Physician Assistant vs. Medical Doctor- Which is Right for You?

If you’re interested in working in the medical field, you may be overwhelmed with the number of different positions and job titles available.  Many people assume that they 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 everyone. Trying to get a sense of which career path suits you 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 vs. a Medical Doctor.

Medical Doctor (MD)

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

Physician Assistant (PA)

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 2019
  • 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

 

If you’re looking for a highly satisfying career in medicine coupled with a robust salary and a large amount of autonomy, becoming a PA may be right for you. With continual job growth, increased legislative rights for PAs, and a great work/life balance, it’s no wonder more and more people are discovering that the PA profession is the right fit for them.