Nurse Practitioner (NP) vs Physician Assistant (PA): Which Role is Right for You? (2023)


June 10, 2022

Nurse Practitioner (NP) vs Physician Assistant (PA): Which Role is Right for You? (1)

Von:kathleen ganes News and Education Editor, MSN, RN, BA, CBC

If you're considering advancing your career in healthcare, you're probably aware of the different directions your career can take. Two very popular ways are aNurse(NP) againstPhysician Assistant (PA).

To help you with this important decision, we've put together this guide that explains the differences between a nurse and a physician assistant, what each role does, how much you can earn, and much more. Read on to find out which one is right for you.

Physician Assistant x Physician Assistant: What's the difference?

What is a Registered Nurse (NP)?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse who has additional responsibilities for managing patient care than registered nurses. The NP model is based on the nursing tradition that includes a holistic approach to people and well-being.

(Video) Doctor vs PA vs NP | Which is Right for You?

What is a Physician Assistant (PA)?

A Physician Assistant (PA) is a teacher-trained person who works interdependently with licensed physicians to diagnose and treat illnesses and ailments and prescribe medications for patients. The PA tradition is based on a medical model.

NP vs. PA

Nurse (NP)Physician Assistant (PA)
TasksNPs are health professionals who can prescribe drugs, examine patients, order diagnostic tests, diagnose diseases, and provide treatment in the same way as physicians. In certain states, they can work independently of a doctor.

PAs have the ability to treat patients independently of a physician. They perform a variety of roles, including writing prescriptions, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests, assisting with surgeries, performing minor bedside procedures, diagnosing patients, developing treatment plans, and collecting patient histories.

program costs35.000 - 70.000 $US$60,000 to US$90,000
scope of practice

You can do private practice in certain states.

You can do private practice in certain states.

career prospects45% projected career growth from 2019 to 202931% projected career growth from 2019 to 2029

NP recertification occurs every two years and requires a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours in your certified specialty and continuing education hours.

PA recertification consists of two parts. 100 continuing education hours are required every two years and a recertification exam must be taken every ten years.

Programa Show Me Nurse Practitioner

Job duties as a nurse vs. attending physician

medical assistant job overview

OKUS World News & Report, Working as a Physician Assistant is the BEST job you can have in 2021.They ranked PAs as the #1 Best Healthcare Jobs, the #1 Best 100 Jobs, and the #1 Best STEM Jobs.

An increasing number of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes leads to an increased demand for healthcare professionals. Physician assistants often provide preventative care and treat sick people. The increase in medical technology and access to health services further strains the health care system and requires an increase in advanced practice providers.

Some of the duties of a medical assistant include:

  • Record or review the patient's medical history
  • examine patients
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Request and interpret diagnostic tests
  • Diagnose a patient's injury or illness.
  • offer treatment
  • Inform and advise patients and their families.
  • Prescribe medications
  • Manage and control patients admitted to the hospital.
  • Get Physicals Before You Hire
  • Conduct employee compensation reviews
  • Evaluate and document a patient's progress
  • Discover the latest treatments
  • Conduct or participate in outreach programs.
  • Learn about disease management and promoting wellness
  • Assistance in surgical interventions

Summary of nursing vacancies

Nurse practitioners provide advanced care to a variety of patients in clinical settings. In accordance withAmerican Association of Nurse Practitioners(AANP), NPs "work autonomously and collaboratively with health professionals and others to provide a full range of primary, acute, and specialty medical care services."

The idea of ​​working independently from doctors is a great incentive for some people to go into a nursing career. In fact, the profession is the second best job in health care and third among the 100 best jobs overall, according to theUS News and World Report.

NPs provide education and supportive counseling and refer patients and families as needed. They focus on health education, health promotion and disease prevention. CRNPs also work with others to provide health services to individuals, families, and communities.

>> Related:Best Online Nursing Program

work environments

NPs and PAs can work in many of the same work environments, but there are some differences:

(Video) Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant

  • Nurse (NP)
    • Hospitals, intensive care units or outpatient clinics
    • outpatient settings
    • long-term care institutions and nursing homes
    • Private homes that provide health services
    • Hospice and palliative care services
    • State and local health officials
    • universities and research institutes
    • Companies in the health or care sector
    • private practice
    • Telephone detection centers
    • rural health units
    • Medical centers run by nurses
  • Physician Assistant (PA)
    • medical practices
    • hospitals
    • labor office
    • Outpatient care centers
    • emergency centers
    • surgical centers
    • State and local health officials
    • universities and research institutes
    • Companies in the health or care sector
    • Telephone detection centers
    • rural health units
    • Medical centers run by nurses
    • Psychiatric hospital
    • orthopedics
    • Dermatology
    • Pathology
    • intensive care
    • Operation
    • emergency medicine
    • adolescent medicine
    • pediatrics

nurse vs physician assistantSalary

On average, physician assistants earn about $1,000 more per year than registered nurses. However, salaries vary widely based on where you live, area of ​​expertise, and a host of other factors.

salary as a nurse

In accordance withDepartment of Labor StatisticsIn 2021, the median salary for registered nurses was $120,680. The low end of the RN salary range is $79,870 and the high end of the range is $200,540.

The states that pay the best nurses

The BLS shows the following federal states with the highest median salary.

  • California – $151,830
  • New Jersey – $137,010
  • New York – $133,940
  • Washington - 130.840 $
  • Massachusetts – 129.540 $

medical assistant salary

In accordance withSBV,The median compensation for medical assistants in 2021 was $121,530.The bottom 10% earned less than $77,940 and the top 10% earned more than $164,620.

States that pay the most for Physician Assistants

The BLS shows the following federal states with the highest median salary.

  • Rhode Island – 146.880 $
  • Alaska – $145,830
  • Connecticut – $141,790
  • New Jersey – $140,080
  • New Hampshire – $137,330

Programa Show Me Nurse Practitioner

Educational requirements and programs NP x PA

The length of the program is approximately the same for PA and NP after earning a bachelor's degree. Both are master's degrees and can be completed in 2 or 3 years, depending on the program.

  • Nurse (NP):Individuals with a BSN should expect to spend 2-3 years earning their nursing degree through a combination of classroom instructional learning and internship hours.
  • Physician Assistant (PA):With a bachelor's degree and the necessary prerequisites, a PA program requires an additional 2-3 years of classroom hours and clinical practice hours.

program costs

The NP school tends to be cheaper as the teaching portion is usually completed online while the program requires PAs to be on campus.

(Video) Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner: What's the Difference?

  • The average cost of an NP school ranges from $35,000 to $70,000.
  • The average cost of a Pennsylvania school ranges from $60,000 to $90,000.

Scope NP vs. BY THE WAY

Nurse practitioners are trained to serve a specific demographic, while physician assistants come from a more general background.

Medical assistants typically have a surgical specialty, while NPs typically stay with the patient throughout their stay.

Scope of work of the attending physician.

The role of a treating physician is confusing, as the job function is often similar to that of a general practitioner, but there are some key differences. Like a registered nurse, PAs can practice independently of a doctor in certain states.

Scope of Nursing Practice

In 23 states, registered nurses are "fully licensed to practice," meaning they don't have to work under the supervision of a doctor. Full exercise states include Oregon, Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, and Iowa.

In restricted practice states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah) and restricted practice states (Texas, California, and Florida), NPs are required to have certain patient care medical decisions signed by a physician. NPs have prescribing privileges in all 50 states and can administer controlled substances in 49 states.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) vs Physician Assistant (PA): Which Role is Right for You? (2)

Nurse practitioners assess their patients holistically, including the emotional and mental aspects of the patient's condition, not just the physical ones. Because of this, much time is spent on the educational aspect of patient care.

Can NPs and/or PAs run their own practice?

Both PAs and NPs can conduct their own practice in states that allow full authority. This is very state specific.

Programa Show Me Nurse Practitioner

NP x PA Karriereausblick

In accordance withUS Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for nurses is expected to increase by 45% by 2030. This is much faster than the national average for other health professions, including physician assistants, whose demand is expected to increase by 31%.

(Video) NP VS. PA | What's The Difference?

NP vs. Certification SHOVEL

NP recertification occurs every two years and requires a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours in your certified specialty and continuing education hours.

PA recertification consists of two parts. 100 continuing education hours are required every two years and a recertification exam must be taken every ten years.

Certified Nurse Practitioner (NP).

OAmerican Nurse Credentialing Centerrequires recertification every two years. 1,000 clinical hours are required during the two-year certification and completion of 75 CEU hours, including 25 CEU hours in Pharmacology.

OWebsite of the National Council of State Boards of Nursingalso mentions the following five certification organizations for nursing professionals,

  • American Academy of Nursing (AANP-CP)
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • National Certification Society (NCC)
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

Nurse Practitioner (NP) vs Physician Assistant (PA): Which Role is Right for You? (3)


Physician Assistant (PA) Certification.

ONational Commission for the Certification of Medical AssistantsIt has 10-year certification cycles. Professionals must earn at least 100 continuing education credits each biennium. At the end of each 10-year cycle, PAs must pass a recertification exam.

Why becoming an NP or PA is a great career

NPs and PAs provide direct patient care at an advanced level of practice, including independent or collaborative work. As so many baby boomers age, the need for healthcare professionals with college degrees is increasing every day. Additionally, the need for these jobs has increased as a result of the Affordable Care Act, with more than 40 million people ultimately receiving health insurance in primary care systems in the last two years.

"Physician and nursing assistants are the most cost effective in a health care system, and there is surprisingly increasing interest in how they can be integrated into hospital systems in more and more ways," says Jonathan Bowser, director and associate dean of Medical Assistants. Program. from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

frequent questions

  • Is an NP greater than an AP?

    • Both NPs and PAs are mid-level professionals, but in many states NPs can operate independently while PAs cannot.
  • Is it better to consult a treating doctor or a nurse?

    • Both NPs and PAs can provide safe, quality care. NPs follow more of a nursing model with an emphasis on preventative health and education, while PAs are more likely to be trained in a medical model.
  • What can an AP do that an NP can't?

    • Both PAs and NPs can evaluate and diagnose medical conditions, give instructions, such as laboratory tests and diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications.
  • Can PAs intubate?

    • An emergency medicine PA may intubate a patient.
  • Is a PA bigger than an RN?

    • A PA and RN work together as part of a health care team, but PAs can legally diagnose and order medications, while RNs cannot.
(Video) Why YOU Should Be a Physician Assistant and NOT a Nurse Practitioner

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What are the key differences between physician assistants PAs and nurse practitioners NPs )? ›

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants both undergo extensive clinical training and education, both in medicine and in important soft skills. Primarily, NPs adhere to a patient-focused nursing model, whereas PAs follow a disease-centered (medical) model of practice.

What is the NP role and how is it different from a PA or physician? ›

Physician assistants train using the medical model, similar to physicians, which means they focus on the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease that the patient has. Nurse practitioners train on the nursing model, which means they focus on the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of the patient with the disease.

Is it better to see a physician's assistant or a nurse practitioner? ›

In addition to providing general care, NPs generally play a greater role in patient education and counseling than PAs. They focus on illness prevention and staying well. Most NPs specialize in primary care areas, such as family medicine, gerontology, women's health, pediatrics or acute care.

Why do you want to be a PA vs NP? ›

PAs have greater horizontal flexibility in specialties.

NPs train in either primary care or acute care. NPs also have the flexibility to work in a variety of specialties, as long as the specialty falls within the area (primary or acute) and population for which they trained.

What can a PA do that a nurse practitioner Cannot? ›

Scope of medical treatment

A physician assistant can diagnose and treat a wide array of medical concerns, prescribe medicine, and may even perform surgery. A nurse practitioner can help diagnose and treat patients with routine and complex medical conditions, sometimes working alongside physicians to do so.

Which position is higher NP or PA? ›

Is NP higher than PA? Neither profession ranks "higher" than the other. Both NPs and PAs work in the healthcare field but with different qualifications, educational backgrounds, and responsibilities. They also work in different specialties.

Can NPs assist in surgery? ›

Surgical NP's provide care both in and out of the OR to patients in need of surgical assistance. Their work provides crucial support to surgical teams working in a variety of clinical settings.

What can a doctor do that a PA Cannot? ›

An MD can work independently, while a PA must always work under the supervision of a doctor. PAs can't perform surgeries, but they can assist an MD during the procedure. However, an MD and a PA both can: Develop patient treatment plans.

Is a nurse practitioner as good as a doctor? ›

A nurse practitioner will give the same quality of care as a general physician. Most nurse practitioners spend many years working as registered nurses. In their capacity as nurses, they take care of patients, performing tasks like administering medication and monitoring patients.

Is becoming a PA harder than NP? ›

The average program length to become an NP is 15-24 months with 720 clinical hours as a nurse first. Physician's assistant training programs are highly competitive and require undergraduate coursework in science as well as several years of hands-on medical experience with direct patient contact and care.

Is it harder to become a PA or nurse? ›

No matter which path you take, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and meet all state licensure requirements. PA: As physician assistants perform many of the same duties as doctors, they are required to obtain more education and training than compared to most RNs.

Why do PA make more than nurses? ›

Because PAs require more education and training, they tend to have more job opportunities and salaries tend to be higher for them. On average, registered nurses enjoy a median annual salary of $75,330, compared to $115,390 for physician assistants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why do you want to be a PA best answer? ›

As a PA, you will have the opportunity to truly make a difference in their quality of life. You'll be able to assess and treat patients and, while doing so, you'll get to hear about their lives: about their grandkids, vacations, relationships, etc.

Why do people choose PA? ›

I chose the PA profession because it allows me to work at the level of care I am comfortable providing, as well as being able to enter the work force after obtaining a master's degree. I also wanted to be in a profession that allows flexibility and change throughout one's career.

Can a nurse practitioner practice without a doctor in PA? ›

In Pennsylvania, an NP cannot practice without physician supervision, and the state limits the range of medicines they can prescribe.

Can a PA perform surgery? ›

Yes, a PA may perform surgery if the supervising physician has authorized it and it is included in the PA's practice agreement.

Do you need a doctorate to be a nurse practitioner in PA? ›

A prospective nurse practitioner will need to complete a master's or post-master program (Nurse Practitioner programs in Pennsylvania). The program may be accredited and Board-approved or judged equivalent (

What position is above a nurse practitioner? ›

The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal nursing degree, meaning that it is the highest possible practice-based degree in nursing.

What type of nurse practitioner makes the most money? ›

Neonatal NPs earn the most money and can expect continuing salary increases and a promising job outlook. Neonatal NPs who work in neonatal intensive care units or pursue relevant certifications can boost their earning potential. NPs who hold a doctorate in nursing can pursue lucrative leadership positions.

Are physician assistants called doctors? ›

PAs are not doctors but they do hold an advanced practice medical certification.

Are NPs allowed to intubate? ›

Can nurse practitioners intubate? Answer: Yes, some nurse practitioners (NPs) can intubate. Certified NPs are considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) because they have specialized training in their practice area. This gives them a wider scope of practice than RNs.

Can NPs give injections? ›

Working under the direction of a physician, a nurse practitioner functions as a medical provider for patients. A nurse practitioner can give you a cortisone shot in the hip, but can also diagnose conditions and prescribe medications.

Do nurse practitioners get white coats? ›

White coats are popular for being worn by scientists and doctors. However, other healthcare professions such as pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and dentists wear them too.

Do you address a PA as doctor? ›

A physician's assistant is not a doctor. If you want to address a physician's assistant in a formal manner, you use the honorific of "PA" before the physician's assistant's name. A physician's assistant is not a doctor, but a healthcare professional who performs a number of different tasks in the medical field.

Can a PA eventually become a doctor? ›

To transition from PA to MD, you'll need to apply to medical schools, attend an MD program, and complete residency training.

Can a PA give a doctors note? ›

Who can write my note? A physician must write and sign your note to confirm they recommend the service or item and what medical condition it treats. Examples of physicians eligible to write letters are naturopathic doctors (ND, NMD), physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and osteopathic physicians.

How do physicians feel about nurse practitioners? ›

In addition, 87% of physicians said their working relationship with NPs was "good to very good," and 92% of NPs said the same about their working relationship with physicians.

Can a nurse practitioner call themselves a Dr? ›

So, the short answer is yes – a DNP nurse may be referred to as "doctor," however, some states have legislation surrounding this. For example, Arizona and Delaware forbid nurses, pharmacists, and other professionals from using the "doctor" title, unless they immediately clarify their role.

Are nurse practitioners happier than doctors? ›

"Their importance and prestige is rising as more hospitals, health systems, and accountable care organizations... move to team-based care, in which they play a big part," Hoogerwerf says. As a result, NPs "are far happier" than physicians, Megan Brooks writes for Medscape Medical News.

Is it stressful being a PA? ›

As with other medical professionals, you can expect an intense and stressful work environment as a physician assistant. This role essentially holds you responsible for your patients' lives. While you care for patients under a physician's supervision, you may still feel stressed, given the nature of the job.

Is PA school harder than med school to get into? ›

Is it harder to get into PA school or med school? Acceptance rates for med school are higher than for PA school. Only 33% of applicants were accepted to PA schools in 2016-17, whereas 41% of applicants were accepted to MD schools in 2018-19 and 35% of applicants were accepted to DO medical schools in 2016-17.

Who makes more money PA or nurse practitioner? ›

NP Salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nurse practitioners earn an average hourly pay rate of $53.77, while physician assistants earn $54.04.

Can you go from being a nurse to a PA? ›

Do RN to PA Programs Exist? Currently there are no RN to PA programs that allow a registered nurse to seamlessly enter into a PA program. Each state specifies different requirements for how to become a nurse, ranging from an associate degree to a bachelor's degree.

Is PA school as hard as med school? ›

Diagnosing illnesses and coming up with the right treatment plan is nothing to take lightly. And to prepare students for that, PA school is just as rigorous as medical school even though some schools can be easier to get into.

Which is more advanced nurse practitioner or physician assistant? ›

But what's the difference? In basic terms, a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced education and clinical training. A physician assistant is a medical professional with advanced education who is trained in the same way physicians are.

What are your strengths as a PA? ›

Working as PA requires a calm and positive attitude. Being level-headed and objective will allow you to take constructive criticism on the chin, and complete tasks to a high standard. Displaying a can-do, upbeat attitude will not only aid your boss's day-to-day, but boost the morale of the office as a whole.

Is it worth it to become a PA? ›

Physician assistant jobs pay well compared to other jobs because of the advanced skills PAs develop through their education and vital role in the health care system. Physician assistants are in high demand, and the BLS predicts the market for PAs will grow by 31% between now and 2030.

How is PA different from NP? ›

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants both undergo extensive clinical training and education, both in medicine and in important soft skills. Primarily, NPs adhere to a patient-focused nursing model, whereas PAs follow a disease-centered (medical) model of practice.

What PAs do and how their training and role differs from physicians nurses nurse practitioners and other health professionals? ›

So what is the difference? The main difference between an NP and a PA is education. NPs attend nursing school, while PAs attend a medical school or medical center. PA school focuses more on the pathology and biology of disease, while nursing school emphasizes the patient, including their mental and emotional needs.

Do NPs and PAs have the same scope of practice? ›

The scope of practice for nurse practitioners versus physician assistants differs in work focus. Nurse practitioners are primarily involved with working with patients and placing them at the center of their attention. On the other hand, physician assistants work according to a disease-centered model.

What is the difference between nurse and physician assistant? ›

While registered nurses assist patients from a nursing approach, PAs assume a role more or less similar to that of physicians. This gives physician assistants a more direct role in administering tests, performing examinations, and prescribing medication.

Why do NPs have more autonomy than PAs? ›

Level of autonomy

Conversely, NPs are considered independent practitioners. The NP scope of practice varies widely based on each state's regulations, but some states allow for independent practice with full practice authority under the state board of nursing. PAs have no such autonomous state PA boards in any state.

What can physician assistants not do? ›

While physician assistants can do many things, they cannot perform all the duties of a medical doctor. For example, physician assistants can assist in surgery, but we cannot perform surgery.

What makes a nurse practitioner distinct from a physician or nurse? ›

A primary difference between physicians and NPs is the fact that all doctors can prescribe medication to patients as a part of their duties. Nurse practitioners also prescribe medicine, but in some states they must be directly overseen by a doctor or physician in order to do so.

Does an NP have more autonomy than a PA? ›

Nurse practitioners tend to specialize in fields, whereas PAs tend to have a more generalized education. NPs also tend to have more autonomy in 24 states, where they have full practice authority. PAs work interdependently with physicians.

Are NPs respected by doctors? ›

2. Respected. In general, providers are respected by both their patients and those that hire them. This may be because doctors and nurse practitioners are at the top of the medical hierarchy and are hard to replace if they leave.

What is the role of a physician assistant? ›

A physician assistant (PA) is a licensed medical professional who holds an advanced degree and is able to provide direct patient care. They work with patients of all ages in virtually all specialty and primary care areas, diagnosing and treating common illnesses and working with minor procedures.

Can PA open their own practice? ›

No, a PA cannot practice independently. Every PA must be supervised by a licensed physician (either M.D. or D.O.). The supervising physician is responsible for all medical services provided by the PA under their supervision and for following each patient's progress.

Where do NPs make the most money? ›

  1. 1. California. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is the highest paying state for nurse practitioners. ...
  2. New Jersey. ...
  3. Washington. ...
  4. New York. ...
  5. Massachusetts. ...
  6. Nevada. ...
  7. Minnesota. ...
  8. Wyoming.

What state needs NPs the most? ›

New York: NPs in New York earn well above the average salary. More so, New York boasts the highest number of job opportunities for NPs, with more than 1640 new jobs available annually. One potential downside is that NPs in this state must practice under a collaborative agreement with a physician.

Which state has the most NPs? ›

That state with the most national parks is California, with nine of the nation's 61 national parks within its borders. The total acreage of these nine national parks in California is more than 6.3 million acres.


1. NP vs. PA // What's the Difference Between Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants?
2. Physician Assistant (PA) vs Nurse Practitioner (NP)? Which Route Should You Take?
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3. PA vs NP: Which is Right for YOU?
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4. Physician Assistant Versus Nurse Practitioner| Which Is Right For YOU?
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5. Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner - 4 Factors to Consider
6. Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner (PA vs NP) in Canada 2020
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