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Should I become a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant?

I'm a nursing student and I'm thinking about pursuing further education after completing my BScN degree. What are the pros and cons of becoming an NP or PA? #nursing #nurse #registered-nurses #nurse-practitioner #nursing-schools #physician-assistant #registered-nursing

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Andrea’s Answer

Great question. As a practicing PA who has many PA and NP colleagues, I can tell you we are used interchangeably in most clinical practice settings. Most employers consider both PAs and NPs for the same roles. Once in clinical practice, the jobs are almost identical, the job market in terms of demand is highly favorable for both, and the salaries are almost equivocal. You can't go wrong with either professions.

In your case, you already have an RN degree. In most cases, NP programs require that you practice for several years as a nurse, prior to going back to school for your NP degree. PA programs will accept students right out of undergraduate school, but PA school is very competitive.

Also, NP school can be completed part-time, so it's possible to work while you're in NP school.
PA school is very intense, full-time, and it's very difficult to work due to changing schedules once you're on rotations. You are very much treated like a medical student and resident while on PA school rotations. It's a bit more rigorous than most NP programs.

There are different philosophies associated with both programs. NP programs following a nursing model, PA programs follow the Medical Model in how medicine is taught. Despite these differences, statistics have repeatedly shown that both PAs and NPs provide high quality, cost-effective care. So they are different, but one is not necessarily better than the other.

State practice laws vary dramatically from state to state for both NPs and PAs. To be honest, NPs have greater autonomy in many states. I suspect this will continue to evolve for both NPs and PAs.

But again, salaries are very similar and job market is excellent for both. If you're married or have children, you might find the NP training to be more flexible. As I previously stated, PA training is a bit more rigorous and time consuming, without the ability to go part-time.

Undoubtedly, your nursing background will provide an excellent foundation for PA or NP school.
Good luck!

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Hwal’s Answer

Hi Crystal,

I see you posted your question a while ago. I hope you have more clarity around the question. Andrea made some valuable comments coming from a practising PA's perspective, and I feel I can add a few more comments as a current PA student.

In terms of your deciding what path would be better for you, I would say the curriculum, or what you actually learn, in each program could be one of the most important factors. For me, for example, there's no substitute for learning to practice medicine as a PA, compared with learning to practice advanced nursing as an NP, so my choice was clear.

It might be helpful for you to look at the curriculum at some of the PA and NP programs you'd be interested in attending to see which path would appeal more to you and which one you'd enjoy more. As Andrea mentioned, PA school admission is very competitive and curriculum is challenging, whereas there are online and part-time options for NP education.

Good luck!


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