Deciding on PA vs MD applications can feel daunting, especially since becoming a fully-fledged Doctor of Medicine (MD) is not for everybody. 

A Physician Assistant (PA) is not that much different from an MD. However, in comparing PA vs MD applications, the entirety of the PA program, in terms of time and cost is much more lenient, and it’s a more novel and readily-available profession. A good case can be argued for PAs as the second-best alternative for anybody who can’t (or won’t) get into medical school. 

So in this brief guide to PA vs MD applications, let’s talk about the major differences between these two professions in terms of roles and responsibilities, education, and other factors. 

An MD is the traditional “doctor” who can start their own practice and operate independently. In the realm of PA vs MD applications, an MD can prescribe medications and perform surgery with full autonomy but are entirely responsible for the well-being of a patient. PAs, on the other hand, will always work under an MD, often required to go back and forth with the MD and handle-less intense tasks such as assisting (for surgeries) and carrying out in-office activities (diagnosing patients, performing physicals, and the like).

For PA vs MD applications, PAs aren’t required to be extensively involved in higher education compared to MDs. With sufficiently-decent GPAs, GREs, and sometimes MCAT scores (typically 3.5 for the former), an undergraduate can successfully enroll in a PA program. Medical schools (for future MDs) will require significantly higher scores of at least a 3.7 GPA and 508 MCAT.

Considering practical experience, aspiring PAs need to have more clinical experience under their belt in order to apply for the PA program (often the equivalent of a one-year’s worth of full-time experience with patients).

In terms of salaries, it’s no surprise that MDs – with a yearly average of $200,000-$300,00 – get paid more than PAs ($75,000-$130,000). That said, PA vs MD application considerations in terms of job satisfaction and better work-life balance favor the PAs as they are much less likely to suffer from burnout or job dissatisfaction — because they have more flexible hours and aren’t required to be on-call or fully liable. 

Deciding on PA vs MD applications can definitely take its toll, but if you can afford the high tuition costs and time investment and are willing to put up with the immense future responsibility required by an MD, we highly recommend applying for medical school.

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