PA vs. MD: Which Is Right for You?

As a pre-medical student, how do you know whether you should choose PA or MD? Learn about the key differences that can impact your decision.

With a passion for providing patients with the best medical care, you have many different career options in the medical field. Two of the top careers in medicine are a medical doctor (MD) and a physician assistant (PA). While there are many similarities between the two, some key differences can impact your satisfaction with either profession. As a pre-medical student, how do you know whether you should choose PA or MD?

At Advanced eClinical Training, we have programs and resources to help prepare you for your dream job in medicine. Whether you decide on following the track for PA or MD, we have you covered with high-quality certification coursework and mentorship programs. To learn more, reach out to a program director online or by phone.

PA vs MD

PA vs. MD: Similarities

To the general public, the job of a physician assistant and a medical doctor appear quite similar. But as a medical professional, you know that your career choice can make a tremendous difference in your overall work-life balance. First, we will take a look at some of the similarities between becoming a PA vs. an MD:

  • Both require advanced education, training, and clinical experience
  • Both work directly with patients
  • Both perform examinations and diagnostics
  • Both treat illness and injuries
  • Both can prescribe medications

These components will make up the majority of your day-to-day life on the job. However, if you delve deeper, you will discover many more differences between the life of a PA vs. an MD.

PA vs. MD: Differences

The differences between your choice to become a PA or an MD will be apparent right from the beginning as you explore the educational requirements. Those differences will continue into your everyday job responsibilities, so it is essential that you learn all you can about the two before deciding which profession to pursue. Some of the differences between becoming a PA vs. an MD include:

  • Education – MDs must undergo lengthier, costlier education than PAs. For a PA, you would need to earn a bachelor’s degree and complete an accredited PA program for an approximate total of six years of education. On the other hand, MDs need to earn a bachelor’s degree as well as a medical degree, then complete residency training. This can add up to eleven or more years of education which can run nearly triple the cost of a PA’s education.
  • Clinical experience – While MDs require more education, PAs generally need to have more extensive clinical experience.
  • Job responsibilities – While most of your everyday tasks will be similar, an MD is allowed a higher level of responsibility. MDs can perform surgery, whereas a PA may assist with surgery. MDs can open an independent practice, but a PA must be under the supervision of an MD. On the plus side, a PA has more flexibility when it comes to changing specialties. 
  • Salary – With fewer years of education, lower educational costs, and less independence on the job, it may come as no surprise that PAs command a lower salary than MDs. While a PA does earn a comfortable income, an MD can bring home approximately double. 
  • Schedule – Overall, PAs tend to have more traditional work schedules with the usual five-day, 40-hour workweek. MDs are more likely to put in additional hours, be on-call, and work evenings, weekends, and holidays. 

Advanced eClinical Training: Convenient, Affordable Online Certification for PA and MD

So which career is right for you? It is an entirely personal decision based on your preferences and values. You must consider how much time and money you want to commit to your education and training. You also need to decide whether you prefer the higher income but, the more demanding schedule of an MD or if you desire the better work-life balance of a PA. Whichever you pick, Advanced eClinical Training has self-paced, online certification courses to prepare pre-medical students for their program of choice. Reach out to a program director, Shabnam Safarzadeh, online or by phone today to get started.

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