APP to MD: Is it Right for You?

Dawn Pascale

As an Advanced Practice Professional, you’ve spent years of hard work getting to this point.  Undergraduate and graduate school, board exams, clinical rotations; now – finally – you’re employed in one of the most respected capacities in healthcare.  This is a remarkable accomplishment.  Still, as you work alongside your physician colleagues, do you find yourself wondering if you still have milestones to reach?  Does the idea of being able to offer your patients an enhanced level of care give you goosebumps?  Could you do what they do?  Could you do it better?  Is it time to consider getting an MD degree?

Studies of APPs’ levels of job satisfaction have shown that most don’t have a “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality.  A survey conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration found that 92% of APPs were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their careers; it goes without saying that this is an enviable job satisfaction rating for any profession.  So, while their vocation fulfills the majority of APPs, some yearn for something new.  Are you one of these individuals?

As an APP, you already have an intimate understanding of a doctor’s world, so you are in a unique position when deciding to join the physician fraternity.  However, just like when you’re making any major decision, it’s best to make a list of both the good and the not-so-good aspects of a potential career change.  Here’s a look at the pros and cons of going from an APP to an MD:


  • Potential for Bigger Bucks – Not surprisingly, the ceiling for earnings is substantially higher for MDs than for APPs. The average specialist physician makes $284,000, while primary care providers pull in $195,000. APPs average $109,000. Money talks – are you listening?
  • You’re the Boss –Presently, physicians experience a greater degree of autonomy than APPs. In every situation, a physician can basically work independently.  If you want to call all the shots in every practice setting, then head to medical school.
  • Do More – Physicians can treat more complex medical issues than anyone else. Moreover, if you long to handle anesthesiology or perform surgery, you may find additional medical training very rewarding.


  • Medical School is Not Cheap – In fact, it’s a staggering expense, often costing north of $200,000. Some call it finance-induced servitude as loans can take many years to pay off. Seriously consider the level of debt you will have after leaving school.  Too often the cost isn’t realized until that first bill $1,000-$2,000 shows up.
  • It’s a Grind – If you talk to doctors, they will be the first to tell you that they have sacrificed their time and energy for the care of their patients, often forsaking themselves and their family. With long hours, late nights or weekends on call, finding that healthy work-life balance will be challenging.
  • In It For the Long Haul – As a physician you are effectively confined to your chosen specialty for life. This can be a good or bad reality, depending on whom you ask.

Don’t be overwhelmed.  It is certainly a lot to consider.  The rub about medicine is that you really don’t know what you love and hate until you get in there and get your hands dirty.  Contact a healthcare recruiter, like us, the people at MedSource Consultants, to discuss these pros and cons in depth.  Listening attentively and helping guide medical professionals through life-changing decisions is what we do.  After all, job satisfaction is crucial to your overall happiness.  So give us a call and let’s talk about what would make you content in the long term.  We are here to help you with your journey in any way we can.