According to this website the battle of medical assistant vs physician assistant can be resolved in the following way: “A physician assistant (PA) is licensed to practice medicine under the general oversight of a physician. A PA is permitted to diagnose and—in most states—prescribe certain medications. A medical assistant is delegated certain clinical and administrative duties by a physician, and cannot make any independent diagnoses or assessments”.
From this we can gather that a physician assistant has more freedom and a higher degree of training than a medical assistant and are therefore allowed to perform more advanced procedures.
There are a number of differences to note in the medical assistant vs physician assistant debate. The following overall figures have been noted for medical assistants:
- The median pay is about $28,860 per year and $13.87 per hour
- The entry-level education required is a high school diploma or equivalent
- You do not need any work experience in a related occupation
- You will receive moderate-term on-the-job training
- There were 527,600 jobs for medical assistants in the year 2010
- The job outlook for 2010 to 2020 is 31% which is much faster than average
- The expected employment change from 2010 to 2020 is 162,900
- The median pay is about $86,410 per year and $41.54 per hour
- The entry-level education required is a master’s degree
- You do not need any work experience in a related occupation
- You will receive no on-the-job training
- There were 83,600 jobs for physician assistants in the year 2010
- The job outlook for 2010 to 2020 is 30% which is much faster than average
- The expected employment change from 2010 to 2020 is 24,700
Because of their higher level of education, physician assistants tend to earn more. However, although the industry is growing at a similar rate, there are fewer jobs for physician assistants.
Medical assistants have a number of duties to perform on a daily basis. Firstly they are responsible for taking patient histories and measuring their vital signs. IN addition to his they help the physician with patient examinations, give patient injections as directed by the physician, schedule patient appointments, and prepare blood for laboratory tests. All of these activities are closely monitored by the physician in charge. There are several different kinds of medical assistants:
- Administrative medical assistants
- Clinical medical assistants
- Ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants
- Podiatric medical assistants
The list of duties that a physician assistant must perform is much longer. Although they work under the supervision of a physician or surgeon, their tasks are far more complex. They do not simply take, but also review patients’ medical histories and they themselves do physical exams to check patients’ health rather than simply assisting the physician. As opposed to medical assistants, physician assistants can order and interpret diagnostic tests and they can make preliminary diagnoses concerning a patient’s injury or illness for later verification by the doctor. Physician assistants are physically allowed to provide treatment to patients, something that is well outside the scope of practice of a medical assistant. Physician assistants often play a meaningful role in counseling patients and their families and are allowed to prescribe medicine, when needed. They can also record a patient’s progress and complete insurance paperwork. In line with their advanced level of education and higher salary, physician assistants perform more and more complex tasks than medical assistants.
Most medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, which means that they tend t work regular office hours in a pleasant environment. However in some cases medical assistants will work evenings and weekends in order to cover a heavy workload.
Physician’s assistants on the other hand work in a variety of different settings:
- Offices of physicians = 54%
- Hospitals; state, local, and private = 24%
- Outpatient care centers = 9%
- Government = 4%
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private = 3%
They work in operating rooms from time to time and are on their feet constantly. In general, physician assistants have a more intense work environment to cope with than medical assistants.
How To Become A Medical Assistant/Physician Assistant
To be a medical assistant you should consider taking the following courses in high school:
Medical assistants typically have a high school diploma or equivalent. Most states have no formal education requirements for medical assistants, but there are formal training options available. By getting formal training you will be more marketable when you look for a job. Training can usually be completed at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, or universities and takes about 1 year to finish. Some states may require that you complete a program as a compulsory requirement before you can become a medical assistant. Often training is offered on-the-job for this line of work. In this way the physician or another medical assistant in the office can teach you:
- Medical terminology
- The names of the instruments
- How to do daily tasks
- How to interact with patients
Although you don’t have to become certified as a medical assistant you will find that many employers will prefer it if you do. You can receive a number of different certifications, including the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) certification from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification from the American Medical Technologists, the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) certification from the National Center for Competency Testing, and the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification from the National Health career Association. For this line of work you will need:
- Analytical skills
- A detail oriented nature
- Interpersonal skills
- Technical skills
The requirements to enter a physician assistant program will depend on the specific program you are applying for, but many programs require you to have:
- A bachelor’s degree
- Some healthcare-related work experience
Programs of this kind take about 2 years to complete and there are 165 accredited programs across the country. It is interesting to note that most of these programs offer master’s degrees, which implies that you will need to have achieved a bachelor’s degree before applying. You will receive classroom and laboratory instruction in:
- Human anatomy
- Clinical medicine
- Physical diagnosis
- Medical ethics
- Supervised clinical training in family medicine
- Supervised clinical training in internal medicine
- Supervised clinical training in emergency medicine
- Supervised clinical training in pediatrics
According to http://www.bls.gov, the following is true for physician assistants: ‘All states and the District of Columbia require physician assistants to be licensed. To become licensed, they must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). After they pass the exam, they may use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified.” Physician assistants must take continuing education to keep their license. Every 6 years, they must pass a re-certification exam or complete an alternative program combining learning experience and a take-home exam’.
The salary expectations for medical assistants are as follows:
- Average salary: $28,860 (in May 2010)
- Lowest 10 percent: less than $20,810
- Top 10 percent: more than $40,190
- Average salary: $86,410 (in May 2010)
- Lowest 10 percent: less than $57,450,
- Top 10 percent: more than $117,720
The area you work in as a physician assistant also affects your salary:
- Hospitals; state, local, and private = $89,500
- Outpatient care centers = 88,160
- Offices of physicians = 85,340
- Government = 85,170
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private = 80,810
Even at the lower end of the scale, physician assistants earn more than medical assistants, but they have to spend more years studying to get where they are.
There will be a 31% increase n the number of medical assistants employed by 2020, due in large part to the baby boom generation reaching old age and requiring more medical attention. Medical facilities in general are growing, as is the primary care sector where most medical assistants are employed. There is also an increase in the number of tasks that a medical assistant is required to do, making them more useful and employable.
The 30% increase we can expect to see here is attributable to the fact that the population is growing and therefore requires more medical professionals to see to its needs. In addition, physician assistants are cheaper than actual physicians but can perform many of the same tasks, making them more sought after.
Although the two jobs may seem similar, on closer examination it soon becomes apparent that there are a number of differences in the medical assistant vs physician assistant and that the two roles are not interchangeable. Although a physician assistant may be able to perform the same tasks as a medical assistant, a medical assistant cannot take the role of a physician assistant for any reason.