A Physician Assistant Or Nurse Practitioner

A physician assistant is a medical professional who is trained to offer direction to patients. They have no specific area of specialization but deal with all patients, especially those with minor illnesses. A physician always guides their work in a particular field. On the other hand, a nurse practitioner is a trained professional who can work independently and focuses on patients’ well-being. They provide health guidelines on disease prevention as well as treating injuries. Nurse practitioners offer guidance to the nurses. Let us see Physician assistant or nurse practitioner which is best.

A Physician Assistant Or Nurse Practitioner

A physician assistant or nurse practitioner

Many people confuse the role of a physician assistant with that of a nurse practitioner. Even though they serve the same functions, they have been trained differently.  A PA is trained like any other medical professional, and they can specialize in a particular field. Their curriculum is always disease-centered.  They are legally allowed to diagnose patients. On the contrary, an NP is an advanced nurse whose area of the specification is patient-centered. Their primary focus is taking care of patients following the instructions of a physician. 

This article will discuss how to become a nurse practitioner, how to become a physician assistant and the uniqueness of a physician assistant.

How to become a physician assistant?

Before becoming a PA, one needs some background degree courses in biochemistry and immunology; one may also study cellular biology or pathophysiology. Some people also study organic chemistry and others genetics. These courses are a bridge to doing a masters in PA or any other related subjects increasing the chances of qualifications.  Experience dealing with patients is also an essential factor of 500 hours.  

The physician masters take a maximum of two years which is sub0-divided into two. The first part is that during the first academic year, learners study clinical practice essentials on how to deal with patients, pharmacology, carry out therapy, diagnose patients, and practice in the surgical field. During the second academic year, which is the final part, the main focus is on clinical shifts where learners obtain much experience in dealing with patients. After completing the two-year program, one has to undertake a national certifying exam abbreviated as PANCE, which the NCCPA administers. The exam consists of 300-questions done within five hours, with multiple-choice choices. After this exam, the graduate is allowed to apply for a PA position.  They continue with a medical practice for two years and take an exam after every ten years.

How to become a nurse practitioner?

To become a nurse practitioner, a background qualification in nursing and a bachelor of science in nursing are required. A 2-year experience in clinical care can be attained in different contexts; hospitals, surgical centers, etc.  After meeting all the qualifications, the learner is enrolled in a Master of Science in Nursing. One is allowed to choose a field of study in nursing. A qualified nurse practitioner holds either a master’s or doctoral degree.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

The responsibilities of a nurse practitioner are more than those of a nurse. They are responsible for conducting research; they offer mentorship to nurses and other staff. These significant roles fill the gap of a limited number of doctors. They focus on managing patients and treating minor injuries.

The uniqueness of physician assistant

A physician, unlike a nurse practitioner, has some unique features that clearly describe them as follows;

1. The same board that license doctors are the same that license qualified physician assistants.

2.  Equal to a doctor, a physician can dictate medication to a patient.

3. PAs cannot be termed doctors but hold a certificate to perform their duties.

4.  The role of PAs is not to assist physicians but to take care of patients.

5. The only difference between a physician and a physician assistant during training is 3-months only. 

6. PAs hold both DEA licenses and those from the state.

7. A PA undergoes an approximation of eight years of study to qualify for the course. 

8. To be a physician assistant, one must have prior experience in specific fields, i.e., nursing, before taking the master’s degree.

9. PAs have no limit. They can work in any field of medicine.

10. Physician assistants are regulated by the same board that governs doctors.

11. Unlike doctors who have a specific area of specification, a physician assistant can perform in different sizes as their training is not restricted to a single place.

12. In medical situations, a physician assistant can perform different procedures, i.e., fracture reduction and cardiac systems.

13. A physician assistant can perform both roles of diagnosing and assessing patients. 

14.  A physician in a different field inquire from a PA for advice.

15. The profession is growing in many parts of the US. 

16. PAs are mostly preferred in educating people on health practices to promote good health and disease prevention.

17. Some PAs play a significant role in the military by offering the following services to soldiers;

  • They offer medical advice to soldiers when the physician is not around.
  • They play the role of heads of the medical department in the army.
  • To soldiers ready for missions, they offer medication. 
  • At some levels, they act as medical officers. 
  • In most cases, they command brigades, battalions, and treatment facilities.


Whether becoming a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant is upon oneself. This is because both fields are important, and the procedures and qualifications are similar. The annual salary is nearly the same, approximating about $ 121000 per year. Employment opportunities for the two courses are almost equal, and thus one can do either. The choice will depend on what an individual desires to achieve or to become; interests differ from one person to another.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Is a PA still a doctor?

No, a physician assistant has a medical certification and plays the role of a patient’s care team.

  1. Can a PA turn into a doctor?

To become doctors, they must enroll in the program, study, and qualify to be a doctor; otherwise, their role is just being physician assistants. 

  1. What is the difference between a doctor and a PA?

Even though the roles are almost the same, doctors can practice medical activities independently while PAs work under supervision.