NPs vs MDs: Unraveling the Differences

Navigating the healthcare field can be complex. Understanding the distinctions is crucial with roles ranging from nurse practitioners to physicians. 

A frequent question is the difference between Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Medical Doctors (MDs). 

Let’s break it down in this blog article.

Career Differences Between Nurse Practitioners and Doctors

Career Differences NPs vs MDs


Roles and Responsibilities

Most NPs work in primary care, and their responsibilities include assessing patients, prescribing treatments, and supervising other healthcare staff like RNs.

MD authority, unlike NPs, remains consistent across states.

Full Practice Authority

While all NPs can evaluate, diagnose, and prescribe medication, their independence is restricted in certain states. 

As of March 2023, in 27 states, NPs can prescribe without oversight.

In reduced-authority states, NPs require physician oversight for prescriptions. Restricted states mandate physician oversight for all NP tasks.

Practice Settings

Nurse Practitioners (NPs):

  • Private group practice
  • Inpatient hospital clinics
  • Outpatient hospital clinics
  • Psychiatric facilities

Doctors (MDs):

  • Private individual settings
  • Group settings
  • Group clinics
  • Academic institutions
  • Larger healthcare systems

Licensure and Specialization

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) pursue a master’s and doctoral degree in nursing. Following that, they seek licensure from their state board of nursing. NPs can obtain board certifications in areas ranging from family care to oncology.

Doctors, after completing their M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degrees, undergo residency and then apply for medical licenses. 

For clarity, a D.O. degree emphasizes an approach to medicine with a strong focus on preventive care and the musculoskeletal system, but both M.D.s and D.O.s are fully licensed physicians.

Education Timeline

Becoming a doctor can take 11-15 years, involving undergraduate programs, medical school, and 3-7 years of residency. 

For NPs, the journey starts with a 4-year undergraduate program to become a Registered Nurse (RN). After becoming an RN, they pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which typically takes another 2-3 years. 

Altogether, the NP education pathway amounts to around 6-7 years.

Education Costs and Debt

Medical education is a hefty investment. Medical students graduate with considerable debt, averaging $194,280 for public schools and $218,746 for private institutions.

NPs average a debt of $47,321. However, given the promising salaries in both fields, many see this as a worthwhile investment.

Salary Expectations


NPs vs MDs salary


Clinical Hours

NPs usually require between 500-600 clinical hours, while medical school demands 6,000, followed by a 9,000-12,000 hour residency, depending on the specialization.


Nurse Practitioners and Medical Doctors are invaluable to the healthcare system, bringing unique skills, training, and perspectives to patient care. 

By appreciating these differences, aspiring NPs can effectively navigate their journey in the medical field, leveraging the unique value that NPs bring to patient care.

If you’re an NP student eager to further your journey, NPHub is here to assist. Securing your rotation hours is a significant step, and with NPHub, you can seamlessly book your preceptor

Join our community today and take a confident step toward your future as an NP.