New OPM considering MD vs PA

Howdy, y’all! I’m a new OPM (31 y.o., single, no kids) after taking a detour from the very traditional path. During my original UG (3.47 GPA biology/pre-med, never took the MCAT), I figured out that I wasn’t ready for medical school and started pursuing other interests outside of healthcare.

Long story slightly less long, nearly a decade later I’m more convinced than ever that becoming a healthcare provider is the right career for me but I’m struggling with the decision of MD vs PA… I don’t have the requisite healthcare experience that would make me competitive for most PA programs; but I’m going to have to spend 1-2 years full-time refreshing post-bac coursework, taking the MCAT, etc to go to med school - so I could just as easily spend that time working full-time as an EMT, CNA or whatever. The problem is, I can’t do both, so I need to figure out which path I want to pursue sooner rather than later.

I’ve read some compelling statistics about PA that appeal to me (90%+ job satisfaction, 2x patient-interaction time, 42 hr/work-week, etc) but those tend to come from sources that seem incredibly biased towards PA over MD. Furthermore, I’m not 100% sure I’d be happy long-term with the relatively diminished “status” of PA and/or whether I could do the type of international work that is part of my life-plan.

Any thoughts/feedback/etc from the OPM community, especially from those who’ve explored this decision for themselves would be most appreciated!



I briefly considered PA vs MD. I came to the determination that MD would be the more probable route for me to get accepted to based on the amount of work to prep for application. I had no healthcare experience, most of my prereqs were a decade old, and there were some prereqs I had yet to take. I didn’t have the time to dedicate to gaining the 100s/1000s hours of healthcare experience to be considered for PA (was working full time, non-negotiable). Also, I remember something about all of the prereqs needing to be completed within X years of starting school, and heard on some podcast that it might be due to licensing education requirements or something. I would have had to take many more classes to meet the prereq requirements for PA, ended up only needing a couple to apply MD.

Depending on your specialty, you can work as little or as much as you want to as an MD (post-residency). In the end, you’ll have more general training and more specialty-specific training than a PA, and with that comes more autonomy (ie you don’t have to report to a supervisor to sign off on your plan). Some states give mid-level providers a lot more autonomy/privileges than others, so take that into consideration.

If you’re concerned about working internationally, favor the MD route because globally, DO means different things to different people, and as a DO you may not be able to practice everywhere (there are still tons of places you can work). I’m not sure if that applies to humanitarian work or just practicing in those countries.

I answered this on the OPM podcast coming out 6/21!

Hi there Jon,

I know I’m a little late to this post but I just listened to the podcast. I’ve actually been working as a PA for 7 years and the podcast was a bit harsh. PAs do a lot more than treat sniffles. Anyway, just like Ryan mentioned in the podcast, I am planning to apply to medical school to increase my knowledge. Just took the MCAT 7/21. I would suggest shadowing each profession and making your own judgement. Good luck to you no matter what you decide.

Thanks for the replies (including on the podcast!) and sorry for my delayed follow-up…

I did a lot of reflecting and ultimately came down on the side of definitely going MD. Given my personality, I don’t believe PA would have been long-term satisfying for me and I would’ve regretted not going “all the way.”

Thanks again for the insightful advice!


Good timing for the reply. Check out this weeks Premed Years!