Physicians and physician assistants are both in high demand. The healthcare industry overall is projected to grow much faster than any other industry – at 14%, from 2018 to 2028. This job growth is due to an increased demand for healthcare services by the growing and aging population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rise of Urgent Care Clinics is also responsible for the increased demand for less expensive medical practitioners
Though the two are very similar careers, there are differences between a physician and a physician assistant.
While the healthcare industry as a whole is growing at a rate of 14%, physicians have a projected growth of only 7%. Physician assistants, on the other hand, are projected to grow at a rate of 31%, leading to more job openings for physician assistants.
The level of autonomy is the main difference between the two career paths. Physician assistants can do almost anything that a physician can do, but a physician assistant must be supervised by a physician. This doesn’t necessarily mean the physician needs to be in the room with the physician assistant at all times, but it does mean that the physician is responsible for the work of the physician assistant. A physician is also able to start his or her own practice, while a physician assistant is not. A physician assistant must always work under a physician.
The Differences Between a Physician Assistant and a Physician
While the job duties are relatively similar between a physician and a physician assistant, the work/life balance and the educational requirements are not.
A physician assistant will have a better work/life balance than a physician will. This is because the physician assistant can leave the job at work when he or she leaves the office for the day. The medical doctor often needs to be on call. A physician also has administrative and managerial duties, whereas a physician assistant may not.
A physician will spend, on average, nine years of training to become a medical doctor, while a physician assistant will spend around six or seven. A physician assistant is also expected to enter the graduate program with some experience in the healthcare field, while a physician is not required to.
The cost of a physician’s education will, on average, be $207,866, whereas a PA will spend around $71,369 on education. Whether you decide to be a physician or a physician assistant will largely depend on the cost of education and the amount of time you have available to spend on your education.
Other factors that may differentiate a physician from a physician assistant are professional autonomy, changing specialties down the road, desired salary and the kind of a work/life balance desired.