PA vs MD

These mysterious abbreviations are not for the faint of heart. Although, they are all equally rewarding career paths in the field of medicine. But, how do you decide whether to become a physician assistant, or a medical doctor? There are several options when it comes to pursuing a career in the medical field. For one, both physician assistants and medical doctors treat patients and advise them about their medical care, as well as perform minor surgeries and larger ones according to specialty. But there are differences between the professions to keep in mind.

PA + Education:

Being the MD’s right-hand man or woman, they would need to know the ins and outs and be very keen on their medicine, just as much as an MD. For example, if an MD has several patients at a clinic, he/she will need help or “assistance” from the PA’s.

5 layered cake model:

All the layers are comprised of the subject of medicine and each layer represents the level of expertise on medicine.
PA’s go over all 5 layers, but usually stick to only 3 layers, whereas an MD needs to and it is mandatory that they learn all 5 layers equally well. However, that does not mean that physician assistant school is less demanding, in retrospect, it is more demanding, because instead of 4 years of medical teaching, they are required to learn it in 2 years.

PA + Lifestyle:

The PA’s lifestyle is generally more flexible than an MD, which is a plus for anyone seeking to have more freedom. You can work in a family practice clinic, where the hours are bound to be 9-to-5, with weekends off. Because of the salary that a PA earns, it’s not necessary to work full-time, you can work part-time, and have the room to start a business or side hustle, or simply spend more time with loved ones and travel. Which ever fits your needs, goals and lifestyle.

PA + Salary:

The salary for a PA is very good, considering the program is only 2 years long & how quickly you start seeing hefty paychecks, coming out freshly baked from the PA program.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • Entry level: $70,530 – $105,771; median: $87,412
  • Mid-career: $77,162 – $121,189; median: $96,639
  • Late career: $84,376 – $135,686; median: $102,792
*Also, don’t forget about the bonuses that PA’s receive! *resource: Google

MD + Education:

In order to qualify as an MD in the U.S., it’s necessary for you to complete a 4-year undergrad program, afterwards apply to medical school, if you are successfully accepted, then it is 4 years of medical school, after that milestone you need to compete 3-7 of residency (according to specialty) in order to receive your medical licensing and have those 2 letters in front of your name.

MD + Lifestyle:

The lifestyle of an MD compared to a PA’s is as different as night and day. An MD needs to be available at all times for their patients, especially if you choose to work at a hospital. On average a Doctor’s work is 59.6 hours/week but residents and MD’s have been known to spend 80 hours per week! The myth that doctors don’t get time off is a myth, however that misconception tends to float around probably because of how much a doctor works in comparison to your average professional. Doctors receive 2-4 weeks of vacation time a year. Check out my previous post on how to lead a balanced lifestyleMaximize Your Work-Life Balance as a Health Care Professional

MD + Salary:

Like any profession, some type of debt is a imminent and unavoidable factor for many. As long as you know how to finance your earning and expenses, you will be alright. According to the research that I’ve done, doctors start with a base pay offer of $189,000 a year, on average, family practitioners, pediatricians, and psychiatrists are offered the lowest pay of all physicians (Google). Ultimately it depends what specialty you will Match and get into. Check out my previous post, where I satirically & sarcastically talk about Doctors & debt!Salvage Retirement, Don’t Become a Doctor!

The Breakdown:

MD’s do make more money than PA’s but that is in regards to the years of education and expertise that they have under their white coats (insert medical laugh here). Ultimately it is up to you what is most important; status, prestige, a good life, comfortable lifestyle, family, no family, a balanced life, etc.
Whatever it may be, just remember you only have one life, you are not immortal, material things lose their value overtime and you cannot take it with you when you die. Both careers are very rewarding and despite what the majority says, everything can be done with effective time management. Choose what fits your personality, wants, dreams, and desires.


I hope the breakdown helped you narrow your options on your medical career choice!
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