Differences Between a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practitioner

Both physician assistants and nurse practitioners provide health care, although the restrictions and requirements in each field vary. If you enjoy caring for others and are willing to commit to formal education, then a career in either field might be right for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Physician Assistant vs. Nurse Practitioner Overview

A physician assistant (PA) provides medical care under the supervision of a physician. If you are a PA, you will be able to do most of the duties of a physician, such as diagnosing and treating patients, ordering tests and reading x-rays. You may also be able to prescribe some medications. PAs must usually consult with physicians due to state legal regulations.

Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, usually work independently of a physician and offer a combination of nursing and health care services. Nurse practitioners may have similar duties as a PA, but in all states, nurse practitioners can prescribe medication. It is typical for a nurse practitioner to specialize in one area of medicine.

Education Requirements

Although a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner sometimes perform similar job duties, they have separate education and certification requirements. The laws governing PAs and nurse practitioners are set at the state level and dictate the training requirements and job duties of each profession.

Physician Assistant

To work as a PA in any state, you must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). To qualify to take this exam, you must graduate from an accredited degree program in physician or surgical assisting. Some states may have additional requirements that must met to qualify for state licensing.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who is required to hold a master's degree. To enter a master's degree program, you will need to have earned a bachelor's degree in nursing and hold a nursing license. After earning your master's degree, state law may require you to become certified through a national certifying organization, such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), to be eligible to practice as a nurse practitioner.

Salary Comparison

In May 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported PAs in the 10th-90th percentile range made $57,450-$117,720 (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com reported in July 2011, the base pay for the 10th-90th percentile range of nurse practitioners was between $59,246 and $98.827.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

Popular Schools

  • Northern Arizona University

    Northern Arizona University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northern Arizona University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Azusa Pacific University College

    Azusa Pacific University College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Azusa Pacific University College:

    Online Programs Available

  • Iowa Central Community College

    Iowa Central Community College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Iowa Central Community College:

    Online Programs Available

  • ITT Technical Institute

    ITT Technical Institute responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at ITT Technical Institute:

    • Master

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Alabama: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile
    • Arizona: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix
    • California: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova
    • Florida: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach
    • Idaho: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise
    • Kansas: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita
    • Kentucky: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville
    • Michigan: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton
    • Missouri: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City
    • Ohio: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City, Akron, Dayton, Hilliard, Norwood, Strongsville, Warrensville Heights, Youngstown
    • Oklahoma: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City, Akron, Dayton, Hilliard, Norwood, Strongsville, Warrensville Heights, Youngstown, Oklahoma City, Tulsa
    • Oregon: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City, Akron, Dayton, Hilliard, Norwood, Strongsville, Warrensville Heights, Youngstown, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Portland
    • Tennessee: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City, Akron, Dayton, Hilliard, Norwood, Strongsville, Warrensville Heights, Youngstown, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Portland, Nashville
    • Texas: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City, Akron, Dayton, Hilliard, Norwood, Strongsville, Warrensville Heights, Youngstown, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Portland, Nashville, Richardson
    • Virginia: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City, Akron, Dayton, Hilliard, Norwood, Strongsville, Warrensville Heights, Youngstown, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Portland, Nashville, Richardson, Chantilly, Norfolk, Richmond, Salem, Springfield
    • West Virginia: Bessemer, Madison, Mobile, Phoenix, Rancho Cordova, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Boise, Wichita, Lexington, Louisville, Canton, Earth City, Akron, Dayton, Hilliard, Norwood, Strongsville, Warrensville Heights, Youngstown, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Portland, Nashville, Richardson, Chantilly, Norfolk, Richmond, Salem, Springfield, Huntington
  • Brandman University

    Brandman University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Brandman University:

    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • California: Culver City, Fairfield, Hanford, Irvine, Menifee, Monterey, Ontario, Palm Desert, Palmdale, Riverside, Roseville, Salida, San Diego, Santa Clarita, Santa Maria, Victorville, Visalia, Walnut Creek, Yuba City
    • Washington: Culver City, Fairfield, Hanford, Irvine, Menifee, Monterey, Ontario, Palm Desert, Palmdale, Riverside, Roseville, Salida, San Diego, Santa Clarita, Santa Maria, Victorville, Visalia, Walnut Creek, Yuba City, Lacey
  • Baker College Online

    Baker College Online responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Baker College Online:

    Online Programs Available

  • Walden University

    Walden University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Walden University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Kaplan University

    Kaplan University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Kaplan University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Indiana Wesleyan University

    Indiana Wesleyan University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Indiana Wesleyan University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online and Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Illinois: Naperville
    • Indiana: Naperville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Online Campus, Merrillville
    • Kentucky: Naperville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Online Campus, Merrillville, Louisville
    • Ohio: Naperville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Online Campus, Merrillville, Louisville, Cleveland, Independence, Mayfield Heights
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »