HomePhysician AssistantPhysician Assistant To MD – What It Takes

physician assistant to md

Maybe you have been wondering if it is possible to go from a Physician Assistant to MD. Below we will look at the Physician Assistant duties and responsibilities, how they relate to a Medical Doctor and what is required for a Physician Assistant to become a Doctor.

Difference between a Physician Assistant and a Doctor

One of the major differences between a PA and a MD is that the latter generally works independently while a Physician Assistant works under the supervision of a doctor.

Another difference is that it takes a lot longer for a doctor to complete their studies, often more than ten years, whereas a Physician Assistant only takes about a third of that time before they can begin their career.

Salary differences

The other obvious difference is that MDs earn a higher salary compared to a PA which can be attributed to their varying qualifications and specialization. The average salary for MDs range from $200,000 to well over $350,000 annually, depending on their speciality. While the salary for a PA ranges from $86,000 to just over $135,000 per year.

Going from Physician Assistant to MD

What does it take to become a Physician Assistant? According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), it involves a four year accredited Physician Assistant program that covers 400 hours of study over approximately 25 months. This requires studying clinical medicine, behavioral sciences and pharmacology in addition to other subject matter. Obtaining a PA license also requires a one year clinical rotation: a minimum of 2000 clinical hours in order to gain hands on medical experience. While practicing as a PA, it is a requirement to complete ongoing medical classes and take regular tests.

On the other hand, becoming a MD will involve longer study time; a four year study for the undergraduate degree from a medical school, another two years to obtain a medical degree and an additional three to seven years of residence training before a license to practice medicine is obtained. The education difference makes the training of MDs much more expensive than that of PAs.

The desire by some Physician Assistants to advance and become MDs could be for a number of reasons, such as:

  • the need for professional growth and development
  • the desire to practice medicine independently
  • the need to increase their medical knowledge
  • to improve their ability to do more for their patients

For some PAs this can be achieved through the Accelerated Physician Assistant Pathway (APAP) or similar programs which are fast-tracked, three year medical curriculums for PAs leading to a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. It involves a rigorous didactic medical curriculum with a one year clinical rotation to obtain a degree.

Job prospects for someone going from a Physician Assistant to Doctor is quite promising. So if you are currently working as a Physician Assistant and would like to make the move to become a Medical Doctor, then you might want to consider the Physician Assistant to MD option.


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