The average person does not give much thought to the differences between a physician’s assistant (PA) and a doctor. They may not even realize they are not being treated by a doctor due to the knowledge the PA possesses and the professional manner in which they communicate. There are, however, five key differences between a physician’s assistant and a doctor. They are education, difference in job functions, salary, job opportunities, and maintaining a malpractice insurance policy.
A Difference in Education
A doctor must earn a four-year undergraduate degree from medical school and then complete an additional two years to obtain a medical degree. Following school, there is anywhere from two to six years of residency training in order to receive a license to practice medicine.
A PA, on the other hand, requires less schooling. They must earn a four year degree, typically the Bachelor of Science, and continue on and complete an accredited Physician Assistant program, usually lasting another two years. Following school, there is a one-year clinical rotation that must be completed. Additionally, PAs must complete ongoing continuing education classes.
The Day-to-Day Duties are Different
A PA operates directly under the supervision of a doctor. The doctor works autonomously. A PA may assist in a surgery but may not perform surgery. The only other major difference between the functions of a PA and that of a doctor is, depending on location, a PA may not be able to write prescriptions.
All other aspects of patient care are shared; examining patients, suturing wounds, diagnosing illnesses, and carrying out treatment plans. There is much overlap between responsibilities.
A Big Bump in Pay
Doctors, of course, command higher salaries because they are educated for a longer time. However, there are PAs that have years of training and experience and earn salaries comparable to doctors. The average salary range for a doctor is $200,000 to $300,000. The salary for PAs average from $86,410 to $100,000+.
Varying Job Opportunities
The medical field is one that continues to grow and job security is quite strong. Doctors are well-sought after professionals, especially depending on the type of medicine they practice. PAs are highly employable as well and, in fact, may be the optimum choice for a clinic where surgery is not performed. The cost savings to the clinic may enable them to offer better patient care, especially in low-income areas.
Cost of Malpractice Insurance
Finally, the biggest difference between a PA and a doctor is the cost of malpractice insurance they each pay. The typical medical liability insurance policy for a PA can cost anywhere from $2,000 and $6,000 a year. The doctor, on the other hand, is looking at $11,000 to $55,000 per year. Of course, doctors also have more earning capability. Depending on location, the PA may not even need to carry malpractice insurance and may be covered under the supervising doctor’s policy but it is still a very good idea to obtain an independent policy for a PA.
Whether being treated by a PA or a doctor, you will surely receive excellent medical care. Both are highly educated and work as a team to provide their patients with the best possible treatment.