Nurse Practitioner VS. Physician Assistant

Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) differ in several aspects.

Those include education, work settings, style, salary, job opportunities, etc.


NPs are an advance-practice nurse and they can hold a master’s degree or doctoral degree.

Some NPs have finished the official NP programs.

Nurse practitioners can choose their specialty and focus on a specific field in their studies.

It can be gerontology, psychiatry, pediatric, women’s health, etc.

To finish each specialty program and get a license, every nurse practitioner must have a certain number of clinical hours.

There are also residency programs that allow NPs to improve their clinical experience.

Each nurse practitioner must have certification in the specialty to get the license for working.

On the other hand, to become eligible to start a PA program, physician assistants must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

PA programs are competitive, and time plays a vital role in whether you will be accepter or not.

You get a masters degree after you complete PA program

Every PA program focuses on general medicine but can have specific courses as well.

Similar to nurse practitioners, physician assistants have to complete clinical hours required to graduate.

They also need to have general certification.

The duration of NP and PA programs is similar, and it will take you two or three years to finish any of them.

NP and PA Scope of Practice

The scope of practice for each healthcare worker is defined by different state regulations.

For example, physician assistants work together with physicians and are only allowed to prescribe medicaments under supervision.

The difference is because NPs can practice independently, but only in some states.

In those states, NPs can open their own business – NP clinic, depending on the state regulations and requirements.

Also, some states allow NPs to prescribed controlled substances and some forbid them.

In the recent past, there is a shortage of available physicians, so laws are getting more relaxed in terms that NP and physicians assistants get more clearances.


The approach to the patient is the most obvious difference between NP and PA.

Nurse practitioners start their careers as nurses, so they follow the appropriate nursing model of care.

It includes a holistic approach and their working style is more patient-centered.

On the other hand, PA follows medical training and an appropriate medical caring model.

Similar to physicians’ style, the physician assistants focus on disease and treatment.

Work Setting

Because of the nature of the work and collaboration with physicians, PAs usually work in clinics and hospitals.

To work, PA doesn’t need to have on-site physician, rather physician need to be easily accessible by phone.

NPs also work in similar work settings, but the difference is that they can work in their own clinic.

Both PAs and NPs can pick the area of choice to work in, such as emergency rooms or surgery clinics.


There are slight differences between a nurse practitioner and physician assistant yearly salary.

The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that an average annual salary of NP is $107.460.

The average annual salary of PA is $104.480.

The state, city, and working facility determines the actual salary for both NPs and PAs.

Job Opportunities

The NP and PA career looks promising.

The expected growth rate for NPs and other advanced-practice nurses is 31% by 2026.

The expected growth rate for PA for the same time is 37%.

The discrepancy between rates comes as a result of population aging and focusing on preventive health.

Also, the physician shortage affects the field of PA as well.

Because of it, there would be more job opportunities for mid-level care providers who will earn more clearances and responsibilities, but also a higher paycheck.

Final Words

The role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants is highly important in all aspects of health care.

They take care that each patient gets the necessary care, even in situations when there is no physician available.

The biggest differences are the approach to the patient and practice style, as well as the opportunities for opening private praxis.

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