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What’s the difference between Compass Career College’s CNA and MA programs?

Three program options at Compass Career College fall under the umbrella of Allied Health. While the Medical Billing and Coding program is fairly straightforward, two of these programs, Medical Assisting and Certified Nurse Aide, can lead to some confusion regarding how and where each fits into the Allied Health arena.

Both the CNA and MA training programs at Compass Career College provide outstanding instruction and experience for anyone in the Hammond or Greater New Orleans area who is interested in embarking on a career in Allied Health. But what do you need to know to decide which program is the right fit?


Students who are enrolled full-time at CCC can complete the CNA program in 7 weeks, which gives them the opportunity to make a very quick turnaround from beginning training to securing gainful employment.

Training for Medical Assistants is a 12-month commitment. However, the MA program includes the same training that students in the CNA program receive, plus additional skills and knowledge to build on that training.


Because Medical Assistant training requires longer to complete than training as a Nurse Aide, there’s a significant difference in the tuition and fees associate with each program. CNA training therefore requires a much lower initial investment than MA training does. The good news is that financial aid in the form of grants or student loans can help offset the costs, even if you set your sights on the more expensive program.


As the name implies, Certified Nurse Aides coordinate with nurses to provide patient care. They can be employed in a wide variety of settings, including nursing homes, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, and hospitals.

Medical Assistants act as a liaison between a doctor and a patient, and therefore must be employed where there is a doctor on-site or acting as a supervisor.


CNAs primarily provide hands-on patient care, including personal hygiene tasks. MAs, on the other hand, can administer medications and injections and take vital signs, as well as handle some administrative duties in addition to their one-on-one patient interaction.


Because CNAs perform more bedside tasks and do not need to be directly supervised by a doctor, there are usually more positions available for CNAs overall. There is also more choice as to which type of facility they may prefer to seek employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected job growth through 2020 is strong at around 20%.

MAs sometimes have fewer positions or types of healthcare facilities to choose from, but projected job growth for the same period is actually almost 10% greater than it is for CNAs. As a group, MAs also have a higher average starting salary than CNAs (typically around $2/hour more). This can help balance out the higher cost of Medical Assistant training and certification.


CNAs are certified by the state in which they practice. If Louisiana-based CNAs relocate to a different state, then they must be re-certified or apply to transfer their certification (if their new home state offers this option). Certification for MAs is awarded at the national level, however, meaning that MAs do not need to go through the certification process again if they move.

In the end, though, perhaps the most important factor in choosing a program is to consider what you envision for your future. Do you envision yourself as a CNA because you want more interaction with patients, a shorter course of study, and a greater number of potential job opportunities? Or do you see yourself in the role of an MA with more administrative responsibilities, more flexibility in relocating, and a desire to mediate between doctors and patients?

If you still are not sure of the answer, call (985) 419-2050 to contact the Admissions Office at Compass Career College. CCC’s experienced admissions counselors are always glad to provide guidance to anyone seeking positive change and long-term success.

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