What Are the Differences Between Medical Scribes and Medical Assistants?

Posted On October 28,2022

Are you considering a career in the medical field but haven’t decided which career path to pursue? Two popular career options are to become a medical assistant or medical scribe, but which one is a better fit for you? To determine which position is right for you, it’s important to understand the differences between medical scribes and medical assistants. 

A medical scribe is a type of medical assistant who specializes in documenting patient visits. They work with physicians and other medical staff to ensure that patient records are updated and accurate. Medical assistants perform a variety of administrative and clinical tasks to support the work of physicians and other medical professionals.  

male doctor and female medical assistant viewing information on a laptop

What is a Medical Scribe?

Medical scribes are responsible for documenting patient interactions in real-time using an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. They work closely with physicians to ensure all patient information is fully documented and accurate. Medical scribes also help keep the physician’s schedule organized and may be responsible for pre-registering patients or scheduling follow-up appointments. In some cases, medical scribes may chart vital signs or collect lab specimens. 

What is a Medical Assistant? 

Medical assistants (MAs) are versatile, cross-trained professionals who perform administrative and clinical duties in physician’s offices, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. MAs work alongside physicians, nurses, and other medical staff to support the delivery of patient care. MAs perform a multitude of administrative tasks including scheduling appointments, verifying insurance coverage, and maintaining medical records. They also perform clinical duties such as taking medical histories, measuring vital signs, and assisting physicians with minor medical procedures.

What Are the Job Duties?

Medical assistants and medical scribes have some job duties in common like taking patient histories, performing lab tests, administering medications, and assisting physicians during examinations and procedures. However, the similarities usually end there, as the level of involvement with patients differs significantly. 

Medical scribes usually perform tasks that help the physician without interacting with patients directly. This may include recording information from diagnostic tests or writing treatment plans. Medical assistants do this too, but they have direct contact with patients. When comparing the two career paths, becoming a medical assistant will provide you with more skills and therefore more opportunities for open positions as well as advancement opportunities.

What Are the Education Requirements?

Medical scribes need to have a high school diploma at minimum, but many employers prefer candidates who have completed some college coursework. Many scribing programs require applicants to pass a basic skills test and a background check. Some scribe programs may also require candidates to shadow a medical scribe before being accepted into a program. 

Medical assistants also need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, although many jobs require completion of a medical assisting training program and pass a certification exam, like the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). One reason to become a medical assistant is to jumpstart your career quickly. Many MA programs are designed to be completed in one year or less, making it ideal for those  who lack the resources to commit to several years of higher education. 

Ready to Become a Medical Assistant?

While the decision is yours to make, the first step to a rewarding career in healthcare begins by enrolling in a comprehensive training program. Becoming a medical assistant is a great way to enter the healthcare field, and as an MA you would have the option to easily transition into medical scribing, but also have a plethora of other avenues to consider. Contact Athena Career Academy to find out more about our no-wait-list training programs or to schedule a campus tour. 

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