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Would it be smart to be a physician's assistant rather than a physician?

I would really like to go into the medical field. I would love to be a physician. However, I was wondering if perhaps being a physician's assistant was a better option. It would be less schooling, which would cost less money. medicine school physician assistant

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Jenny’s Answer

It's a faster path. I have known many friends who have become a PA and are happy with their path. You can't go wrong either way. I would say a PA in a clinical setting makes sense. Be wary that you may be competing or eliminated if the facility requires you to be a physician so you may be limited on the job opportunities.

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Andrea’s Answer

As a practicing PA for over 15 years, I still ask myself this question. I've had several PA colleagues go back to medical school and become physicians. There are definitely pluses and minuses to both.
If your goal is to practice medicine and treat patients, you can do that as a PA. You can do most of what a Physician does in most specialties, with surgery probably being the main exception.
Main differences are money, status and time. MD requires a lot more years of training, you'll graduate with significant student loans, and it's very difficult to change specialties as a Physician.

As a PA, you can start practicing much earlier. You won't incur as much debt from graduate school, you can easily transition between specialties and you make a very competitive salary; albeit not as much as a physician. Many experienced PAs make over 100,000/yr, but that is still half as much as most physicians.

As a PA, you will not practice alone. You will never be the "boss." There are some patients who will not want to see you because you're "only the PA."

PAs are generally well respected members of the healthcare team. Our doctors appreciate us and our patients value our care. It's a great job, no doubt. But if you want the title and status; or simply want to hold the highest degree in your field, then you might want to go all the way.

There are doctorate degrees for both NPs and PAs these days. But they don't change how we practice or expand the role in any significant way. So, PAs can get doctorate degrees, but I'm not sure how useful that it, considering it doesn't really change anything.

The PA route is a great option for those of us who just want to practice medicine and don't care about the title. You make less money, but you still make a very competitive salary for a Master's degree, and you have a ton of flexibility within the field. You can essentially do anything. But you will always need to work with a physician, and you will always lack some of their expertise, since you simply don't have the same training or experience. It's a trade off, but it's still a really great career.