PA vs MD: Which Career Path Should You Choose?
Those hoping to embark on a career that involves patient care know that there are several options to choose from. Most commonly, people find themselves deciding between being a PA vs MD. There are key differences that lie in their roles, education, salary, and lifestyle.
You know you want to work with patients, using clinical skills to treat sickness and injuries. You understand there are growing numbers of physician assistants (PAs), but you wonder if it would be better to become a medical doctor (MD). How do these choices compare?
To finalize your decision, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the roles of a physician assistant vs doctor. Knowing the differences between the two will help you decide which is better suited for your desired career path. The education and role of a PA vs MD have many similarities, yet differ in several ways.
PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT VS DOCTOR OF MEDICINE: EDUCATION AND TRAINING
What’s the difference between a physician assistant vs. a doctor? Both types of clinicians work closely with patients, diagnosing and treating medical conditions. Becoming a PA does not require as much training as it does to become a MD. In most circumstances, PAs work under the supervision of a MD.
To become a PA you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree that focuses on behavioral sciences. After completion you will need to obtain a master’s degree. In addition, PA students have more than 3,000 hours of direct patient contact. Which is from having worked as paramedics, medical assistants or shadowing a PA for example. PA programs typically last three years and include more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations according to the American Association of PAs (AAPA).
MDs education takes significantly longer to complete. They must complete four years of medical school, from a reputable institution such as the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC). After that they must complete residency, which lasts three to seven years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Medical school graduates can choose to do residency in which ever specific field of medicine they would like.
PA VS MD: DEMAND
There is high demand for both types of practitioners. PAs are one of the fastest-growing professions due to the need for patient care providers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physician assistants is expected to grow 31 percent between 2019 and 2029.
As the U.S. population grows the demand for medical doctors increases. According to a report from the AAMC the United States is projected to face a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,00 physicians by 2033. A growing elderly population and physicians going into retirement are factors driving this demand.
It is important to note the difference between PA vs MD salary. On average MDs make about $208,000 and PAs make about $112,260 according to the BLS. Salaries for each of these professions can vary based on experience, specialty, setting and location.
PA VS MD: LIFESTYLE
The overall lifestyle of PAs vs MDs varies. Physician Assistants are more likely to have a regular schedule and on average work 40 hours a week according to Mayo Clinic. On rare occasions they may be required to work additional hours or be on call.
Medical doctors tend to work longer hours on average than PAs. Most MDs work between 40 and 60 hours per week, but almost a quarter of them work between 61 and 80 hours per week according to the American Medical Association (AMA). It is more common for them to work nights, weekends, and holidays, as well as being on call.
PA VS MD: ROLES AND DUTIES
From the perspective of the patient, the roles and duties of a PA and MD might seem similar. Both diagnose and treat disease, perform physical exams and prescribe medicines. Although both usually work as part of teams, PAs are generally supervised by MDs. The MD is typically not in the same room during patient treatment, but they oversee the PA’s work.
The key differences between the role of a PA and MD come to light when a complex issue arises. MD’s have more knowledge about complicated conditions that PAs may not possess. PAs are also not able to perform surgeries, although they are able to assist when needed.
PA VS MD: PROS AND CONS
Everyone’s pros and cons for choosing a PA vs. MD path will come out differently. Every aspiring medical professional has their own goals, it is imperative to consider which factors are important to you. You may want to evaluate the following questions to help make your decision:
- How much time do you want to spend in school/training for your career?
- Do you want to practice alongside other medical professionals or independently?
- How do you want your work/life balance to look?
- Do you want flexibility in your career?
All these factors are important to consider before making your decision. If taking the route to become an MD is for you, your path to success starts at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC). Apply for admission in AUC.
The role of both a PA and MD involve diagnosing, treating and caring for patients. Whichever path you choose, you will get the opportunity to positively impact your patients lives.