Medical Assistant vs. Physician Assistant

Thinking of becoming either a medical assistant or physician assistant? Read on to find out more about these two medical careers.

The Medical Assistant and Physician Assistant are two medical careers that are thriving. More and more individuals are getting into the healthcare field by being a medical assistant or a physician assistant. Many would conclude that these two medical professions are the same or at least share the same job description. But aside from both being a medical career, the duties and responsibilities of a medical assistant greatly varies from that of a physician assistant. Even training and education differ for both.

Below is an overview of the difference between a medical assistant and physician assistant.

medical assistant

Medical Assistant Educational Requirement vs. Physician Assistant Educational Requirement

Medical Assistants attain post secondary education. They can choose to attend a two-year program that will give them a degree, one-year diploma program or a nine-month certificate program. Those who attend any of these programs can get certified by certification agencies such as the AAMA. There are also some medical assistants that do not attend any program, instead going straight to training. This is acceptable as long as he or she has a high school diploma or GED equivalent and can find a doctor to train him or her. In order to qualify for the certification exam, however, the individual must attend an accredited medical assistant training program.

A physician assistant, on the other hand, has a more extensive educational background. He or she must receive a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in physician assisting. These programs can take anywhere from two to five years to complete. Upon completion of the degree, the individual must take the national certifying exam to be eligible for a physician assistant license. In order to qualify for the certifying exam, the individual must graduate from an accredited physician assistant training program.

Medical Assistant vs. Physician Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

There are two types of medical assistants: administrative and clinical. Both can find jobs assisting in a doctor’s office or clinic, hospital and other healthcare facility such as a nursing home. The administrative medical assistant performs clerical work. He or she answers the phone, sets up appointments, fill out insurance forms, file patients’ medical records and basically welcome the patients and make them comfortable. The clinical medical assistant works more closely with the doctor. He or she is expected to get the patient’s vitals, update the medical records, and perform simple procedure such as drawing of blood and other laboratory work. He or she must be able to give proper and correct instructions to the patients regarding medicine administering.

The physician assistant is licensed to practice medicine but only under the supervision and direction of physicians. They are trained to diagnose and treat patients’ injuries and illnesses, handle medical emergencies, perform minor surgeries like sutures, order laboratory tests such as x-ray and drawing of blood and perform physical examinations. A physician assistant can also prescribe medicine and supervise staff.

Medical Assistant Salary vs. Physician Assistant Salary

Although both medical professions are considered lucrative, physician assistants are paid a higher salary than medical assistants.