Discover the Differences in Duties, Responsibilities, Certifications, Salary, and Job Outlook
The occupations of Medical Assistant (MA) and Phlebotomy Technician (Phlebotomist) have a key similarity—they both work directly with patients in medical facilities, such as hospitals, outpatient centers, and physician offices. But whereas MAs assist doctors and nurses by performing both clinical and administrative duties, Phlebotomists are focused solely on drawing patient blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations.
Though their educational programs are similar in length, Medical Assistant training provides a more diverse background in both clinical and administrative duties. Earning your MA diploma will make you more qualified to continue your education and pursue other medical positions with greater responsibility, such as nurse, physician assistant, physical therapist, or even doctor.
If you’re thinking about starting a career in healthcare, now’s the time to do it. The need for qualified healthcare workers has never been greater, and the number of available employment opportunities is also very high. However, with so many career options available, you may be uncertain which role is best for you—given your goals, preferences, lifestyle, and strengths and weaknesses.
This article provides a head-to-head comparison of a Medical Assistant and a Phlebotomy Technician. You will discover how each of these healthcare professionals has their own unique job responsibilities, educational requirements, job outlook, and earning potential.
If you’re interested in becoming a Medical Assistant or Phlebotomy Technician, we hope the information provided here will help you understand your options and find the most rewarding and satisfying healthcare career for your future.
Click here to read our comprehensive guide on how to become a Medical Assistant.
Medical Assistant vs. Phlebotomist: Definition
What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical Assistants play a crucial role in our healthcare system. MAs perform administrative functions such as maintaining patient records, bookkeeping, billing, and insurance processing. They also perform clinical tasks such as preparing patients for procedures, performing lab tests, administering medications, and other duties under the supervision of a doctor or nurse. Because MAs handle so many of the basic tasks, they enable doctors and nurses with more time to perform essential examinations and procedures.
What is a Phlebotomy Technician?
Phlebotomy Technicians primarily draw blood, which is used for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations. Some Phlebotomists explain their work to patients and provide assistance if patients have adverse reactions after their blood is drawn. In medical and diagnostic laboratories, the Phlebotomist is the only clinical healthcare professional that the patient will see. Because all blood samples look the same, Phlebotomists must carefully identify and label the sample they have drawn and enter it into a database. In order to avoid causing infection or other complications, Phlebotomists must keep their work area and instruments clean and sanitary.
Medical Assistant vs. Phlebotomist: Job Description
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical Assistants (MAs) perform a variety of tasks essential to patient care and medical office administration. By taking on these responsibilities, MAs enable doctors and nurses to dedicate more of their time to examining and treating patients. Most medical assistants work in physician offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, and offices of other medical specialists, such as chiropractors.
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a Medical Assistant include:
- Recording patient history and personal information
- Measuring patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
- Helping physicians with patient examinations
- Giving patients injections or medications as directed by physician or nurse
- Explaining treatment procedures to patients
- Answering telephones and scheduling patient appointments
- Filling out insurance forms and coding patient medical information
- Updating and filing patient medical records
- Handling correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping
What Does a Phlebotomy Technician Do?
Unlike a Medical Assistant, who performs a variety of clinical and administrative tasks, the duties of a Phlebotomist are very focused on drawing blood from patients and blood donors. This includes all the functions involved with drawing blood, such as entering the patient information into a database, maintaining the medical supplies needed to draw blood, and keeping work areas clean. As a result, Phlebotomists may be especially busy during a health emergency, which can correspond with heightened interest in blood donations.
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a Phlebotomy Technician include:
- Drawing blood from patients and blood donors
- Talking with patients and donors to help calm them about having their blood drawn
- Verifying a patient’s or donor’s identity to ensure proper labeling of the blood
- Labeling the drawn blood for testing or processing
- Entering patient information into a database
- Assembling and maintaining medical instruments such as needles, test tubes, and blood vials
- Keeping work areas clean and sanitary
Medical Assistant vs. Phlebotomist: Education
Educational Requirements for Medical Assistants
A diploma or associate’s degree in medical assisting is typically required for employment as a Medical Assistant (MA). MA programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities. Diploma programs take about 9 to 12 months to complete, while associate’s degree programs usually take about two years to complete. After graduation, you may want to add another month or two to study for, schedule, and take a certification exam.
Training programs for both Medical Assistants and Phlebotomist Technicians can be completed in less than a year, and the learning from both may apply to further education for other careers in healthcare. But while Phlebotomist training is more specifically focused on drawing blood, MA training includes instruction in a variety of clinical and administrative duties, which may provide a more valuable background for other careers such as a nurse, doctor, physician assistant, or even office manager or hospital administrator.
Although most Medical Assistants do not need a state license or certification, most of today’s employers strongly prefer MAs with at least one certification. MAs who perform specific duties (such as phlebotomy or x-rays) or who work in specialized fields (such as podiatry or ophthalmology) may be required to have specific training and certification in their specialty. In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also ruled that only credentialed MAs are allowed to enter the laboratory, radiology, and medical orders into their computerized system.
Click here to read our guide on the best Medical Assistant certifications for your healthcare career.
Educational Requirements for Phlebotomy Technicians
Phlebotomy Technicians typically enter the profession with a diploma or certificate from a postsecondary phlebotomy program. These programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and technical schools and usually take less than one year to complete. Some Phlebotomists enter the occupation with a high school diploma and are trained on the job. Phlebotomists also receive employer-specific instructions on identifying, labeling, and tracking blood samples.
Medical Assistant vs. Phlebotomist: Salary
How Much Do Medical Assistants Make?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary* earned by Medical Assistants in 2020 was around $37,000 or about $18 per hour. MAs who earned salaries in the top 10 percent made more than $50,000 per year.
Highest Paying States for Medical Assistants
According to the BLS, these are the states where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for medical assistants:
|State||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|District of Columbia||$21.80||$45,340|
Highest Paying Cities for Medical Assistants
According to the BLS, these are the cities where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for medical assistants:
|City||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|San Francisco, CA||$25.94||$53,960|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$25.25||$52,520|
|San Jose, CA||$23.57||$49,020|
|Santa Cruz, CA||$21.63||$44,980|
How Much Do Phlebotomists Make?
According to the BLS, the average salary* earned by Phlebotomists in 2020 was around $36,000 or about $17 per hour. Phlebotomy Technicians who earned salaries in the top 10 percent made more than $50,700 per year.
Highest Paying States for Phlebotomists
According to the BLS, these are the states where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Phlebotomists:
|State||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|District of Columbia||$21.13||$43,960|
Highest Paying Cities for Phlebotomists
According to the BLS, these are the cities where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Phlebotomists:
|City||Average Hourly Pay||Average Salary|
|San Diego, CA||$24.96||$51,920|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$24.82||$51,620|
|Santa Cruz, CA||$24.56||$51,070|
|San Jose, CA||$24.38||$50,710|
|Santa Maria, CA||$24.32||$50,580|
|San Francisco, CA||$24.16||$50,250|
Medical Assistant vs. Phlebotomist: Job Outlook
Medical Assistant Job Outlook
According to the BLS, the overall employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 18 percent through 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations (8%).
As the average age of our population continues to grow older, so will the demand for preventive medical services, which physicians often provide. In addition, healthcare facilities will hire more Medical Assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians and nurses to see more patients.
Phlebotomist Job Outlook
According to the BLS, the overall employment for Phlebotomists is projected to grow an outstanding 22 percent by 2030, which is also much faster than the average for all occupations.
Blood analysis is an essential part of healthcare today, and the need for life-saving blood donations is constant. Demand for Phlebotomists will remain high as doctors, and other healthcare professionals require bloodwork for analysis and diagnosis and blood donations for patient treatments.
Head-to-Head Comparison: Medical Assistant vs. Phlebotomist
|Job Description||Draws blood for tests, transfusions, research or blood donations||Provides administrative services, basic patient care, and clinical support to doctors and nurses|
|Average Annual Wage||$36,000 in 2020||$37,000 in 2020|
|Employment Growth||22% thru 2030||18% thru 2030|
|Education (Recommended)||9–12 months training||9–12 months training|
Why Medical Assisting is a Great Career Alternative for Phlebotomists?
Medical Assistants have an ideal background for re-careering into Phlebotomy Technicians because they have experience working directly with patients in a clinical setting and understand the importance of people skills, sanitary conditions, accuracy, and attention to detail. However, because MAs are not typically trained or certified in drawing blood, they may require additional training in phlebotomy before making the career move.
Why Choose Eagle Gate College for Your Medical Assistant Training?
Founded in 1979, Eagle Gate College has provided thousands of graduates with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a rewarding career in nursing and healthcare. With a curriculum continually updated to meet the needs of healthcare, well equipped labs, and hands-on training from experienced healthcare professionals, we prepare graduates to make a positive impact starting with their first day on the job. Our robust Medical Assisting program combines virtual instruction, hands-on lab exercises, and supervised externship and can be completed in as little as 9 months. In conjunction with Provo College, Eagle Gate College offers a premier healthcare education at five campus locations in Utah and Idaho.