The terms CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and PCA (Patient Care Assistant) are used interchangeably. Both the professions appear similar in several terms, but in fact, there are many differences in these careers.

Here are the main points of difference between both the careers.


  1. Alternative Names

    Certified nursing aides are recognized by several other names, like nurse aides, orderlies and nursing assistants.

    PCA- Patient care assistants are also known as home care aides, personal support workers, patient care assistants, personal care attendants and caregivers.

  1. License/Certification Requirements

    To become a nursing assistant, students first have to take training course of a specific duration and then qualify the certification exam, organized by the respective state.

    PCA- These professionals do not require certificate or extensive health care knowledge to practice their profession, but good communication and interpersonal skills, along with high level of manual dexterity is an imperative requirement. Some states allow patient care assistants to carry out their work, only if they possess CNA certificate.

  1. Training

    Usually, the nurse aide training programs are of seventy-five hours. Students gain understanding of many nursing topics, like infection control, nutrition, administering medicines, patient communication, medical terminologies, etc.

    PCA- PCA classes take 120 hours to complete. Forty hours of clinical practice is mandatory. The training program teaches about how to manage medical equipments, nutrition fundamentals, infection control, etc.

  1. Working Alternatives

    Nursing aides may render their services in rehabilitation centres, day care centres, assisted living facilities, clinics, hospice, etc.

    PCA- In comparison to certified nursing assistants, these professionals have fewer alternatives of work settings. They may find jobs in nursing homes, doctor’s office and hospitals.

  1. Job Responsibilities

    Most important duties of CNAs are measuring vital signs, making beds, serving meals, setting up medical equipments, observing changes in the condition of the patient, etc.

    PCA- The job responsibilities of PCAs include scheduling appointments, tracking clients, observing patient’s medical chart, providing assistance in patient’s room cleanliness, obtaining lab specimens, etc.

  1. Salary

    CNAs can make an average salary of $9.31 to $12.21 per hour. The median salary varies from $17,691 to $31,207 per year. (As per

    PCA- The hourly wages of these professionals is between $8.02 and $13.95. The median annual earning ranges from $16,680 to $30,469.

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