Phlebotomist vs. Medical Assistant

Venice Nuyda
May 11, 2023

Are you curious about the difference between Phlebotomists and Medical Assistants (MA)? They both play important roles in healthcare and their tasks help to support medical professionals in delivering quality patient care. Continue reading to discover further details.

A Phlebotomist is someone that performs blood draws. You can see them working at blood banks, diagnostic centers, and clinics. MAs also perform blood draws, but they also perform a wider variety of tasks.

What does a Phlebotomist or a MA do?

Phlebotomists are trained professionals who draw blood from patients. They prepare blood samples for laboratory testing. They also collect blood for various purposes like donation and transfusions. Phlebotomists work in a variety of places like laboratories, hospitals, diagnostic centers, etc.

MAs also draw blood samples from patients, but they also have a wider range of duties. MAs are in charge of duties that support patients and medical professionals. As an MA, you can work at a hospital, outpatient center, and other organizations. Take a look at the checklist below for the detailed duties of Phlebotomists and MAs.

Job Responsibilities Phlebotomist MA
Explaining blood draw procedures to patients and answering their questions.
Administering medications. Including vaccinations/immunizations as directed by a physician or other medical professional
Keeping work areas clean and organized to prevent contamination or infection.
Performing oxygen titration on patients.
Taking patient histories and vital signs, blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.
Assisting with medical billing and coding, including insurance verification and claim submission.
Explaining blood draw procedures to patients and answering their questions.
Wound care, removing stitches, and changing dressings
Ensuring that blood collection equipment is sterile and in good condition.
Assisting with patient care. This includes helping patients with mobility or personal care needs.
Verifying patient information and using accurate phlebotomy methods.
Handling payments, accounts, and other financial records.
Providing injections and vaccinations to patients.
Selecting the appropriate equipment, such as needles and tubes, for blood collection.

What skills should I have to be a phlebotomist?

  • Attention to Detail: Phlebotomists must be keen on mistakes in collection or labeling. 
  • Technical Competence: Phlebotomists must be knowledgeable in the use of medical equipment. They must be able to perform different techniques in procedures.
  • Communication Skills: Phlebotomists must know how to explain blood draw procedures to patients. They should also know how to answer their questions. 
  • Empathy: Phlebotomists must be able to reassure anxious patients during the procedure.
  • Professionalism: They must know how to maintain patient confidentiality. They also need to adhere to relevant regulations.
  • Problem-Solving: Phlebotomists must be able to think when unexpected issues arise.

What skills should I have to be a Medical Assistant?

  • Administrative Skills: You should be confident in answering phone calls. As well as sending emails, setting appointments, and many more. 
  • Communication Skills: MAs must know how to interact with patients and healthcare staff.
  • Computer Literacy: They must be familiar with the different types of healthcare software. This includes running lab tests.
  • Organization and Time Management: Medical Assistants should be good at organizing. They must be able to manage many tasks and focus their workload in an efficient way.
  • Teamwork: MAs should be able to collaborate well as part of a healthcare team.

Phlebotomy education and training requirements

To be a Phlebotomist, you must pass the National Certified Phlebotomy Technician (NCPT) test. Before taking the exam, you must first complete a training program. The test requires you to perform 100 successful venipunctures and 25 skin punctures.

A High School diploma or an equivalent is the only prerequisite to join a phlebotomy program. Then, you can enroll in a phlebotomy program—which usually requires 4-8 months of training. You can find Phlebotomy programs at trade schools, technical schools, and community colleges. Phlebotomists can choose from various certifications, including:

  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician I: Allows taking blood samples by venipuncture and skin punctures
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician II: You can perform venipuncture, arterial puncture, and skin puncture
  • Limited Phlebotomy Technician: prepares medical personnel to collect blood through skin punctures

Training costs can range from $600 to $2,500. This is depending on the program and institution you enroll in.

MA education and training requirements

The path to becoming a MA is a little different compared to becoming a Phlebotomist. As an MA, you will need to graduate from either of the two accredited programs:

  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

MA programs might last anywhere from nine months and two years. Accredited MA programs cost between $1,000 and $3,000. To get a job right after, you must pass the CMA (AAMA) exam. You can also seek a degree instead of enrolling in a certificate program if you like.

Phlebotomist job outlook

Pursuing a career in phlebotomy is something you won’t regret. The BLS projects a 10% growth in the employment of Phlebotomists from 2021 to 2031—a lot faster than the average for most occupations. The median annual wage for Phlebotomists two years ago was $37,380 ($17.97/hr).

There are several ways to advance your phlebotomy career path. Obtaining a specialty may boost your yearly earnings and professional qualifications. Examples of phlebotomy specialties include:

  • Registered phlebotomy specialist
  • Collections phlebotomy specialist
  • Traveling Phlebotomist
  • Donor phlebotomy technician

Medical Assistant job outlook

Experts say that employment for MAs will grow 29% from 2016 to 2026. That's almost three times faster than the Phlebotomist employment growth rate! The mean annual wage for MAs is $40,700 ($19.57/hour). The top-paying states for MAs are Washington, D.C., Alaska, California, and Massachusetts—they all offer average annual salaries above $44,000.

MAs can take advantage of several opportunities to grow. Having a background will be a strong foundation for starting a healthcare business. You can also specialize depending on your passion for healthcare. Consider the following specialization if you want to further your career:

  1. Pediatrics MA - this is perfect if you love working with kids
  2. Oncology Office MA - Suitable for people who have a passion for working with cancer patients
  3. Cosmetic Industry MA - if cosmetic procedures interests you, go for this option

Both Phlebotomists and MAs ensure a seamless flow of procedures in supporting medical professionals. They may have some differences in duties and training, but they share the same vision. They work together to guarantee the smooth functioning of healthcare facilities.

If it weren't for them, facilities and professionals would face challenges in working. Without Phlebotomists, blood collection and specimen processing would be more difficult. Also, Physicians and nurses may need to spend more time delivering various tasks if there are no MAs. 

If you aspire to focus on venipunctures and blood drawing alone, go for being a Phlebotomist. While being a MA requires longer training and wider tasks, you’ll make a great contribution to the healthcare field either way.

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Written by
Venice Nuyda

Venice Nuyda is a student-support representative at Dreambound. She is responsible for helping students through their training journey in the allied health space. She is passionate about helping others and writing informative articles to aid candidates in advancing their vocational careers.

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