Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner: What’s the Difference?

Posted By:   Posted On: April 19th, 2016

PA vs NPAs a staffing agency for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners, we frequently get asked what is the difference between these two highly popular professions.

Pay is Similar

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015, the national mean yearly pay for a Physician Assistant is $99,270 and the mean yearly pay for a Nurse Practitioner is $101,260. This same report states that in Arizona the mean wage for Physician Assistants ranges between $98,430 – $105,060 and Nurse Practitioners in Arizona can expect a salary between $96,590 – $104,440.

There’s More NPs than PAs

Your odds of getting treatment from a Nurse Practitioner vs getting care from a Physician Assistant vary greatly from state to state because while there are almost 40,000 more employed NPs in the United States than PAs, each state has a preference of one over the other. In Arizona, for example, there are 2,160 employed Nurse Practitioners and 2,460 Physician Assistants; however, the inverse is true of AZ’s neighbor, New Mexico, which employs about 60% more NPs than it does PAs.

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Supervision is Different

On the surface, these two healthcare careers look very similar. However, a Physician Assistant usually works with a team of physicians or surgeons and they must be supervised by a physician or surgeon; in contrast, a Nurse Practitioner may work independently in most states.

NPs are More Specialized in the Beginning

A Nurse Practitioner usually has already practiced as a Registered Nurse prior to becoming an NP. A Physician Assistant will usually have worked in the healthcare industry for many years prior to being accepted into a PA program, but their previous healthcare experience can be from a wide range of healthcare worker roles, unlike an NP.

The education is also different in that Nurse Practitioners will typically choose an area of speciality while obtaining their advanced degree and a Physician Assistant will normally start out as a generalist while a student and will get more specialized as they practice.

Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners both need to reach Master’s degree level of education and must acquire state licensing.

Philosophy is Different

Treatment philosophy is different in that nurses follow a patient-centered model that focuses on disease prevention and health education. Physicians come from a disease-centered model that focuses on the biologic and pathologic components of health.

Per State Governance Varies for Both Professions

Lastly, each state has their own rules about what NPs and PAs can do. If you have a preference as to who you see for your health care, you may find in some states you can choose either an NP or a PA for the same type of care and in other states you may not.

Are You Looking for a Job as a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner?

Desert Medical Careers has a high demand for PAs and NPs in the Phoenix Metro Area. We are typically able to easily place both careers in full-time and part-time positions. With over 20 years’ experience placing healthcare employees, DMC is an expert at matching healthcare workers with their ideal work environment. Contact DMC today at (602) 468-6300.

Article Resources

  1. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm
  2. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
  3. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291071.htm
  4. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm
  5. http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2015/12/pa-np-care
  6. http://study.com/articles/Nurse_Practitioner_vs_Physician_Assistant_Whats_the_Difference.html
  7. http://www.nursepractitionerschools.com/faq/np-vs-physician-assistant