The nature of most of the jobs in the medical field is quite similar. Thus, it is understandable when people tend to confuse one with the other or are confused which one to pursue. Let’s analyze two very commonly confused terms – Physician Assistant and Medical Assistant. We shall see how they differ from one another.
What they do
A Physician Assistant mostly needs to carry out clinical duties that interpreting diagnostic tests and treatment plans. They can practice medicine only in the presence of a physician. However, they are often take up the role of a physician in rural areas where it’s needed. A PA can also diagnose routine diseases and injuries under most conditions.
A Medical Assistant needs to perform both clinical and administrative duties. They record vital signs, collect lab specimens, and find out the patient’s medical history. However, they also perform administrative duties like updating medical records and arranging for lab services. Medical assistants may also be tasked with cleaning or sterilizing medical equipment before a procedure or surgery.
Both the jobs need a certification from an accredited training program. However, a PA requires significantly more amount of training.
To be a PA one must have a 4-year bachelor’s degree and a then a 2-year post graduate. It may also require 3 years of healthcare training prior to your master’s degree. After this, you are eligible for the certification exam. It also requires you to complete 100 years of education every two years to stay active. So, in average about 6+ years are required.
A medical assistant, on the other hand, can make do with a 2-year diploma or an associate degree. They are then eligible to take the certification exam. To make things simpler, they can attempt exams supplied by one of 5 accreditation bodies.
The difference in the amount of training required shows in the difference of average salaries. A PA earns a whopping $90,000 as an average salary. This figure can go up depending on what skills one possesses. As far as experience is concerned, towards the later stages of one’s career they can easily make $100,000. Los Angeles pays the most for among the other cities for people pursuing this profession.
Whereas a medical assistant gets a meager $30,000 as an average salary. Like a PA, an MA’s salary can also be increased by possessing certain medical skills. With experience, a person in this field can earn up to $34,000. Seattle offers the most amount of money for an MA with a huge increase of about 30% from the national average. However, the job improvement scope as a medical assistant is higher. One could choose to become a Registered Nurse, an Office Manager or even a Practice Manager.
The working hours of PA varies greatly based on the amount of hours his / her supervising physician is working. The work week may include early mornings or even weekends sometimes to check up on the patients. A clinical physician assistant can work up to 40 hours a week.
On the contrary, medical assistants work full time usually or on shifts. Working 12 hours shifts for 3 continuous days in a week is quite common for them. However, in some cases, one might be required to repeat the same 12-hour shifts for 6 continuous days. Obviously, the pay is per hour and thus if you work more, you earn more.
You finally know the difference between a PA and an MA. It is much more than just a letter. So, if you were going to make a career decision, you can make one after having all the facts in hand. Choose what best suits you!