Medical Assistant Vs. Dental Assistant: What Is the Pay Difference?

If you'd like a job performing administrative duties for a doctor or dentist, then you may want to consider a job as a medical assistant or dental assistant. Both of these positions are similar, but they do differ in job duties and pay. Read on to find out how much you could earn in each position. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

Medical assistants work for physicians and other healthcare professionals. The exact duties of this position may vary depending on your employer, but general duties include recording patients' blood pressure and other vital signs, preparing blood samples, and assisting with examinations.

As a dental assistant, you may process x-rays, take impressions of teeth, and sterilize instruments. You may also prep patients and retrieve tools such as suction hoses for the dentist during a procedure.

Administrative duties for medical assistants and dental assistants are closely related. You may be expected to properly file medical records or insurance paperwork. Recording patient information is another job duty that both of these professions share.

Important Facts About Medical and Dental Assistants

Medical AssistantsDental Assistants
CertificationRequired by some states; preferred by many employersRequired by some states
Key SkillsAnalytical, technicalDexterity, interpersonal
Required EducationPostsecondary non-degree award or high school diplomaPostsecondary non-degree award or high school diploma
On-the-Job TrainingCommon for those without applicable educationCommon for those without applicable education
Similar OccupationsPharmacy technician, nursing assistantDental hygienist, surgical technologist

Salary Comparison

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical assistants earned a mean hourly wage of $15.01 and a mean annual salary of $31,220 in May 2014 (www.bls.gov). Dental assistants, on the other hand, earned a mean hourly wage of $17.43 and a mean annual salary of $36,260 in the same reporting year.

Salary by Industry

With a mean annual wage of $36,670, medical assistants who worked in scientific research and development earned the highest average salaries in this field in May 2014, according to the BLS. However, most worked in physicians' offices and were paid an average wage of $31,230. Those working for general hospitals earned a slightly higher average wage of $32,910 while those working in offices of other health practitioners made a lower average salary of $28,040.

Dental assistants working in specialty hospitals earned an average salary of $40,550 as of May 2014, making it the top-paying industry for this profession, according to the BLS. However, most dental assistants worked for dentists' offices and were paid $36,270 on average. A smaller number worked for physicians' offices and earned an average wage of $33,670. The federal government offered an average salary of $39,460.

Salary by Location

According to the BLS, California, Texas, Florida, and New York had high employment levels for both medical assistants and dental assistants in May 2014. While medical assistants earned respective average wages of $34,790, $28,550, $29,400, and $33,540 in these states, dental assistants earned higher respective average wages of $38,100, $34,190, $35,100, and $35,550.

In May 2014, the BLS reported that the states offering medical assistants the highest pay included the District of Columbia ($39,860), Alaska ($39,680), and Massachusetts ($37,640). Alaska also offered dental assistants one of the highest average wages of $43,550, and Massachusetts paid these professionals an average wage of $41,590. However, the top-paying state for dental assistants was New Hampshire, where these professionals earned $44,580 on average.

The BLS reported in May 2014 that the low-end average salary range was $21,540-$25,500 for medical assistants and $24,580-$29,260 for dental assistants. In contrast, the high-end average salary range was $36,070-$42,760 for medical assistants and $42,810-$49,540 for dental assistants.

Job Outlook

The BLS reports that job openings for medical assistants were expected to grow at a rate of 23% from 2014-2024. This very fast growth is attributed to a rising demand for more healthcare workers as the number of elderly patients increases. Dental assistants are expected to see 18% growth in job openings during the same reporting decade. Job prospects are projected to be good due to the number of new dentists needing qualified dental assistants to perform routine procedures.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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