Comparing a Physician Assistant to a Medical Doctor

When considering a career in the medical field, many spend time wondering which specific position they should consider. Many assume that you need to be a Medical Doctor in order to make a great living as a medical professional, but the MD path may not be right for all. Trying to get a sense of which career path would suit you best can be difficult, so we’ve pinpointed the finer points of each profession. Take a look below to see the pros and cons of becoming a Physician Assistant or a Medical Doctor.

Becoming a Medical Doctor

Pros:

  • Can practice solo as an independent practitioner
  • Less health care experience is required when applying to MD programs
  • One of the highest paying jobs in America
  • Established and respected profession that’s recognized globally

Cons:

  • Education is time consuming- MDs spend roughly 9 years completing and MD program and doing their residencies
  • Education is expensive- the average cost of tuition for an MD program is over $200K for both private and public schools
  • Longer work hours and more on-call time- this leaves less time for things like hobbies or family time
  • Hard to switch between specialties
  • High burnout rate, low job satisfaction
  • Harder to become an MD later in life or make a career change to an MD

Becoming a Physician Assistant

Pros:

  • Less time spent in school- the average PA program is 2 years and many do not require a residency
  • Less expensive education- the average cost of PA school is under $100K for both private and public schools
  • Booming job market- 28,700 job openings (and counting!) as of January 2017
  • Better work/life balance- ability to work part time, shorter calls
  • Easier to switch specialties
  • Easier to become PA later in life or make a career shift to a PA

Cons:

  • Must practice alongside an MD
  • More patient contact experience required for PA school applications than MD
  • Lower salary than MD
  • Newer profession, laws vary greatly from state to state, less international recognition