Physician Assistants vs. Doctor of Medicine

While physician assistants and doctors of medicine are both essential professions in the medical field, there are some significant differences in each area. Physician assistant jobs are rising compared to other disciplines, including MDs. If you want to learn more about these medical practitioners, here’s everything you need to know about PAs and MDs.  

person looking for physician assistant jobs

MD vs. PA: General Analysis 

Work and Life Balance

Physician assistants spend less time and money on education and have more excellent options to change their specialty. They also routinely report high job satisfaction, employment stability, and work-life balance levels compared to MDs. Their profession is young compared to physicians. Consequently, the laws governing their practice vary greatly depending on the state, province, or country.

Alternatively, MDs rank among our society’s most highly regarded and well-paid traditional professionals. Their career is one of the oldest human activities, and they have more autonomy than physician assistants. They can even open their practices.  


Once in practice, MDs put in more hours than PAs, are more likely to be on call, have poorer job satisfaction, and have fewer choices for changing careers if they start to feel burned out in their chosen field. In addition to practicing medicine, doctors who own their practices must also function as employers and managers, which has its own set of challenges. MDs also face more liability overall than PAs.

In contrast to their MD counterparts, PAs must start their careers with more excellent healthcare experience and perform sophisticated work for frequently comparable long hours while earning less than MDs. They have less independence and are somewhat dependent on medical oversight.

MD vs. PA: Cost and Education 

University Education 

Education is essential for anyone who wants to become a PA or MD, and both career routes demand top academic standing. In general, MD programs require excellent marks but less clinical experience at the time of application. PA schools generally require strong grades and significant clinical experience.

The science prerequisites and experiences required during the initial 4-year undergraduate degree tend to be comparable for both. At the same time, those who choose the MD path must take more advanced science courses in preparation for medical school.  

Average GPA

The average science GPA is 3.47, and the average GPA for those seeking PA programs is 3.5. Various physician assistant schools have different criteria for standardized testing. Although some programs will accept the MCAT in place of the GRE, the current prevalence of the GRE prevents us from knowing the average MCAT scores for PA programs.

Many programs require the GRE (as PA programs are frequently Master’s degree programs), and the average GRE score for applicants to PA programs is 310. Furthermore, applicants to PA schools often require 2000 hours of actual patient care before applying to be highly competitive.

How Difficult Is It to Enroll in Medical School? 

Compared to PAs, there are strict GPA requirements for applicants to the MD program. The average GPA is 3.70 overall, and the average GPA in science is 3.64. While the GRE is not necessary for MD programs, the MCAT is, and a strong MCAT score is essential if you want to become a doctor.

For those pursuing an MD, the typical MCAT score is around 508. Although it is unnecessary, clinical experience earned through working as a patient care assistant or watching a physician makes an application stronger, even for the most competitive medical schools.  

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