MD or PA

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Mar 28, 2001
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I tried to get into medical school for a couple of years but was never given an interview. Then, I looked into the PA profession and became extremely interested. Therefore, I decided to apply to PA school. Now, I've been accepted to the med school in Houston and the Baylor PA school. I've been looking at both professions and have been trying to make the right decision for myself, but it's been very difficult. I am 25 years old and I am a very family-oriented individual. God willing, I will one day be married and have children, but I'm afraid that being a doctor will make that extremely difficult. Is anyone else in this situation? Or has anyone gone from being a PA to becoming an MD? I know there have been numerous people who have gone from PA to MD; fortunately, I have the choice now and I want to make the right decision. Please help!!!


Hi -

I'm a 4th year med student and have a friend who is very similar to you. She was really interested in medicine, considered becoming an MD and then decided to go the PA route. Here are the pros and cons as she and I have discussed them:

Pro PA:
1. Shorter time in training
2. Better lifestyle once in practice (more flexible hours, etc.) therefore more time for family and outside interests (although you can have a pretty good lifestyle as an MD if you choose the right specialty.)
3. Less responsibility therefore less stress
4. Still very involved with patient care
5. Still play an integral role on the team

The Cons of being a PA all pretty much revolve around not being "top dog." They are the flipside of the above less-responsibility-"pro" :

1. Can be a psychological downer to always have to "take orders"/obtain approval from MDs
2. Always being in a "perpetual intern" type of role; may get slightly more boring as time goes on because there is less room for advancement.
3. Less money
4. Less in-depth medical expertise

As with any decision, it all boils down to prioritizing which factors are most important to you. For my friend, the time in training and better lifestyle were the most important factors. Also, she likes medicine but she doesn't feel super compelled to know EVERYTHING about it; she is comfortable with knowing the common stuff and with asking others when something rarer comes up.

But in my own case, I just don't have the kind of psychological make-up that would allow me to be comfortable in the non "top dog" position -- not saying this is the "right" or "better" stance, just saying it is one reason MD works better for me. I'm also the kind of person who is uncomfortable unless I feel I know "EVERYTHING" about what I'm doing; therefore, the more in-depth knowledge required by the MD is more suited to my personality.

As for making your own decision, you'll just have to carefully weigh which factors are MOST important to you. Nothing is going to be perfect and everything has costs. You'll just have to decide which costs you are more comfortable accepting.

Hope this helps and good luck!