Cost, Salary and Job Outlooks

Most times, students who want to pursue a career in the medical field find it difficult to differentiate Nursing practitioners from Physician Assistants. Although the two professions have to do with attending to patients and offering medical treatments, many differences make them distinct. In this post, we will compare Nurse Practitioners vs Physician assistants in many areas like Cost, Salary, and Job Outlooks.

Generally, both the Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant are considered advanced practice providers and vital assets to the healthcare community. And also, they are designed to meet the ever-growing demand for primary care providers.

Also, nurse practitioners and Physician Assistants’ work environments are similar. They can work in physician’s offices, hospitals, and clinics. Once their master’s degrees are ready, they must pursue licensure and pass national certification exams before practising professionally.

Despite their similarities and overlapping functions, they differ in their unique ways. This article on Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant aims to help you get an in-depth understanding and knowledge about these two professions.

After reading this post, you will be able to know their job outlooks, the cost of getting any of the degrees, specialization, and so many other things. If you really want to go for any of the professions or are among the folks that often get these two professions mixed up, this post is just for you.

Make sure you can read this post word for word without skimming because you will be so glad you did. But before then, you can scroll through the table of contents below to get an overview of all this post entails.

Who Is a Nurse Practitioner?

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nurse practitioners (NPs) are licensed, autonomous clinicians focused on managing people’s health conditions and preventing disease.

Wikipedia defines him or her as an advanced practice registered nurse, a mid-level practitioner trained to assess patient needs, order and interprets diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose disease, and formulate and prescribe treatment plans.

That means a Nurse Practitioner is a licensed clinician or Advanced practice registered nurse whose responsibilities revolve around providing primary, acute, chronic, and speciality care to patients of all ages, depending on their field of practice.

Check out the types of Nursing Majors and where you can work with a Nursing Degree?

Who is a Physician Assistant?

According to Wikipedia, A physician Assistant is a highly qualified physician in medicine. According to local or local lawmaking PAs, a physician Assistant can be self-employed and excluded from physicians or in co-operation with physicians.

Generally, a Physician assistant works directly under physicians’ supervision in supporting healthcare teams. Also known as PA, a physician assistant is a licensed medical team member that includes doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

To become a physician assistant, read this: How To Become A Physician Assistant | Descriptions, Salary, Cost, Schools

You can see from the definitions above that they have the same area of interests and responsibilities, which I think has brought about the mix-up.

Let’s take a look at their functions and compare.

What Are The Similarities Between Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant?

Though these two professions are not the same, there are some areas that make them similar.

First, the Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant must get a master’s degree in their discipline before practising their profession. So, if you want to build a career in any of them, you must get a Graduate degree from their specialized schools.

Secondly, their work setting is the same. That means whether you are a Nurse practitioner or Physician Assistant, you can work at a physician’s office, hospitals, and clinics once you have gotten your master’s degree.

And before you can practice your profession, whether as a nurse practitioner or Physician Assistance, you must pursue licensure and pass national certification exams.

Moreso, both can perform several of the same day-to-day duties as physicians and typically work under the supervision of a physician.

In addition, although their responsibilities are not the same, their objectives are built on the same foundation: advancing education and training to enable greater autonomy in practice.

Note there are some responsibilities that both can perform. That means in a situation where a Nurse Practitioner is not available, a Physician Assistant can still perform the same function without it being illegal.

Some of those roles include;

  • Prescribe medication for a patient who is sick
  • Keeping the medical histories of a patient or patients.
  • Carrying out physical assessments and examinations
  • Handling any patient with a common injury
  • Give vaccinations, screenings, and physicals
  • Perform and interpret diagnostic and laboratory studies
  • Educate patients about health and nutrition matters.
  • Screen and refer patients to specialists and other healthcare providers

Having seen their Similarities, let’s take a look at their differences.

What Are The Difference Between Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant?

This is one question that most students do ask. There are big differences between both careers. Yes, these professions come with mouth-watery salaries and well-recognised responsibilities, but they still differ in some areas.

Some of the areas include;

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Recertify Duration
  • Education Qualifications
  • Job Outlook
  • Cost of acquiring the degrees
  • Salary

Now, let’s take them one after the other

#1. Np vs PA Roles and Responsibilities

This is the main factor that differentiates both careers. Though you can work in the medical field as a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant, roles differ greatly.

Nurse Practitioner Roles

If you are employed as a nurse practitioner, your scope of practice will mostly be to diagnose and treat various common illnesses and injuries within your area of speciality. Other roles or functions will include;  

  • Ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions
  • Prescribing medications and other treatments
  • Counselling patients regarding various health needs
  • Educating patients about preventing disease and adopting healthier lifestyles

Physician Assistant

As a Physician Assistant, your major role will revolve around diagnosing patients and prescribing medications. Also, you can practice in virtually all medical and surgical specialities, provided you are properly trained and supervised.

Other roles or functions will include;  

  • Administering treatment like setting broken bones and immunizing patients.
  • Educating and counselling patients and their families—for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma.
  • You will also be responsible for checking a patient’s progress.
  • Then, Conducting or participating in outreach programs, talking to groups about managing diseases, and promoting wellness.
  • Also, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, such as x-rays or blood tests.

#2. NP vs PA Recertify Duration

Both professions need an advanced certificate before you can practice. For instance, if a Nurse advance from a bachelor’s to a master’s or doctoral degree and completes an exam, he/she gets a nurse practitioner certification. This certification must be maintained and recertified after some years. The same with a Physician Assistant.

The difference is in the duration or number of years each last before it can be re-certified.

As a Nurse practitioner, you must recertify every five years after meeting the clinical practice and continuing education (CE) requirements. In most states, that’s 1,000 clinical hours and 75 continuing education hours.

On the other hand, as a Physician Assistant, you will need to recertify every 10 years and have 100 continuing medical education credits.

#3. Nurse Practitioner  vs Physician Assistant Education Qualifications

The only thing that looks similar in their educational qualifications is that both professions will require you to pursue continuing education and certification courses as you advance.

Nurse Practitioner

To get the skills needed to become a nurse practitioner, you must acquire the following:

  • You must have a nursing-related bachelor’s degree, typically a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN), but related degrees are sometimes acceptable
  • Must have gotten a state RN licensure by taking an exam, such as the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)
  • Completed one to two years of hands-on nursing experience
  • Have a Master of Science in Nursing
  • Pass a final certification exam upon completion of a master’s degree
  • Complete anywhere from 750 to 2,500 clinical hours, depending on the speciality.

Physician Assistant

To become a physician assistant, you must have the following:

  • You must have a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field, such as physiology, chemistry, mathematics or biology
  • You must have gained some work experience in the nursing field, but RN licensure is not necessary
  • Have to complete up to 2,000 clinical hours
  • Complete 10 to 12 eight-week rotations in varied medical fields, such as dermatology, emergency medicine or surgery
  • Take and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
  • Obtain state licensure to practice

#4 NP vs PA- Work Specialty

Although NP and PAs can work in the same environment or setting, their specialities differ. If you are a Nurse practitioner, you will be trained to practice in the following speciality areas:

  • Cardiology
  • Emergency
  • Family practice
  • Geriatrics
  • Neonatology
  • Oncology
  • Paediatrics
  • Primary care
  • School Health
  • Women’s Health

On the other hand, as a Physician Assistant, you will be trained to practice in the following speciality areas.

  • Family medicine
  • Orthopaedic surgery
  • Emergency medicine
  • Urgent care
  • Internal medicine
  • Hospital medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Cardiology

#5. Np vs PA– Licensing Requirements

Nurse Practitioner

After graduation, NPs must be licensed and certified by state nursing boards before they can practice. Requirements vary from state to state, but there is some consistency from state to state about the NP’s primary duties and degree of provider independence.

Physician Assistant

After graduation, students can take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), which the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) administers. All states require PA graduates to pass this exam before being licensed to practice.

#5. Nurse Practitioner  vs Physician Assistant – Job Outlook

For Nurse Practitioners, job opportunities are expected to increase much more than other occupations for the foreseeable future. However, the percentage change from 2016-2026 is 31%.

On the other hand, the career outlook for Physician Assistants is promising. As one of the fastest-growing occupations of the decade, students can expect to find employment in hospitals, medical offices, and clinics nationwide.

#6. Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for nurse practitioners for 2018 was $107,030, with salary ranges from $85,880 to $143,480.

Meanwhile, that of a Physician Assistant was $108,610 per year or $52.22 per hour in 2018. The salary range is $61,230 and $151,850.

#7. Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant Cost

The average cost of acquiring a nurse practitioner degree is about $22,500. Private universities will cost from $500 to $1,500 per credit.

Meanwhile, the physician assistant program’s average cost is $71,369 (27 months is the average program length).

Also, the average four-year cost of medical school is $278,866 for private schools and $207,866 for public schools (correct as of 2018).

Which Schools Are The Best Schools for Nursing practitioners?

Here is a list of schools offering the best Nurse Practitioner programs you can apply for.

  • Mount Carmel College of Nursing
  • Bellin College
  • University of Wyoming
  • Georgia College & State University
  • Westminster College
  • Clarkson College
  • Misericordia University
  •  D’Youville College
  • Molloy College
  • Carlow University
  • Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Ursuline College
  • University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
  • South Dakota State University
  • Valparaiso University
  • Millersville University of Pennsylvania
  • Husson University

See the Best Nursing Schools in the World here

What Are The best schools for Physician Assistants?

Below is a list of the best universities that offer Physician Assistant programs. Also, click on each school for information on their PA programs.

See PA School Requirements And How To Get All Prerequisites Ready For Physician Assistant Degree

Which Career Should I go For?

First, before you choose a career between the two, carefully analyze the one that will benefit your professional goals and educational preferences to determine your best career options.

Also, consider factors like salary, educational ability, allocation, behaviour change for each situation, and the services required for PAs and NPs.

Although before you can practice any of the careers, you must get a graduate degree. For instance, a Nurse Practitioner pursuing nursing must get RN funding before completing their graduate NP programs.

One thing you must make sure of is that the job you will choose should reflect your goals, interests, and unique skills that you may need.

Between NP and PA Which is Better?

The answer to this question is based on your personal goal and ambition. Generally speaking, these two professions have unique features that distinguish them. These features make them important and most needed in a particular area.

So, a student may decide to go for a nursing practitioner while another may prefer becoming a Physician Assistant depending on their career goals.

They are good.

FAQs On Np vs PA

A physician Assistant is a highly qualified physician in medicine. According to local or local lawmaking PAs, a physician Assistant can be self-employed and excluded from physicians or in co-operation with physicians.

Nurse Practitioner is a licensed clinician or Advanced practice registered nurse whose responsibilities revolve around providing primary, acute, chronic, and speciality care to patients of all ages, depending on their field of practice.

You can specialize in the following areas;

Cardiology
Emergency
Family practice
Geriatrics
Neonatology
Oncology
Paediatrics
Primary care
School Health
Women’s Health.

The roles or functions of Nurse Practitioners include;  

Ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests
Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions
Prescribing medications and other treatments
Counselling patients regarding various health needs
Educating patients about preventing disease and adopting healthier lifestyles

The roles or functions of Physician Assistants include;  

Administering treatment like setting broken bones and immunizing patients.
Educating and counselling patients and their families—for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma.
You will also be responsible for checking a patient’s progress.
Then, Conducting or participating in outreach programs, talking to groups about managing diseases, and promoting wellness.
Also, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, such as x-rays or blood tests.

You can specialize in the following areas;

Family medicine
Orthopaedic surgery
Emergency medicine
Urgent care
Internal medicine
Hospital medicine
Dermatology
Cardiology

References

  • nursejournal.org – Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant: What’s the Difference?
  • nursingprocess.org – NP vs. PA Salary: Find out the Difference in Earnings?
  • registerednursing.org – What Is the Salary Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician Assistant?

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