Certified Nursing Assistant

Difference Between a PCT and CNA

Fel Gonzaga
May 9, 2023

Looking for a rewarding career in the healthcare industry? Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Patient Care Technician (PCT) may be a perfect choice!  Keep reading if you’re still debating whether to become a PCT or a CNA. This blog will help you understand the distinctions between these two vocations and will aid you in making a decision. Let’s get started!

What Are PCTs and CNAs?

PCTs and CNAs work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). They help patients with their activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, grooming, eating, and taking vital signs. They are also responsible for communicating with the healthcare team, making patients comfortable, and complying with confidentiality laws.

CNAs focus on primary care, while PCTs provide more advanced care. The latter can perform EKG and assists during rehabilitation and in administering medications.

What Does a PCT or a CNA Do?

PCTs have a broader scope of duties and responsibilities than CNAs. They can perform all the same tasks a CNA does, yet, has extra skills and procedures that a CNA doesn’t. Take a look at the checklist below of the duties and responsibilities for PCTs and CNAs.

Duties and Responsibilities PCT CNA
Assist with the ADLs of patients, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and feeding.
Take and record vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.
Monitor patients' health status and report any changes to the nursing staff.
Dispense particular medication
Perform basic nursing procedures such as wound care, catheterization, and collection of specimens.
Perform phlebotomy (blood draws)
Operate medical equipment such as EKG machines and dialysis machines
Provide respiratory care such as administering nebulizer treatments and performing chest physiotherapy
Provide support to patients with mobility issues, including turning and positioning them in bed and transferring them to chairs or wheelchairs.
Maintain patient comfort and safety by ensuring clean and organized patient rooms and equipment.
Respond to patient calls and requests promptly.
Assist with the admission, discharge, and transfer of patients.

The exact duties and responsibilities of a PCT and a CNA may vary depending on their level of training and the policies and regulations of the healthcare facility they work in. With all the tasks mentioned above, it’s essential to remember that any invasive procedures, such as inserting IVs and administering medications, must be under the direction and supervision of a licensed nurse.

What Do I Need to Enroll in a PCT or a CNA Program?

The training requirements for both vocations vary per state, but basic ones may include a High School diploma or equivalent, proof of U.S. residency, and passing a background check with fingerprinting.

Some states need PCTs to have all or some of the following:

  • Prior CNA certification;
  • Current cardiopulmonary resuscitation/basic life support (CPR/BLS) certification;
  • Proof of vaccines such as the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), hepatitis B, and tetanus;
  • Pass a physical exam, and
  • A minimum level of English proficiency

Differences Between CNA and PCT Training

The cost and duration of training for PCTs and CNAs depend on the length of the program and location. Generally, the cost and duration of PCT training are higher than that of CNA.

Depending on the institution, PCT courses can cost anywhere from $950 to $5,000. The course may range from about 24 to 32 weeks to complete. While the CNA training is much more affordable and costs around $600-$2,300. There are CNA fast-track courses that take about 4-8 weeks to complete.

The state exam fee for both costs around $125 but varies per state.

How Do I Get Certified as a PCT or CNA?

To become a PCT, you will need training in the specialized skills required for this position. The training can be through community colleges, vocational schools, or the healthcare facility you work for may train you on the job.

You don't need to take the PCT certification exam if you already have a CNA certification unless your facility or state requires it. Yet, it is encouraged as it exhibits your knowledge and competency in the field.

Various certifying organizations for PCTs include the National Care for Competency Testing (NCCT), the American Medical Certification Association (AMCA), and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The exam includes 100-150 questions and a practical section on essential skills, depending on the organization you take your certification through.

Certain states require a CNA certification to be a PCT.  To get your CNA certification, you may complete the training and pass the certification exam. Depending on your state's requirements, you may also qualify to sit for the CNA certification exam if you’re currently in a PCT program.

CNAs and CPCTs (Certified PCTs) must renew their license regularly through their state or national certification supplier. The amount of time before renewal and the amount of hours worked in that time may vary depending on state and regulation requirements. 

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for CNAs and PCTs will grow 5% from 2021 to 2031. There will be an increased demand for healthcare services as the population ages. This leads to a higher demand for PCTs and CNAs.

Work Setting

PCTs and CNAs work in various healthcare settings. It’s always worth noting that they both work under the supervision of a registered nurse or a nurse practitioner. PCTs work in dialysis centers and urgent care centers such as emergency rooms, medical-surgical units, and doctor’s offices. In dialysis centers, they help set up the equipment, prepare the patient, monitor their vital signs during the procedure, and document the treatment. They also perform tasks such as weighing patients, taking blood samples, and cleaning and sterilizing equipment.

In urgent care centers, PCTs may perform a variety of tasks to support the medical staff. They may take vital signs, obtain medical histories from patients, perform basic laboratory tests, and assist with minor medical procedures. They may also assist with patient triage, helping to determine the order in which patients are seen based on the urgency of their medical needs. 

On one hand, CNAs typically work in hospices, nursing homes, and home healthcare agencies. In nursing homes, CNAs provide care to elderly residents who may have a range of physical and cognitive impairments. They help residents with daily activities such as eating, grooming, and getting dressed. They also help residents with mobility, transferring them from bed to chair and assisting with walking. 

In home healthcare agencies, CNAs provide care to patients who are recovering from illness or injury in their own homes. They may assist with personal care and provide help with household tasks such as meal preparation and light housekeeping. 

Both PCTs and CNAs are employable in government agencies and hospitals. This allows them to choose a work setting that aligns with their interests and career goals. 


Both receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. Their salaries depend on the work setting, location, and experience level.

The BLS has no specific report about the salary of a PCT, but according to Indeed.com, their median annual wage is about $46,000, at $17 an hour. For CNAs, the median yearly wage is $30,310 as of May 2021. Check out this detailed information on how much a CNA makes.

Career Advancement

Many individuals choose to advance their careers by pursuing more education and training. Some may become LPNs or RNs by completing a nursing program. Read our blog on what comes after CNA.

By obtaining extra certifications, PCTs may specialize as dialysis technicians, EKG/Telemetry technicians, emergency room technicians, hospital PCTs, and rehabilitation technicians.

Achieving one or more of these designations can bring a competitive advantage in the healthcare field. Advanced education and training can lead to higher salaries and more career opportunities.


PCTs and CNAs provide essential care to patients in a range of work settings. Pursuing CNA or PCT can offer excellent opportunities for personal and professional growth. If you enjoy the social and emotional aspects of healthcare or have just transitioned into the healthcare field, becoming a CNA is a good start. 

If you want to gain more skills and responsibilities or explore the technical aspects of patient care procedures, becoming a PCT is the way to go. While PCTs require more training and earn a little more than CNAs, both roles have strong job prospects and career advancement opportunities. If you need help finding your vocation, Dreambound is the place for you!

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Written by
Fel Gonzaga

Fel is a student support representative who guides enrollees to the right program and answers their queries. She's committed to helping students and takes pride in her work. In her free time, she enjoys sightseeing and hanging out with loved ones.

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