Medical Profession Comparison Chart:
Medical Assistant vs. Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant vs. Family Practice Physician (updated 5th June 2023)
*Programs vary, and the following represents averages for each vocation.
|Category||Medical Assistant (MA)||Nurse (RN, BSN)||Nurse Practitioner (NP)||Physician Assistant (PA)||Physician (MD)|
|Prerequisite Education||None||None||Bachelor’s Degree in nursing and clinical hours||Bachelor’s degree and clinical hours||Bachelor’s degree|
|Time in Classroom||134 hrs.||varies greatly by program||500 hrs.||1000 hrs.||2 years|
|Time in Clinic||160 hours||varies by program||500-700 hrs.||2000 hrs.||2 years|
|Total Post High School Education||1-2 years||2-4 years||6-8 years||6-7 years||8 years|
|Residency||None||Optional 6-12 months||Optional 1-2 years||Optional 1-2 years||3-8 years|
|Degree or Certificate Awarded||Certificate or Associate Degree||Associate or bachelor’s degree||Master's Degree planned transition to Doctorate||Master's Degree PA-C||Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)|
|Recertification||60 education points or exam every 5 years||1000 hours practicing in area of certification or exam every 5 years||1000 professional practice hours and 12 CE credits per year OR exam every 5 years||100 education hours every 2 years and exam every 10 years||MD: 50 education hours/year and ABMS certification recommended|
|Base Salary US||$38,190||$82,750 (varies significantly by state)||$118,040||$117,381||$231,500|
|Independent Practitioner||No||No||18 states allow NPs to practice independently||Not yet||Yes|
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Dr. Alm, MD, MPH says
Interesting but not totally accurate as PA and MD schools have required standardized courses and in house training. A great numbers of NP’s are trained online now. On the faster tracks one can go from high school to become a CNP in as little as 5 years with a 3.0 gpa and without ever stepping foot in a hospital setting (high-school–> BBSN as little as 3 yrs, BSN–>CNP 12-18mths) additionally they have little actual requirements for CME (no one else claims there clinical worked hours for re-certifications, that’s just work for the rest of us). Understand experience does NOT equate to knowledge. Working with doctors does not give one an understanding of the pathophysiology of disease, the pharmacokinetics of drug metabolism, the epidemiology of determinants of health, etc.
NP’s were some of the most well trained staff in clinics and hospitals, representing the top of the nursing industry. Nowadays they have lowered the requirements, standards and training so much it’s made a mockery of this degree. This is one of the most concerning aspects of healthcare in America.
In my clinical experience PAs are much, much better trained and knowledgeable than the NP’s of today. I strongly believe that PA’s should be paid somewhere between NP’s and MD’s. Additionally the training, certification and oversight of NP’s needs to be much more stringent.
Marianne Vyas, PhD, ANP-BC says
Your comments clearly show that you do not adequately understand nurse practitioner training. I urge you to fully understand the training an NP undergoes before making harmful, inaccurate, disparaging comments online. If you genuinely believe that any nurse practitioner can set foot in a practice setting without having experience (on average 1300 clinical hours) I urge you to look at graduation requirements at just any two random NP schools. Certainly classroom requirements have been moved online in some programs, but please be careful before you inaccurately disparage nursing on public websites. We nurse practitioners love our PA colleagues and hope that you, Dr. Alm, can find respect for both workforces.
Well said Dr. Alm! Exactly my thoughts.
The cast system of the medical society is insanely unjust to say the least!
One aide running a whole floor giving 1000%
Getting paid 1/1000 of the physician who just
Showed up with his fancy suit and flaying tie flapping all over the place and carrying viruses “a tout vent” sho he could rush out while grabbing ships from the ball at the nursing station without washing his hands
So he could jump into his Convertible in the “Doctors only parking area”.
As a uterine clear cell, serous cancer survivor under surveillance, I resent any attempt to Palm me off to an NP for periodic checkups no matter how busy my surgical gyn/onc may be.
Carolyn Salter MD says
Left out the graduate levels of education. Leaving it at a bachelors degrees makes them all look equal.
As a peds provider, i wish i made as much as the chart indicates.
Time in classroom for PAs is longer. Most schools are 4 semesters (2 academic years) of didactic, full-time. Our program was 40 hours/week. This amounted to 2400 didactic hours.
Ditto for our clinical year (2400 hours was the minimum for clinical. You were expected to do more.)
Total PA school education is around 4000-5000 hours (didactic & clinical combined.)
These higher numbers are the norm for PA due to accreditation standards because of what has to be covered. Otherwise it’s a great chart!
Always get a physician vs a Nurse Practitioner although they gather your medical care I as a breast cancer survivor feel that a specialized doctor is always necessary. Thank you
Dennis Dillon RPA-C says
As a RPA-C, and have two BS degrees in Science as well as in Health Science. NPs lead into their field as first becoming a Nurse. The sciences required for Nursing boils down to 3 credit classes with no labs required, many only one semester, not two semesters as a prerequisite . Many programs do not even require some of the higher, more difficult science prerequisites.
Just to set the record straight, I have had to take my re-certification exam in all areas of medicine, every 6 years the last 3 times, and now it moves to every 10 years.
The Nursing profession has been around a long time and are very well organized and very powerful politically.When there is conversation of an NP, the entire Nursing field is included in it. NP profession has taken a clear chosen path to circumvent the conventional medial training as well as the AMA. Unlike the PA profession has stayed the course of the same training as MDs. Partners in health care not competitors.
I personally never thought I would see a NP on equal terms of a PA, never mine letting them practice independently. However, If either profession does get that privilege, it should be both not just one.
Student Nurse says
Human Anatomy and Physiology I and Lab
Human Anatomy and Physiology II and Lab
Human Growth and Development
Microbiology* and Microbiology Lab*
All required for ASN programs in my area. Nurses are required so many Clinical and Classroom hours to become a Nurse in the first place, those not being included in the NP totals which becomes misleading. Not to mention most nurses have on job experience 40hrs/week leading up to starting their NP program. Nurses work directly with Physicians and get plenty of first hand experience with different conditions, diagnoses, disease processes, and medication all prior to entering their Doctorate/Masters program.
It is asinine to compare clinical experience of an RN in o that of a provider, which is why NP (and PA) only allows for clinical hours for the masters/doctorate portions and not previous experience.
Dr. Alm, MD, MPH says
In total agreement with this comment. The NP’s of today are really unprepared and ill-equipped to practice independently. As a physician I would much rather work with PA who tend to be much better trained and knowledgeable than current NP’s.
Nursing “experience” is no way constitutes knowledge. With all do respect how does handing a patient a pill give one knowledge on the pharmacodynamics, cellular metabolism or cytotoxic effects of a medication?