I agree that private Medical Assistants programs are rampant and a rip-off! It is not possible to earn enough as a Medical Assistant to pay back the loans. In my area there are about five such schools. However, there are also two reputable, reasonably priced schools in my area; one is the technical college and the other is a University. Medical Assistants here start out at $ 12.00-
$ 14.00/hr. CNAs start out at about $ 10.00-$ 11.00/hr. Our hospitals use CNAs and Patient Care Techs (which are CNAs with phlebotomy and EKG training; trained by the hospitals). Generally though as people have said, MAs are able to do a lot more clinically than CNAs. The trend in my area is for MAs to be Certified, which many are not, or cannot be because they attended the private technical schools; of which all are not accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES.
Those accreditations are a requirement in order to be able to sit for the Certification exam through AAMA. So, although they are pumping out graduates left and right, many of them will not be hired. Here there are also a lot of jobs for CNAs and Patient Care Techs. Financial aid is available for people who qualify; for MA Programs, but is not available for CNA training because it is not a diploma or a degree. That may make a difference for a lot of people in the present economy. Our CNA programs are about $ 800.00 - $ 900.00 out of pocket. Many people do not have that kind of extra money laying around. All health care professionals are needed and the choice should be a personal one, taking all factors into account.