What is the Difference Between a Physician Assistant and Doctor


Are you contemplating medical school but unsure if you actually want to commit to becoming a doctor? After all, that’s a long time to be in school, the job can be extremely stressful, and what if you change your mind halfway through? You’re not alone. Many people weigh out the pros and cons of working as a doctor vs. settling for a lesser license type in healthcare. One of the most common things people think about when they’re in the midst of this decision process is comparing physician assistant vs. doctor. Don’t worry – you don’t have to make this decision alone. We are here to help you. Although we can’t tell you your personal preference or life goals, we can help you make a few key comparisons. We did a little digging to figure out exactly what is the difference between a physician assistant and doctor. Here are the top five differences between physicians and physician assistants!

Physician Assistant Vs. Doctor | The Difference Between a Physician Assistant and Doctor

difference between a physician assistant and doctor

Check out the top five differences between a doctor and a physician assistant!

Length of Schooling

For starters, if you go to school to become a physician assistant, you’ll be committing to less class time. Doctors have to go to school for about nine years, whereas physician assistants typically need to attend about four years of schooling and then one year of clinical rotation. Clinical rotation gives physician assistants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience before they accept a full-time position.

Cost of Education

With that said, the second difference between a physician assistant and a doctor is the cost of their education. Obviously fewer years of school means fewer classes, books, and living expenses to pay for. But, to put that into perspective, the average cost of a standard physician assistant program is $71,369. Now, compare that to the average four-year cost of medical school. You’re looking at $278,866 for private schools and $207,866 for public schools. So, it’s definitely cheaper to become a physician assistant.

Job Functions

A big difference between a physician assistant and doctor is not necessarily in their job functions but in how independently they can perform them. A doctor can practice independently. A physician assistant can only practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor. If you go to school to be a physician assistant, keep in mind that you can’t practice on your own but will always have to work under someone who has their medical degree.

Salary Ranges

Salary ranges are different between a physician assistant and a doctor. Of course, doctors make more money because they have more responsibility and go to school for longer. However, that’s not to downplay how much a physician assistant makes. Although slightly less than a physician, physician assistant salaries are still sufficient. For example, a physician will make somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 a year and it is essentially one of the highest paying jobs in the United States. A physician assistant, on the other hand, will make an average annual salary of $86,000 to $120,000.

Job Outlook

The job outlook is promising for both physicians and physician assistants. For example, on AllPhysicianJobs you can search for openings for both. However, the availability of jobs will vary depending on the state and specialty you want to work in. As with most healthcare jobs, there is extremely high growth predicted in these career choices, especially compared to other industries. There is also the option to travel. Both physician assistants and physicians have the option to take what are called locum tenens assignments. Check out LocumJobsOnline to look for travel physician or physician assistant jobs.

Why do you want to work as a physician assistant vs. a doctor? Share with us in the comments below!

Author: Lenay Ruhl

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