipate needs
  • Being able to work in a team

Of course, some employers could ask for additional skills and knowledge.

Patient Care Technician Job Education and Certification

Unlike medical assistants, patient care techs need to become certified.

This is because without credentials they can’t appear in the Nurse Aide Registry.

And as one might expect, you can’t get certified without graduating from an educational program or without having at least 1 year of experience in the field.

You can start as a nursing assistant, then get the same education as a certified nurse assistant (CNA).

Besides the certification from the NHA, you should be getting additional credentials such as PCR, EKG, and phlebotomy.

Many training programs for PCTs also include training for the extra credentials you’ll need for the job.

Here are some of the topics included in the majority of programs available:

  • Medical terms and abbreviations
  • CPR
  • First aide techniques
  • Drawing blood
  • Inserting catheters
  • Patient safety
  • Basic care
  • Monitoring and recording bodily functions

The programs for patient care technicians have a duration of between several months and up to two years.

This means that patient care techs can also earn a variety of credentials, such as certificates, diplomas, and even an Associates’ Degree.

It is rare for PCTs to study for higher degrees, but not unheard of.

Those who earn higher degrees will also have more career options.

Employment for Medical Assistants and Patient Care Technicians

This section has to be common because both medical assistants and PCTs work in the same types of or similar facilities.

These are:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Urgent care
  • Rehabilitation centers,
  • Long term care facilities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Hospices
  • Home care

Some of these employment settings will likely need medical assistants more than PCTs, or PCTs more than medical assistants.

One should know that since both types of professionals work in the medical field, there will always be a demand for qualified people.

This means that finding a job will be relatively easy, especially after one completes their education and earns the correct credentials.

Keep in mind that the majority of those facilities have a 24/7 schedule.

The staff is needed around the clock to ensure that no matter the hour of the emergency, there will be enough people to help out.

Working evening and weekend shifts will be very common for all medical personnel.


Seeing the job description and duties of both medical assistants and PCTs, we can assess immediately that the positions have little in common.

Education is mandatory for PCTs but not for medical assistants.

Yet, those who want to become medical assistants will generally spend more time studying and training than those who want to become patient care technicians.

The need for certification also differs, though both types of professionals will only see positive outcomes if they’re certified.

The requirements to get hired for these positions are only partially similar.

Only the places of employment are common for both types of professionals.

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