PA vs. MD (Meaning, Types, Functions, Similarities & Differences)4 min read

Two of the most commonly compared careers in the healthcare sector are PA (Physician Assistant) and MD (Medical Doctor).

These careers have both similarities and differences.

Some roles, functions, and duties of these two professionals overlap, so it’s crucial to understand how they vary.

This article compares “PA vs. MD” including the meanings, functions, similarities, and differences between both professions.

PA vs. MD

Who is a PA?

PA (Physician Assistant) is a medical and health care professional who works under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor or physician.

PAs, although not as popular as medical doctors, are still essential professionals in the healthcare sector.

An individual who wants to become a PA is expected to have a bachelor’s degree in sciences, practice, and apply for two to three years for an advanced degree.

On the other hand, as with any other career or profession, there are pros and cons to being a PA.

The abilities of a PA are limited in some areas, and the level of autonomy offered is low.

In comparison to an MD, PAs also get lower pay, having responsibilities, tasks, and positions that vary due to generalized education.

Some of these duties include assisting in surgery and diagnosing common illnesses.

PA vs. MD: Who is a MD?

An MD (Medical Doctor) is a licensed physician who diagnoses and treats illnesses or injuries, prescribes medications, and works in clinics, hospitals, and medical centres.

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MDs are one of the most famous professionals in both the healthcare sector and the world.

They are also one of the most well-paid and respected individuals in the medical sector.

Because of their high level of education, they only need low experience to begin working.

MDs have a high degree of autonomy and independence and can start their private practice and become entrepreneurs.

Although it is a popular profession, it is not easy for individuals to get admitted into a college or higher educational institution to study to become an MD.

The determination to finish the education has to be strong as the time is extended.

Moreover, medical doctors are professionals whose duties are plenty and so are more prone to have burnout.

There are many different types, varieties, and specialties of medical doctors.

PA vs. MD: Types of Doctors

The specialization available to a medical doctor are plentiful and numerous, some of which are:

  • Psychiatrist
  • Obstetrician and Gynecologist
  • Cardiologist
  • Neurologist
  • Family Physician
  • Oncologists
  • Internal Medicine Physician
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Pediatrician
  • Surgeon
  • Dermatologist
  • Radiologist and so on.

Functions of a Medical Doctor


  • Perform surgeries
  • Diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries
  • Prescribes medications
  • Record patient examinations
  • Command tests for patients

PA vs. MD: Differences

A PA and MD are professionals who work closely with each other, and some of their duties overlap, so the differences may be hard to know.

Some differences between these two professionals are:

Average Cost:

The average cost of completing education to become a PA is roughly $70,000 to $90,000, whereas becoming an MD costs around $200,000 to $300,000. 

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MDs are professionals who can become entrepreneurs and start their businesses, while on the other hand, PAs are not able to open any businesses.

MCAT Score:

PAs need to score at least 310, including MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) which is optional.

In contrast, medical schools for MD programs require MCAT, where the least score required is 514 MCAT and GRE (Graduate Record Examinations), which is optional.


PAs have the opportunity and ability to switch between specialties no matter the years that they have worked, while MDs do not have that opportunity.

Percentage of MD professionals that experience burnout has been researched to be 42%, with 54%-60% feeling happy at work.

In comparison, the percentage of PAs reported burnouts is 19.5%, with 92% feeling happy and satisfied at work.

Moreover, the work hours in the schedule of a PA are flexible, while the schedule of an MD is relatively stagnant.

GPA Score:

The average GPA and average science GPA for individuals pursuing a PA include 3.5 and 3.47, respectively.

At the same time, a person who wants to be an MD must have an average GPA and average Science GPA of 3.7 and 3.64, respectively.

PA vs. MD: Similarities

  • The demand for both PA and MD is high and continuously rising.
  • Both a PA’s and MD’s responsibilities, duties, roles or functions include diagnosing and treating common illnesses.
  • A bachelor’s degree is required to be possessed by a PA and MD.
  • The career outlook for PAs and MDs are stellar, positive and excellent.


There are various and different occupations and career possibilities available to individuals; however, if you have decided to become a PA or MD, make certain that you do not regret your choice by selecting intelligently.

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Utilize the information offered and supplement your understanding by conducting research prior to making a life-altering decision.

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