PA or MD: Which Career Path Should You Choose?

PA Coaching • May 26, 2023

I decided to become a physician assistant instead of a medical doctor for many reasons. In this video, I explain my thought process and the factors that led to my decision. If you’re trying to decide between becoming a PA or MD, this video is for you. I go over some of the similarities and differences between the two roles.

PA or MD? Which career path should you choose?

A common question that many individuals face when considering a career in healthcare is whether to become a PA or MD. The decision can be a deeply personal one, influenced by various factors such as personal goals, interests, and the desire for patient interaction. In this article, we will explore the PA and MD career paths, providing information to help you make an informed decision based on your own aspirations and circumstances.

The Personal Journey of Choosing to Become a PA

Let’s delve into the personal journey of Michelle, a PA, and her reasons for choosing this profession. Michelle initially pursued a career in laboratory science after completing her undergraduate studies in genetics. However, after working in a cancer research hospital, she felt unfulfilled and began exploring other career options.

Michelle’s decision to become a PA was influenced by several factors. First, the shorter training duration of the PA profession appealed to her. She wanted to start making a difference in patients’ lives more quickly. Despite the shorter training, she valued the comprehensive education provided in PA programs, which typically last around 27 to 36 months and include didactic coursework and multiple clinical rotations. After completing the program, PAs must pass a board exam to become certified.

Collaboration was another crucial aspect that attracted Michelle to the PA profession. PAs work closely with physicians, providing medical care to patients while practicing autonomously. This collaborative approach allows for continuous learning, sharing of knowledge, and the ability to offer diverse perspectives, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

The versatility and flexibility of the PA career path were also important considerations for Michelle. She saw the potential to adapt her medical career as her personal and professional goals evolved over time. Michelle’s personal experience highlights the opportunities for growth and change within the PA profession, including leadership roles, non-clinical tasks, and specialization in different areas of medicine.

The MD Career Path

While Michelle found her calling as a PA, it’s essential to consider the MD career path as well. Medical school training is known for its intensity, duration, and specialization. Physicians undergo rigorous academic and clinical training, preparing them to become experts in specific medical specialties. With a broader scope of practice and the ability to practice independently, physicians play a vital role in healthcare delivery.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between PA or MD

When deciding between the PA or MD paths, there are several factors to consider:

  1. Time to training: PAs typically have a shorter training period compared to physicians. If you want to start working in the field sooner, becoming a PA may be appealing.
  2. Comprehensive education: While PA programs have a shorter duration, they provide comprehensive training, preparing PAs to deliver quality care. It’s crucial to ensure that the educational program aligns with your career goals.
  3. Collaboration and teamwork: PAs work collaboratively with physicians, contributing to a team-based approach to patient care. If you value teamwork and the opportunity to learn from experienced physicians, the PA profession may be a good fit.
  4. Personal and professional growth: Both PA and MD paths offer opportunities for growth, but the PA profession allows for more flexibility in terms of adapting to personal circumstances, changing specialties, and exploring non-clinical roles.
  5. Specialization and expertise: If you are drawn to the idea of specializing in a particular medical field and being an expert in that area, the MD path may be more suitable. PAs, on the other hand, receive generalist training, allowing them to practice in various specialties without the need for additional training.

Ultimately, the decision to become a PA or MD is highly individual. It’s crucial to reflect on your personal goals, passions, and aspirations. If you are certain about pursuing a medical career and are willing.

Also read: What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!