MA vs. Phlebotomist: Which Training Is Right for You?

A medical assistant/phlebotomist takes a blood sample from a patient.

When you sit down and compare MA vs. phlebotomist career tracks, you realize it’s not really about choosing one over the other. It’s about understanding how they supplement each other. 

A medical assistant career path is a more comprehensive one that opens up many opportunities; Phlebotomist training is a vital part of that career path. As you weigh MA vs. phlebotomist programs, keep in mind that the best medical assisting programs give you the foundational skills you need to become either. 

MA vs. Phlebotomist Programs and Career Tracks at a Glance 

As you review MA vs. phlebotomist programs, it’s important to explore both the training requirements as well as career potential. 

Medical Assistant

Phlebotomist

Description Medical assistants work with patients, handle administrative duties, perform laboratory tests, and assist physicians during diagnosis and treatment.  Phlebotomists collect, categorize, transport, and prepare blood samples for testing at the direction of medical providers in hospitals, laboratories, and doctors’ offices. 
Training MA training offered at BAMA is a 900-hour, nine-month program. Students prepare for three certifications that will make them an asset to any organization:
  • National Certified Medical Assistant
  • Certified EKG Technician, CET
  • California Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT-1) / National Certified Phlebotomy Tech
Students in the 3-in-1 Medical Assisting with Phlebotomy Program will learn administrative and clinical skills, and will also participate in a 200-hour externship where they gain valuable job experience and connections. 
BAMA’s phlebotomy training program is a 120-hour course that can be completed in two, three, or five-week programs. The course prepares you for two certifications:
  • National Certification, Phlebotomy Technician (NCPT)
  • California Certification, Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT-1 license)
Students in the phlebotomy program participate in a  two to four-week externship with an area provider and gain real-world experience that employers are seeking. 
Career Outlook The need for medical assistants is expected to grow much faster than average, by 16% annually through 2031. 

In California, medical assistants make between $30,210 to $61,800 per year, with higher earners usually holding more certifications. 

While medical assistants can be found in any healthcare setting, their top workplaces include outpatient care facilities, hospitals, and medical offices.  
Phlebotomist demand is growing faster than average at 10% annually through 2031. 
Phlebotomists make a median wage of $37,380 annually, with higher earners making $48,490 per year.  

Phlebotomists may work in a wide range of medical facilities, from doctors’ offices to ambulatory healthcare centers. 
Pros
  • Greater career prospects: Medical assistants can work in just about all healthcare environments, from pop-up clinics to inpatient facilities. 
  • Higher pay: The medical assistant pay range is so broad because it also includes individuals who don’t have certifications. Certified MAs fall on the higher end of the pay spectrum.
  • Financial resources: Financial aid and scholarships are available for those who qualify. In some cases, individuals may even qualify for no-cost medical assistant training!
  • Short training: Phlebotomy training can be completed in just under two months, allowing individuals to quickly graduate and start working. 
  • Low cost: A shorter, less expensive program can remove barriers to entry.
  • High skillset demand: Phlebotomists may not be as in demand as medical assistants, but these individuals will still find plenty of employment opportunities.
Cons
  • Longer program: As the MA program is comprehensive there is a higher time investment for students.
  • Challenging curriculum: Classes cover a range of complex subjects, from anatomy to medical law and ethics.
  • Higher training costs: MA training is longer and has more certifications, resulting in higher education costs.
  • Niche skillset: Phlebotomy covers a very specific skill set. Some individuals may find doing the same thing every day mundane.
  • No financial aid: Phlebotomy programs aren’t covered under financial aid as they’re too short and the cost is relatively low. BAMA does offer payment plans.
  • Limited career path: MAs have a lot more room for growth than phlebotomists due to their skill diversity.

When deciding whether to do a comprehensive MA program or just a specialty skill such as phlebotomy training, there are several things you’ll want to consider. While phlebotomy is an excellent skill, it’s ideally a supplemental one. Someone who is just entering the healthcare field is better off with the medical assistant route. First, training as a medical assistant with EKG and Phlebotomy training in a program such as BAMA’s offers broad potential for a career in the healthcare industry. It’s that kind of versatility that gives you the freedom to carve your own medical career path. However, if you are looking for a short-term program or are already in the healthcare field and looking to add a certified skill, phlebotomy could be the right option for you.

What It Takes to Start a Medical Assistant or Phlebotomist Career

In addition to the training and opportunities in MA vs. phlebotomist careers, it’s important to understand the soft skills and experience that help people excel in these fields. Our students have a wide range of backgrounds, but they share common traits that drive success in medical assistant and phlebotomy careers

  • Strong communication skills: Good MAs and phlebotomists are diplomats who know how to communicate complex, and often intimidating, information to patients. They’re also active listeners, gaining the information needed to help physicians make decisions. 
  • Empathy: Patients may be afraid or in pain during medical treatment, especially in emergency or inpatient settings. A good MA or phlebotomist understands this and helps to put their patients at ease. 
  • Problem-solving:  Medicine is fast-paced. The ability to take in information and make snap decisions is critical. All good MAs and phlebotomists know how to react to unexpected situations and provide the support the patient needs. 
  • Team player: No medical practice hinges on one person alone. It’s about how all the professionals work together as a team. Even phlebotomists, who work in somewhat isolated positions, will have to work with people across departments. 
  • Organizational skills: The stakes are high in a medical environment. Even a small mistake can have serious consequences. Strong organizational skills are vital for medical assistants and phlebotomists to avoid these kinds of issues. 

One thing you may have noticed about the above skillsets is that none of them are medicine specific. These are skills people pick up working in retail, at fast food franchises, or while driving for Uber. They’re also the background of a lot of our successful graduates from BAMA.  We provide medical assistant training, but all of our students bring their own life skills to the table. 

Medical assisting is the best way to go when comparing MA vs. phlebotomist programs. While both are excellent, medical assisting opens up an entire world of opportunities that lay the foundation for a successful career.

BAMA offers medical assistant and phlebotomy training at our San Francisco and San Jose campuses.