What is the difference between a doctor and a physicians assistant?

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Physician assistant

What It Takes To Become A Doctor

To become a doctor, you will have to invest long years into the education and training that is required to become proficient in diagnosing ailments, determining the appropriate treatment options and prescribing the medication. It takes 4 years to obtain an undergraduate degree from medical school, another 2 years to obtain a medical degree or MD and then 3 to 7 additional years of residency training before you can obtain a license to practice medicine or surgery. Doctors are board-certified on the national level and must obtain a state license where they practice.

What It Takes To Become A Physician Assistant

While becoming a physician assistant is no mean feat, it requires fewer years of schooling than a fully-fledged doctor. PA qualifications vary slightly from one state to another but obtaining a license to practice usually requires a 4-year degree and completion of an accredited Physician Assistant program, which is generally a 25-month course. To obtain a PA license you will also have to have successfully completed a one-year clinical rotation where you will gain hands-on medical experience. As a practicing PA, you will be required to complete ongoing continued education classes and you will be subjected to regular re-testing of your medical expertise.

Difference In Job Functions

A physician assistant is a medical professional who operates under a doctor’s supervision. Both, the doctor as well as the PA, share patient care responsibility. A scope of a PA’s duties include examining patients, diagnosing illnesses, taking the patient’s history, developing and carrying out treatment plans, counseling patients on healthcare plans and suturing wounds. The main duties of a PA overlap with that of a doctor across several aspects; except for a few major procedures such as surgery. Physician assistants may assist doctors in surgical procedures but they themselves are not licensed to perform surgery. Other than that, the major difference in job functions between a doctor and a physician assistant is that a doctor works autonomously whereas a PA always works under the supervision of the doctor. In some states physician assistants are authorized to write prescriptions whereas in some they cannot. This is something you need to find out from the authorities in each state before you start practicing.

Job Prospects & Salaries of Physician Assistant

Doctor and PA salaries vary widely depending on the state as well as the healthcare setting. The average doctor’s salary can range from about $200,000 to $300,000 a year. The average salary for physician assistants can range from about $86,410 to more than $100,000 a year. If you are interested in pursuing a career in medicine but you are not keen on doing 6 to 10 years of rigorous studying and training, you should consider becoming a physician assistant. The job prospects in this profession are tremendous. Many clinics where surgery is not performed prefer to hire a PA instead of a doctor as it works out much cheaper for them. Also, busy physicians are always in need of PAs to attend to their less critical cases so you know that this job is always in demand.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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