Study Guide

Nurse Practitioners Vs Doctors – Difference, Salary & More

Differences between Nurse Practitioners Vs Doctors, Their Salary, Deegree, Cost & More

Would you be treated by a nurse practitioner at your doctor’s appointment in the future?


Most probably. Why, you may ask? By 2030, the projected shortage of physicians in the world is expected to reach 200,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the demand for nurse practitioners will increase by 26% in the next decade, due to the increasing demand for care in the ageing population today (E.g. Baby Boomer Generation) and growing focus on preventative care.

As the world continues to develop, with more and more countries becoming developed, the lifestyle of people begin to change. Technological advancements also play a major role. Instead of walking or cycling to work, we are gravitating towards cars or buses. In addition, fast food chains are also gaining worldwide popularity, and all these factors result in the spike of patients in hospitals (E.g. Diabetes, stroke, etc.) With the increasing demand for primary healthcare providers (doctors), nurse practitioners (NPs) are starting to replace their role, with greater authority, hence addressing the recent problem of primary care shortage.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 86.6 percent of NPs are certified in an area of primary care. Similar to doctors, they are trained to evaluate patients, diagnose diseases, and prescribe medication to patients. Although NPs are not doctors by definition, they also undergo a rigorous education and training process.

The training process to becoming a doctor involves learning about the treatment of diseases through medication, medical procedures and surgery.

As for NPs, their training process mainly focuses on caring for patients and having the knowledge to diagnose and treat common ailments. Hence, a doctors’ knowledge of the different illnesses will be wider than that of in NPs as their education and training covers more specific and less well-known diseases.

Differences Between Doctors Vs. Nurse Practitioners

Job Description

Doctor Job Description

Doctors provide an in-depth scope of diagnosis and treatment of a patient’s injuries or illnesses. This is conducted through patient examinations and diagnostics, and taking into consideration one’s medical history. Their job also consists of medication prescriptions, and counselling on long-term health-related elements such as diet and preventative healthcare.

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Doctor will typically work different specialties, known as specializations. Some specialties such as family and general physicians assess and treat a broad spectrum of conditions that are common in people. Other specialties focus on a specific aspect of healthcare, such as pediatrics or internists.

Doctors are:

  • In charge of patients’ well-being and conditions throughout one’s stay in the hospital (From diagnosis, hospitalization, to discharge)
  • Evaluate patients’ medical history records
  • Review lab test results or diagnostic test results to identify abnormal observations
  • Update patients’ records and charts
  • Evaluate new findings and provide the best and most appropriate treatment for patients
  • Ordering lab tests or other diagnostic tests and examinations for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
  • Design and prescribe the best treatment plan for patients
  • Recommend proper nutrition plans or extra precautions to take for patients and their families after hospital discharge
  • Address any concerns or questions brought up by the patient or family members

Nurse Practitioner Job Description

NPs are also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and they are typically in charge of two duties:

  • To coordinate patient care, and
  • To provide healthcare on a primary and specialized level.

In some cases, NPs can provide specialized care within specific groups of patients, such as pregnant women, or patients with mental health disorders.

While NPs can work in collaboration with physicians, they have the authority, and can work independently in some instances.

Nurse Practitioners are:

  • In charge of patients’ overall care (In the period of hospitalization)
  • Update and maintain hospital records of patients (Including tests performed in the hospital setting like X-rays and blood tests, as well as a record of the patients’ vitals (E.g. Blood pressure and heart rates)
  • Treat chronic and acute illnesses in patients.
  • Prescribe patients’ treatments and medications
  • Perform and interpret lab tests and other diagnostic tests such as blood test and X-rays
  • General patient and family counseling
  • Educate patients and families on disease prevention, minimizing risks, and positive health and lifestyle choices

Doctor and Nurse Practitioner ability to prescribe medications for patients

Doctor ability to prescribe medications for patients

Doctors are allowed to prescribe all drugs classified under any of the 4 Schedules for patients.

Nurse Practitioners ability to prescribe medications for patients

Medicinal drugs are classified into different categories, known as “Schedules”. There are a total of 4 Schedules, namely Schedule II, III, IV, and V drugs. The lower the Schedule number, the higher the potential a drug has to be abused/misused and hence, dangerous, and therefore requires a higher level of regulation.

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For example, the state of Oklahoma only allows drugs classified under Schedule III, IV, and V to be prescribed by NPs, and not Schedule II drugs. NPs’ level of autonomy also varies depending on one’s country or state of practice. Some states such as Texas requires NPs to be in collaborative agreements with doctors in other to describe drugs or treatments for patients.

Salary of a Doctor Vs. Nurse Practitioner

Doctor Salary – How much do Doctors make?

Physicians and Doctors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), earned a mean annual wage of US$208,000 per year or US$100.00/hour for full-time workers. Here were the wage percentiles:

10th percentile: $73,240
25th percentile: $138,100
50th percentile (median): $198,740
75th percentile: N/A (>$208,000 annually)
90th percentile: N/A (>$208,000 annually)

Nurse Practitioners Salary – How much do nurse practitioners make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019), the mean annual salary for a full-time NP was US$115,800 per year, or US$55.67/hour for full-time workers. Here were the wage percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $74,840
  • 25th percentile: $88,810
  • 50th percentile (median): $103,880
  • 75th percentile: $123,070
  • 90th percentile: $145,630

Doctor and Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook (Over the next decade)

Doctor Job Outlook

Increase in demand by 7%

Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

Increase in demand by 26%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations

Doctor and Nurse Practitioner Education

Doctor Education – How long does it take to become a doctor and Degree

To become either a certified Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), it will take an average of 12 years of education and training (after earning a Bachelor’s degree in university) to become a MD or DO.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), MDs and DOs must earn a bachelor’s degree in an area relevant to the science field (E.g. Pre-med, biology, chemistry, etc.), and finish medical school, as well as years of residency.

  • 3 to 4 years of earning a Bachelor’s degree
  • 4 years of medical school
  • 8 years of internship and residency

Even after becoming a certified doctor, one has to renew their license regularly. As technologies continues to advance and new drugs are invented, one has to be up-to-date with these new knowledge, and hence, pursuing such career means you are embarking on a life-long learning process.

Continuing Medical Education (CME) or Continuing Education and Improvement (CEI) requirements vary by state, and majority of them requires one’s medical licence to be renewed every 1 to 3 years.

There is also a requirement for one’s CME credit hours per year: 20 to 50 hours. These must be focused on different specializations.

Nurse Practitioner Education – How long does it take to become a Nurse Practitioner and Degree

It takes 6 to 8 years of education and training to become a certified NP.

  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) – Four years
  • Graduate nursing education (MSN or DNP) – Two to four years
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NPs typically have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) and at least a master’s degree in nursing (MSN).
Doctor in nursing practice (DNP) degrees are also available.

Similarly, even after becoming a certified NP, one has to renew their license regularly. As technologies continues to advance and new drugs are invented, an NP has to be up-to-date with these new knowledge, and hence, pursuing such career means you are embarking on a life-long learning process.

Continuing Nursing Education (CNE or CE) requirements also vary by specialization and state. In general, NPs must renew their state APRN licenses every 1 to 2 years with varying CE requirements.
If one have chosen a specialization, these certifications need to be renewed every 1 to 5 years, and they typically require 75 hours of qualifying CE to renew.

Doctor and Nurse Practitioner Specializations

Doctor Specializations List

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Family and general physicians
  • General internists
  • General pediatricians
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Surgeons
  • Allergists
  • Cardiologists
  • Dermatologists
  • Neurologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Pathologists
  • Radiologists

Nurse Practitioner Specializations List

  • Adult-Gerontological Health
  • Family Health
  • Neonatal Health
  • Pediatric/Child Health
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health
  • Women’s Health

Ways to earn a degree – Doctor Vs. Nurse Practitioner

Doctor Degree – How to get a Doctor degree

Majority of doctors earn their medical degrees in medical school where they attend classes in classrooms and attend practical classes by spending long hours in the hospital and clinical settings.

It is almost impossible to have a job while you are studying in medical school due to the overwhelmingly large amount of content you are expected to learn and memorize within a short amount of time.

Most medical students call it as: Trying to drink water from the firehose.

Nurse Practitioner Degree – How to get a nurse practitioner degree

Fortunately, for those who want to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), there are other options than the traditional route in school.
You can complete your master’s program in nursing through online education, which allows to continue working, and at the same time, procure quality education from the comfort of your home.

Doctor Vs. Nurse Practitioner Cost of Education

Doctor Education Cost – How much does it cost to become a Doctor?

The cost of education for a doctor is one of the most expensive degrees, with many students graduating with a six-figure debt load of approximately $200,000–$400,000.

Fortunately, there are ways to attend medical school without having such a huge student debt. Attending a MD/PhD program provides a debt-free option, however, there is a longer time commitment than the traditional pathway.

Service loan payment programs are also a great option if you practice in underserved areas when you complete all your training or offer service to the country through a military route.

Hence, becoming a doctor is costly, both financially and time.

Nurse Practitioner Education Cost – How much does it cost to become a RN?

Online programs costs about $400-$800 per credit unit, and ultimately average to about $22,500 for a nurse practitioner degree.

Private universities cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per credit unit, and average to about $45,000 or more for your NP program.

Doctor Vs. Nurse Practitioner Work Environment

Doctor Work Environment

The main difference between the work environment of a doctor or a NP is physical.

Other than conducting ward rounds at work, a doctor mainly spends their time in the consultation room, and meeting different patients.

Nurse Practitioner Work Environment

The work environment of NPs are generally more tiring than a doctor, as they tend to spend majority of their work hours standing on their feet. They are also often in charge of moving and lifting patients, which may make them vulnerable to injuries in the long run.


Nurse practitioners and doctors are both crucial and equally important in helping and improving the quality of life for patients. NPs have a multifaceted role in making a positive impact on the overall well-being of patients, by providing personal guidance for them in the hospital setting. They mainly play a supportive role in diagnosis and treatment, and a main role in patient care. In collaboration with doctors, they help to alleviate the lives of patients, and are key to providing high-quality healthcare for everyone.


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