PA School vs Medical School

pa school vs medical school

Why did I choose to go to PA school instead of medical school?

Great question.  I wrestled with this question for years and I actually applied to medical school initially and was put on the waiting list. As time passed I began to reevaluate the PA school vs medical school question, especially after I started working in a residency program office.  In the end these were my top reasons:

  1. Lifestyle–The older I get the more I realize how important it is to stop and enjoy life.   God has given us so many blessings every day that I don’t want to miss out on. At the residency program where I worked for 2 years, I was responsible for organizing resident’s schedules and rotations, which opened my eyes to how busy medical residents are each day!  I want to be able to travel, spend time with family and notice the small things.  A fast-paced lifestyle  just isn’t so appealing anymore.
  2. Part-time Option.  During the early years I researched part-time residency programs and physician job opportunities thinking I could have the best of both worlds, but I found very few options. PAs, on the other hand, have more flexibility to work part-time. Dennis and I want to have kids one day and I don’t want to miss out on those precious years when they are little. I also love being at home and doing things around the house, helping Dennis, cooking, blogging, etc.  Before I decided on PA school I really struggled with whether or not I was willing to sacrifice those interests for a job.
  3. Less debt. I hate being in debt.  $40,000 in debt sounds a whole lot better than $80-100,000.  And being debt free in 2 years vs 6-7 years also sounds amazing.  I want to be able to buy a car, a house, a trip to Hawaii (a girl can dream) without feeling the weight of school debt.  If Dennis would let me I would probably eat beans and PB&J everyday to pay off loans faster, I would, but he keeps me grounded.
  4. Fewer “on-call” responsibilities.  Dennis job requires him to be on call every week and let me tell you…it gets old.  I don’t want to be woken up every few nights to respond to someone else’s issues.  I like sleep. Though some PAs take jobs where they are on call, in general, there is less expectation for PAs to have on-call responsibilities.
  5. Specialties.  I get to change specialties very easily!  If you want to change specialties as a physician you have to complete a 3 year residency program.  I love change and I change my mind quite frequently, so I am glad I won’t be stuck in one specialty for my entire life.
  6. Responsibility.  Although PAs are responsible for their own decisions, sometimes the supervising physician in an office takes responsibility in certain matters. It may sound awesome to be the one in charge, but if I were honest…I am really glad certain decisions don’t always have to fall on me.  I’m glad a supervising physician will be around to handle some of the difficult cases.
  7. Patient Centered Care.  It seems to me that PAs have more time with the patient (I know this is not true in all clinics).  I like how PA curriculum emphasizes patient education and preventive medicine.  This is important to me and hopefully to my patients and the healthcare industry too.


In the end it turned out PA school was a better fit for me.  I had a mentor when I was really questioning PA school versus medical school. She told me one day, “It sounds like what you want lines up better with PA school.”  I didn’t believe her.  I was so sure that becoming a PA would be like settling somehow, and people would think I wasn’t smart enough for medical school.  I thought PA school was for medical school rejects or people that weren’t good enough.  Since starting PA school I can definitely tell you I was wrong.  My classmates and professors are very talented and amazingly smart.

In the end “who is smarter than who” doesn’t matter.  What does matters is: discovering what God designed for you, finding what makes you happy, a job that you look forward to each day, and a career that leaves you feeling satisfied and believing you made a difference. It is your life and you cannot worry about what anyone else thinks.


(Updated on 4/15/14)

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  1. This was very helpful and inspiring!

  2. Just stumbled across your blog and reading this cemented in my mind that PA school is for me! I just applied this past cycle to one school and did not get accepted, but I am encouraged to try again this summer and see where God leads me. Thanks for the post!

  3. I manage physician offices and the PA’s cover call on weekends and evenings just like my docs. Also as a PA you have liability as well, to make the statement that all of the responsible is on the doc is unrealistic.

    • Thanks for your comment. I don’t think I was implying PAs have no liability, but I’ve made some updates to further clarify this.

  4. You’re a fantastic and inspiring writer. That last paragraph is exactly what I have been thinking for so long yet have never been able to put into words. Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Seeing it’s been about a year since you posted this, have any of your thoughts changed? Do you have any regrets not going to med school now?

    • Awesome question! Surprisingly, most of my thoughts are exactly the same. I am so glad I chose PA school over medical school. I will be done in 5 months, and I can hardly wait to start practicing. I truly love PA school and I am sure I will love being a PA just as much. I do understand the role of a physician assistant better now, but I think the post still holds true.

    • Hi! I’m sorry I know that this is an old post but I am a high school senior who is unsure of whether or not to be a nurse practitioner or a PA. I would like to know your thoughts on the difference between the two. My older brother is applying to medical school, and I would like to know if PA school is just as competitive. I am very much a planner, and would love to be able to know exactly the path I am going to take going into my freshman year of college.

      • Hey Megan. I just saw this comment. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about the NP path to give you a good answer. PA school is very competitive, similar to medical school. Hope that helps.

  6. says:

    Did you go straight into PA school after college? I am looking into PA school, and wondering what is the best way to get the “clinical experience” that is needed. What was your path? Thank you for sharing. It sounds like God gave you peace and joy in your decision. Blessings to you and your family!

    • I actually worked for a couple of years before I started PA School. My background was in research and then I worked at a Family Medicine clinic. As for getting clinical experience, just find something you enjoy. There was a large variety of backgrounds and experiences in my class, including: EMTs, nursing home assistants, phlebotomy, CNAs, PT, pharmacist, athletic trainers, etc. No background or experience was any better than another. Good luck on your journey!

  7. Hi i was quite curious and tbh what you explained on your reasons gave me the idea that perhaps PA is best for me as well
    But what wpuld you recomend to a college student going to be a sophmore things to avoid and things to consider ??? Becasue
    I do agree life is meaningful and i would be devistated if i missed one of my someday kids moments (later in the future) …. or even then my family

    • I would recommend looking at the admission requirements for the program you are interested. Use those as a guide to obtain volunteer and patient care hours. It’s never to early to start gaining meaningful experience.

  8. I think this is exactly what I needed to read. Your goals sound similar to mine and all of your reasoning is very logical. It also encouraging to know you don’t feel like you “dropped out” of medical school for the second best option. Thank you!

Thanks for commenting!!