There are a few differences, and many similarities between a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician Assistant. When deciding which path may be right for you, there are a wide variety of variables to consider. The degree requirements, flexibility of practice, and the salary details can all factor in to which program might be right for you.
Schooling, and Training
A Physician Assistant attends two years of graduate schooling, and will graduate with a Masters in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS). A Nurse Practitioner similarly attends a two-year program to acquire a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN). Almost any undergraduate degree can be used to apply to PA school, as long as certain course requirements are met. Whereas, to apply to a MSN program, the applicant must have a BSN degree.
Flexibility in Practice, and Work Environments
A Physician Assistant must have a Physician supervising them. A Nurse Practitioner is an independent practitioner, and does not need a Physician to practice. A Nurse Practitioner can also start their own practice, whereas a Physician Assistant cannot unless there is a partnering Physician. Both a Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner can work in a hospital or private practice setting.
Salary, and Specialties.
The salary for a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician Assistant tend to be extremely similar, with a Nurse Practitioner getting paid slightly more. Different specialties such as Surgical, or Neurology, tend to have higher salaries for both a Physician Assistant, as well as a Nurse Practitioner. There are the same specialties available to a Nurse Practitioner as there is for a Physician Assistant.