In the hospital, you may see a doctor or a nurse practitioner. The education and professional paths necessary for these occupations may appear to be similar to the untrained eye. A nurse practitioner is not a doctor because NPs have less education than MDs. 

What you need to know to choose between a career as a nurse practitioner or a doctor:

Different everyday roles 

Nurse practitioners are advanced nursing practitioners (APRNs). Patient care coordination usually includes primary and/or specialized care. Nurse practitioners commonly combine the roles of registered nurses and physicians. These duties include taking medical histories, doing physical exams, drafting patient care plans, and operating diagnostic equipment. They then administer medication after conducting diagnostic testing. In some states, nurse practitioners can diagnose and prescribe medications instead of registered nurses. In some circumstances, they must first see a doctor). 

What is a doctor's role? 

Doctors examine a patient's medical history and test results for anomalies. They then prescribe treatments, address patient concerns, and counsel patients on long-term self-care. Doctors can also diagnose and prescribe drugs without supervision. Your everyday responsibilities as an MD will vary depending on your expertise. 

Educational differences

It is commonly known that becoming a nurse practitioner or even a doctor requires substantial education. Regardless of whether you select nursing or medical school, you will be striving to better the lives of others for the rest of your life. Nurse practitioners can work while earning their nursing degrees, making it easier to reconcile work and school. 

Maintaining employment while completing a doctorate or master's degree is achievable, especially with online graduate nursing schools. To practice as a nurse practitioner, you must meet the following requirements:

  • BSN
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam. 
  • Get a graduate degree. 
  • Become a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) 

Doctors spend more time on education than nurse practitioners: A four-year medical school is followed by an American Medical Association-approved residency program. Depending on the specialty, residency programs can last three years or longer. Preparation to be a qualified doctor includes: 

  • Obtain a bachelor's degree. 
  • Preparation for the MCAT® is highly advised. 
  • Obtain an MD from an authorized university. 
  • Pass the US National Board of Medical Examiners  (USMLE) (NBME)
  • Get a residency card. 
  • Get a state-issued license. 
  • Obtain a governing board certification. (optional) 

Various research fields 

Many doctors choose specialization over general practice, which some may select. The heart is the domain of cardiovascular surgeons, whereas gastroenterologists treat the digestive system and other organs. Those who intend to follow one of these specialties must first complete a residency program. 

Nurse practitioners can provide primary care because their nursing specialties are often broader than most physicians. Typical MSN concentrations include: 

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner 
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 
  • Nursing Education 
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner 
  • Nurse Executive
  • Family Nurse Practitioner 
  • Public Health Nursing 
  • Nursing Informatics

Earnings gap 

In 2018, the average annual salary for a nurse practitioner was $113,930, or $54.78 per hour. An average annual wage of $38,640 is much above the national average of $38,640. Between 2018 and 2028, the number of APRN positions is expected to grow by 26%, which is much higher than the national average of 5%. That brings the overall number of NP positions in the United States to 240,700. 

This means that doctors are one of the most well-paid professions in America; they make an average hourly wage of more than $100. The average student loan debt for medical students is around $200,000, not including whatever debt they may have racked up while pursuing their bachelor’s or graduate degrees. Most of them work between 40 and 60 hours per week, with others clocking in more than 100 hours per week. 


In today's healthcare system, both doctors and nurse practitioners play vital roles, yet their responsibilities differ. Choosing between a doctor and a nurse practitioner can be difficult, so take the time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each.

May 12, 2023

Natasha Osei

Passionate Nurse Practitioner | People person
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