Just because a health care career has the word “assistant” in its job title, it doesn’t necessarily mean your education will be less strenuous or a less of a commitment to time and effort than other roles—or that your duties will be confined to that of an aide and helper. A good example of two health care careers that could not be more different—but might be confusing due to assistant being in the title—are Medical Assistant and Physician Assistant.
Short and sweet, a medical assistant is more of an entry- to-mid level career while as a physician assistant you will assist and perform advanced duties with a practicing physician.
So, while these two in-demand health care professions sound an awful lot alike, they actually share very little in common when it comes to day-to-day tasks, education requirements, and salary. There are vastly different time and commitment levels needed for you to earn your degree, and the job duties and expertise required are also at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Medical assistants handle a wide variety of entry-level administrative and clinical tasks, whereas physician assistants are licensed health care providers who diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of a physician.
If you’re just entering the health care field, you’ll want to consider a medical assistant career. If you’ve been in the field, have your bachelor’s degree, and are looking to move up the ladder, earning your master’s degree and pursuing your national certification from an accredited PA training program may be the course for you.
Here are all of the key differences for both careers side-by-side:
Licensing and Certification
Median Annual Salaries
The difference in salary between medical assistants and physician assistant roles is notable. Take a look at median annual salaries, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job growth national average for all careers through 2030 is 8% says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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