PA to MD: How to Transform Your Healthcare Career in 11 Steps

What would be your thoughts on this? I think I’ve heard of something like that but don’t know if any program exists. With PAs pushing for independent practice and more scope of practice to the point that they’re creating doctorate degrees, shouldn’t there be a bridge program to allow PAs to become MDs? Say after certain amount of years of practice in a given specialty, and a certain amount of CME, they could begin a residency program in that specialty?

PA to MD: Physician Assistant to Medical Doctor | BeMo Academic Consulting

What is a doctor?

A doctor is a medical professional who also treats patients, diagnoses their illnesses and writes prescriptions. A doctor can treat patients independently. They may also be able to perform certain surgical procedures as needed. Many doctors specialize in certain areas of medicine and are trusted to fully diagnose and treat patients.

What is a PA?

Though PAs work under the supervision of doctors, physician assistants can examine patients, write prescriptions and order tests. Similar to doctors, they can also suggest lifestyle changes to patients, stitch wounds, set bones, give immunizations and maintain the records of patients. Physician assistants need to earn a masters degree and pass a licensing exam to practice.

The differences between a PA and an MD

Here are some of the main differences between a PA and MD:


Though many job duties of a PA and MD overlap, they do have some key differences. The first difference is their level of education. Both careers require a four-year college degree, typically in a science or healthcare-related major.

After they get their bachelors degree, an aspiring PA attends a two- to three-year PA program. An aspiring doctor attends medical school for four years. Both programs focus on clinical rotations in the latter part of their curriculums. However, medical school gives students a deeper knowledge of medicine. Typically applicants for both educational routes need to complete a set of prerequisites and get experience in the medical profession to get admitted.

After they complete their program, an aspiring PA needs to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Then they can officially begin working. After medical school, doctors need to complete a residency and sometimes a fellowship, then apply for a state license to practice.

Job duties

Though PAs and doctors have many similar responsibilities, a PA works under the supervision of a doctor. They may assist the doctor with surgery, examine patients, make diagnoses and create treatment plans. Doctors work more independently than PAs and complete more advanced tasks, such as performing procedures.


How to go from a PA to an MD

PAs may choose to become a doctor for many reasons, including to make more money, have more independence or gain new responsibilities. Here are the steps you can take to transition from a PA to an MD:

1. Reflect on your career path

Before even applying to medical school, make sure you truly want to become a doctor. If you want to have more responsibilities and do more administrative work, then you could be ready to make this exciting career change. Similar to becoming a PA, becoming a doctor requires time, hard work and dedication.

Also, consider if you want to be a general physician or specialize in a certain area of medicine. Specialty doctors go through an additional fellowship after their residency.

2. Research medical schools

Research medical schools that will fit your requirements. For instance, some medical schools have accelerated programs where you can get your medical degree in three years rather than four. This is a good option for those looking to do less schooling and become a doctor as soon as possible, though the programs can be more intensive.

3. Calculate your student debt

Its important to calculate how much student debt you will have after medical school (in addition to any outstanding student debt you currently have). This way, you can budget and figure out your lifestyle during school.

4. Complete your prerequisites

To be admitted to medical school, you may need to complete a set of prerequisites. These will vary by school, and sometimes, your prior education and/or experience as a PA will satisfy these admission requirements. Review the different prerequisites for schools youre interested in attending to ensure you have the right qualifications.

5. Take the MCAT

Medical schools require applicants to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Though what you learned as PA will help you, its important to diligently study to get the best score possible.

In addition to the MCAT, you will need to write a personal statement and get letters of recommendation.

6. Complete medical school

Most medical school programs last four years. They are divided into two sections: instruction and clinical rotations. During instruction, you will learn from classroom lectures and labs. During your rotations, you will work in a real medical setting and learn by working with patients. As a PA, you may have an advantage since you work with patients on a regular basis.

7. Get a medical license

Similar to having to get licensed as a PA, you also have to get licensed as an MD. You need to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination. There are three steps of the exam that youll take throughout medical school and sometimes into your residency. You usually take the first step in between your second and third year of school, then pass step two during your third year. You usually complete the final portion after you graduate. The number of times you can take it varies based on your location.

Once you pass the USMLE, you can apply to be an MD to your state licensing board. You usually need to show proof that you passed the USMLE and graduated from an accredited medical school. Some states have additional requirements, such as passing a background test. You need to renew your license based on your states most current guidelines.

8. Complete a residency

During medical school, you need to apply for a residency program. During this time, you decide which programs you prefer. Aspiring doctors must complete three to seven years of postgraduate residency training. This is the time to get comfortable as a doctor and apply all your knowledge and training.

9. Pass a board exam

Nearly all doctors become board certified by earning at least one credential from the American Board of Medical Specialties. You need to complete the examination based on your area of practice, such as surgery or internal medicine. You can become board certified in as many areas as you choose, as long as you complete the prerequisites.

10. Consider a fellowship to specialize

This step is completely optional. Those wanting to specialize need to earn a certificate in a specialty area. Examples include cardiology, neurology, oncology and radiology. To earn a specialty certification, you need to undergo a fellowship, which can depend on your specialization. Some fellowships can last three years.

11. Apply for jobs

Toward the end of your residency or fellowship, begin applying for jobs. Create a CV or resume that reflects your education, qualifications, publications and achievements. Including your experience as a PA can help you stand out from other candidates as it gives you additional experience.


Is there a path from PA to MD?

Unfortunately, no. The path to becoming an MD is the same regardless of whether you have worked as a physician assistant or not. However, you will find some steps of the process easier if you have this experience already.

Can you transition from PA to doctor?

PA to MD: How You Can Transform Your Medical Career

Some providers, however, are interested in advancing from their current role as a physician assistant (PA) to a Doctor of Medicine (MD). To transition from PA to MD, you’ll need to apply to medical schools, attend an MD program, and complete residency training.

Is a PA as good as an MD?

Duties that MDs and PAs Can Perform

Another major difference between an MD and a PA is that doctors can legally practice independently while a PA always requires supervision. Both can do the following: Diagnose and treat patients. Perform medical procedures in the office.

How long does it take to become a doctor after PA?

PAs must still complete the same full four-year doctoral program as any medical or osteopathic student, as well as completing an approved residency program in their chosen field of medicine.

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