Going from MA to LPN
Medical assistants considering a career in nursing have a couple options: going from MA to Registered Nurse (RN), or choosing instead to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). A new career pathway to practical nursing can take less time and help you get started in the nursing field faster—and you can potentially shorten the time needed to become an RN in the future.
Here's what you need to know about transitioning from medical assistant to LPN:
1. MA vs. LPN duties & responsibilities
Medical assistants typically work in clinical or administrative settings under the care of a doctor/physician or other healthcare provider. Medical assistants may specialize in either administrative or clinical work. A clinical medical assistant performs duties such as drawing blood or sterilizing medical instruments, although job responsibilities differ by state. An administrative medical assistant gathers medical information for insurance companies, books appointments, and answers phones.
LPNs (sometimes called Licensed Vocational Nurses, or LVN) usually serve in hospitals and clinics and work under RNs and doctors. Practical nurses have a different scope of practice, generally playing a larger role in direct patient care. They’re responsible for monitoring patient health, administering basic patient care, and keeping records of patient health. They can also change bandages, insert IVs or catheters, help patients bathe and dress, and more.
2. Education requirements
There are different education requirements to become a medical assistant vs. practical nurse. Minimum requirements for medical assisting jobs can vary widely; those considering going from MA to LPN may have no college credential or as much as an associate degree in medical assisting.
In order to become an LPN, you’ll need to first earn a diploma in practical nursing to qualify to sit for NCLEX-PN certification, then pass the NCLEX-PN exam.
Our PN diploma is an on-campus program we offer at several campus locations and cannot be completed fully online. You can graduate prepared to sit for PN certification in as few as 12 months.
If you’ve earned a medical assisting diploma or degree in the past, you may be able to transfer select credit to bridge into a PN program. However, nursing represents a new field vs. medical assisting, and much of your coursework will be covering brand new material.
3. Certification requirements
After graduating from a PN diploma program, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Our curriculum is designed with the NCLEX-PN in mind to fully prepare you for success on the exam and get off to a great start in your career.
How hard is the NCLEX-PN exam?
The exam is designed to be challenging enough to ensure you’re ready to succeed in the role.
According to the NCSBN, here’s an annual breakdown of the NCLEX-PN exam first-time pass rate from US-educated candidates:
|Year||Test takers||Pass rate|
The test is not easy! You’ll need to be well-prepared to pass on the first try. Our faculty, student services, and staff are all here to help you study and prepare for success on both the certification exam and your career as an LPN.
4. Salary impact
While going back to school to become an LPN will incur additional cost, you can potentially earn a higher salary as an LPN.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed practical and vocational nurses earn a 37% higher average salary than medical assistants.
In addition, becoming an LPN gets you started in the field of nursing—which can lead to all sorts of new career pathways towards becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) and beyond. These next steps can open doors to higher salaries in the future.
5. Job outlook
Employment of both medical assistants and practical nurses is expected to rise from 2022-2023. However, the expected rate of increase is higher for medical assistants than practical nurses.
It’s worth noting opportunities can really start to open up should you choose to work towards becoming an RN in the future. The employment increase percentage figure may not jump off the chart, but Registered Nurses represents one of the largest line item categories of occupations in the United States. A projected 6% increase still represents significant growth beyond that of medical assisting (177,400 vs. 105,900 jobs added).
Nurses are in high demand, and healthcare needs experienced professionals like yourself to fulfill the need. It’s a great time to consider transitioning to the field of nursing.
6. Where you may work
Medical assistants and LPNs both work in primarily healthcare institutions, but there are some differences regarding where each most commonly works.
Percent of total occupational employment in industry, May 2022i
|Industry||Medical Assistants||Practical Nurses|
|Offices of Physicians||56.84%||12.52%|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||14.28%||12.79%|
|Outpatient Care Centers||9.38%||5.26%|
|Offices of Other Health Practitioners||8.18%||0.85%|
|Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||1.05%||0.69%|
|Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly||0.88%||6.54%|
|Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)||0.87%||27.06%|
|Other Ambulatory Health Care Services||0.80%||0.76%|
|Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services||0.69%||0.08%|
i. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Occupational employment and wage statistics, May 2022: All data. United States Department of Labor. https://www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm. This table includes a selection of the top industries for each occupation. That’s why there are only 10 industries listed and percentages do not add to 100%.
Examples of how to interpret this data:
- 56.84% of all Medical Assistants are employed in Offices of Physicians
- 27.06% of all Practical Nurses are employed in Nursing Care Facilities
Generally speaking, employment of practical nurses is more spread out among different types of healthcare facilities compared to medical assistants. There’s a much higher concentration of practical nurses employed in nursing care facilities, and a far lower concentration employed in physician’s offices.