With so many choices for careers in the medical field, students may have an extremely difficult decision to make about their futures. Two of the most popular careers in the medical field are Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants. The two careers may seem similar, but they are very different. Find out what the difference is between a Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Physician Assistant (PA).
What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
A Nurse Practitioner is an Advance Practice Nurse who has an advanced level of training and education in nursing. These Registered Nurses earn a master’s degree in nursing, and they are well suited to diagnose and treat a wide range of medical illnesses and conditions. Some Nurse Practitioners seek additional training in specialized areas of medicine so that they are more valuable as nursing professionals.
Nurse Practitioners have the ability to work their own medical practice, but many choose to work with a group of medical professionals that include physicians, other Nurse Practitioners, and other medical personnel. Some may choose to work in hospitals, while others work in other medical facilities.
A few of the job responsibilities of Nurse Practitioners include:
- Ordering medical tests
- Documenting health history
- Performing physical exams
- Writing prescriptions
- Treating illnesses and diseases
- Performing procedures and tests
What Is a Physician Assistant?
A Physician Assistant is a trained medical professional who is licensed to work under the supervision of a doctor. They can work in clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities. They make medical decision as determined by the supervising doctor. The level of education varies but may consist of either a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in either medical science, physician assistant studies, or health science.
Physician Assistants should not be confused with medical assistants, who perform simple tasks and administrative tasks under the supervisor of doctors, nursing assistants, and other medical professionals.
Physician Assistants can diagnose and treat common illnesses, perform physical examinations, assist with surgery, write prescriptions, order and interpret tests, give medical orders, and counsel patients on preventative care.
Additional responsibilities of Physician Assistants include the following:
- Treating minor injuries
- Carrying out therapies
- Examine and treat patients
- Order medical tests and exams
- Interpret medical test and exams
- Supervising assistants and technicians
- Diagnosing medical conditions
List of Differences Between A Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant
- Nurse Practitioners can practice independently, but Physician Assistants work under the supervision of physicians.
- Physician Assistants must complete at least 2 years of training but most earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees, while Nurse Practitioners must complete 4 years of undergraduate studies plus 2 years of graduate level studies.
- Nurse Practitioners take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), and Physician Assistants take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).
- Nurse Practitioners can specialize in acute care, pediatrics, adult health, oncology, emergency medical, psychiatric and mental health, geriatric medicine, occupational health, home health nursing, neonatal care, women’s health, and public health, while Physician Assistants can specialized in thoracic surgery, general internal medicine, general surgery, orthopedics, geriatrics, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine.
- The average salary for a Nurse Practitioner is higher that the salary of a Physician Assistant during the first 5 years of experience but lower thereafter.
Salaries of Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistant
According to information taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salaries for Physician Assistants are $84,420 annually. The middle 50 percent of these individuals make $81,709 and $98,317 annually.
According to information taken from Salary.com, the median salaries for Nurse Practitioners are $89,985 annually. The middle 50 percent of these individuals make between $83,327 and $96,712.
With approximately 5 years of experience, the salaries begin to shift in Physician Assistants’ favor. With 5 years of experience, Nurse Practitioners make salaries of $72,480 to $90,234 annually, while Physicians Assistants earned salaries of $73,351 to $91,130 annually. After approximately 20 years of experience, the salaries have a larger gap between these two professions. Nurse Practitioners make salaries of $73,257 to $98,418, while Physician Assistants make annual salaries of $79,234 to $100,852.
Careers as Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants have some similarities, but they are also very different. For those who want to choose a career in the medical field, they have two amazing choices with a career as a Physician Assistants and a Nurse Practitioner. Both career choices offer amazing opportunities to help patients to improve or maintain their health.