What's The Difference Between a Medical Lab Tech and a Medical Assistant?

HealthcareApril 04, 2018

If you’re interested in a career in healthcare but aren’t sure where to begin…Medical Assistant or Medical Laboratory Technician are good places to start. But what’s the difference between those two?

Both work with physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals, but each has different responsibilities. Medical assistants work in clinical environments, where they prepare patients for exams, administer medication and other related tasks, or they work in an administrative position and are responsible for setting appointments, performing front-office duties and answering the phone. If they work for a specialist, medical assistants sometimes can take on other responsibilities as well.

Medical Lab Technicians work in a laboratory collecting samples and performing tests to analyze tissue, bodily fluids and other substances that assist physicians in diagnosing a patient’s condition. While medical assisting jobs are increasing faster, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections (29% to 13%), medical lab techs, on average, can earn approximately $19,000 more per year.

Medical assistant programs can take as little as one year to complete, though an associate degree in the field will typically take two years, improving one’s chances of being certified – a must in certain states. Courses likely will include some laboratory portions, along with anatomy and medical terminology.

MLTs (Medical Laboratory Technicians) can work in the field with just a post-secondary certificate, but many employers prefer hiring those who graduate from formal MLT programs. An associate or bachelor’s degree improves one’s chances of being employed and advancing in the career. Most MLTs must complete at least 60 semester hours in lab courses and well as clinical practicums, in some cases.

Fortis offers programs in both Medical Assisting and Medical Laboratory Technician. Medical Assisting (MA) programs are offered at most campuses; three Florida campuses and Fortis Colleges in Columbus, while Ohio and Salt Lake City offer a Medical Assisting with Basic X-ray program. 

Medical Lab Technician programs are offered at select campuses in Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland and Tennessee. 

Visit our Medical/Healthcare programs or Medical Technologist programs pages to learn more about the program of your choice.


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