CMA vs CNA: What’s the Difference?

CMA vs CNA cover photo

Like many other professionals, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) help make up the backbone of the healthcare industry. CNAs work closely with registered nurses (RNs), helping them directly care for patients in a variety of ways.

Once a person becomes a CNA, they may choose to further their education to receive their medication aide certification. Certified medication aides (CMAs), which may also be known as med techs or med aides, are CNAs with additional qualifications that allow them to dispense certain drugs to patients under the supervision of a RN.


It may seem a little confusing, but both CNAs and CMAs are important members of the healthcare team. Both CNAs and CMAs deal directly with patients. They both also work under the supervision of one or more RNs. Learning more the difference between a CMA vs CNA to help you decide which is right for you.

What to know about CNAs

In the course of a shift, a certified nursing assistant may help patients complete daily tasks related to everyday life. CNAs often help bathe and dress patients. They may also:

  • Answer patient calls.
  • Clean and prepare patient rooms as necessary.
  • Document issues arising for patients.
  • Dress wounds.
  • Feed patients who cannot feed themselves.
  • Help with certain medical procedures.
  • Report problems or concerns to the RN.
  • Stock supplies.
  • Take vital signs including blood pressure and temperature.
  • Turn and reposition patients as necessary.

CNAs work in many different healthcare settings. These may include hospitals, doctor’s offices, urgent care centers, clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and assisted living facilities.

To become a CNA, you’ll need to have your high school diploma or GED. Then, you’ll need to complete nursing assistant training. These programs usually only last a few months and take place at community colleges, technical schools, and some medical facilities.

After you’ve completed your education, you’ll take a certification examination. This test consists of written questions and a skills test where you demonstrate you know how to correctly perform several clinical skills.

Once you’re certified, you’ll be able to start applying for jobs immediately. Also, because of the country’s aging population, you’ll be in high demand as a medical professional. It’s anticipated that jobs for CNAs will grow by about 9% through 2030. On average, CNAs earn almost $29,000 every year, but your salary will be different depending on your employer and geographical location.

What to know about CMAs

Certified medication aides take the job of a CNA one step further. Thanks to their extra training, CMAs have the ability to prepare and administer certain medications directly to patients. They also monitor patients and document any response to the drug’s dosing and use. Other job tasks performed by CMAs may include:

  • Collecting samples for analysis in a lab.
  • Educating patients on proper medication use.
  • Stocking the medication dispensary with supplies.
  • Reporting any change in the patient’s condition to supervisors.

You can only earn a CMA certification if you are already a certified nursing assistant. In some states, you may have to work as a CNA for a period of time before you can get your CMA.

You don’t need a college degree to become a CMA. Instead, CMA programs can be taken community colleges or trade schools. They usually take around four months to complete. After you’ve completed your training, you’ll again need to pass an examination to get your certification. You’ll also need to continue your education — a medication aide certificate isn’t permanent, and you’ll need to renew it at certain intervals.

You won’t be able to start work as a CMA immediately. However, if you decide to pursue this career option, you’ll probably make more than you did as a CNA. Average salaries for CMAs top $33,000 each year. And like CNAs, the job market for CMAs is expected to grow as the Baby Boomer generation gets older.

CMA vs CNA? It’s really more of a progression. Both CNAs and CMAs are important parts of the healthcare team. If you’re looking to start a new career quickly, becoming a CNA can help you achieve your goal. However, if you want to take your career a step further without going to a four-year college, becoming a CMA can be a great choice.

CMA or CNA: Take your Next Step with IntelyCare

No matter where you are in your career, as a CMA, CNA, or even an RN, you can gain control over your work-life balance as an IntelyPro. Learn how to better manage your schedule, personalize your shift preferences, and even get paid more often, right here. You can start today.


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