The major difference between nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) is that NPs specialize during their education and practice in that specialty while PAs are prepared as generalists and do not have a specialty.
For example, as a NP, I specialized in psychiatry/mental health. My graduate education was in psychiatric/mental health nursing and my specialty certification is as a family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. If I wanted to change careers later in life and work in a family medical clinic, I would have to go back to school and obtain a post-masters certification in family nursing and pass the family nurse practitioner certification exam.
If I were a PA, I would complete my PA graduate program and pass the PA exam. After this, I could work essentially anywhere I would like and my "specialization" would occur with on-the-job training.
NPs can practice without the supervision of a physician in numerous states. PAs do not have independent practice and must have physician supervision which is defined by the individual states.
NPs also have experience in healthcare as registered nurses and have undergraduate degrees in nursing. PAs may or may not have experience working in healthcare and typically have an undergraduate degree in biology, chemistry, pre-med, or other science degrees.
Both PAs and NPs must have a minimum of a masters degree in order to practice.
Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant
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