doctor vs nurse

Doctor vs. Nurse [An In-Depth Guide]

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The medical field is rife with numerous personalities and professions. Many career opportunities are available for a person looking to make a living from caring for the sick. 

If you take a glance at a hospital’s payroll, you’ll see that there are many jobs and roles involved in the process of keeping people healthy. However, in my experience, most people gravitate towards two job titles: doctor vs. nurse

doctor vs nurse

I guess there is no questioning that these two jobs are among the most prevalent medical professions. Medical dramas and shows that showcase doctors and nurses’ fast-paced and thrilling life are abundant on TV.

Aside from being popular material in the entertainment world, the doctor and nursing professions are also the most sought after, with thousands studying them. 

Are you curious to know more about doctors and nurses? More specifically, are you interested to learn more about the differences between these two jobs?

If that’s the case, then look no further! I will go over and discuss where doctors and nurses diverge and meet in the middle. 

Are you ready to know everything about a doctor vs. a nurse? Keep reading to find out more!

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One of the primary differences between doctors and nurses is their education. They differ in length, scope, cost, and difficulty — but that’s more of a personal preference than anything.

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How Long Do Doctors And Nurses Study?

Studying in a nursing school can take anywhere between two years to six. The duration of your stay there depends on what qualification you’re trying to get. 

Those looking for an associate degree only need to study for two years and can start looking for work right after. Meanwhile, those in school for a bachelor’s degree or a BSN have to study for four grueling yet fulfilling years. Lastly, getting a master’s in nursing takes six challenging years to complete. 

For most schools offering degrees in nursing, a high school diploma or equivalent is one of the basic requirements for admission. 

On the other hand, going to medical school is a longer journey than nursing. Before entry, you will need to have an undergraduate degree in a science-related field and a high GPA

Med school itself takes at least four years to finish. And let me tell you, going to medical school is no joke! 

After med school, an aspiring doctor will have to take up residency for three to seven years. The amount of time it takes to be a doctor totals up to at most 15 years!

What Do Doctors And Nurses Study?

Aside from the difference in duration, doctors and nurses also differ in what they study. Aspiring doctors focus more on general science and physiology, whereas aspiring nurses study individual patient management

Since doctors study more, we also need to have more resources to help us absorb the material efficiently. Resources such as this simple, three-step learning strategy are beneficial for aspiring doctors.

Doctors and nurses are both instilled with dedication, sacrifice, and passion throughout their education despite the difference in curriculum.

doctor vs nurse

How Much Does Becoming A Doctor Or Nurse Cost?

One thing that sways aspiring healthcare workers is the sheer cost of education. In my experience, med school was by no means cheap. 

Lots of money was poured into my education, and I’m sure the same is true for other doctors as well. Since going to school for medicine takes at least 10 to 15 years, the tuition fees can amount to quite a lot of money.

The average cost of studying medicine is at the very least $30,000 to over $200,000, depending on the university. While there are plenty of scholarships available, these grants are often very competitive and cut-throat.

Another thing to consider with med school is how soon you can start earning back the money you spent on learning. Med school takes years to finish, so you can’t start making money immediately.

On the other hand, nursing school is a bit easier on the wallet. An average year in nursing school can cost $40,000 to $100,000.

However, nursing school takes less time to complete, so you only have to pay for tuition for at least four years. Additionally, you can join the workforce and earn money to pay back any student loans in less time.

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Which Is More Difficult?

Doctor vs. nurse: Since nursing school and medical school tackle different topics, it is difficult to say which is the more challenging course. However, one thing remains true: both professions work to uphold and improve a patient’s well-being and quality of life.

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Roles And Duties

Aside from education, doctors and nurses also differ in their roles and duties as healthcare workers. I’ve enumerated some of the critical roles and responsibilities of both doctors and nurses for your comparison.

Doctor vs. Nurse

A nurse:

  • Carries out the treatments prescribed by a doctor and cannot prescribe treatment themselves.
  • Deals with patients up close.
  • Handles the everyday tasks that are needed to help the patient.
  • Deals with short-term, immediate problems.
  • Communicates with both doctor and patient as a liaison. 
  • Take care of immediate procedural tasks such as IV, gastric tubes, etc. 

Meanwhile, a doctor:

  • Prescribes treatments.
  • Studies and analyzes the patient’s problems and looks for a solution.
  • Has the final say in the treatment process and often has the most responsibility in establishing patient management
  • Take care of more invasive procedures such as central lines, arterial lines, dialysis catheters, paracentesis, thoracentesis, as well as various types of surgeries

As you can see, doctors and nurses fulfill very different roles in the healthcare sector. 

One way to look at the differences between doctors and nurses is by considering that doctors tackle patients from the disease model. This fact means that medical doctors focus on diagnosing and treating their patients to the best of their abilities.

On the other hand, nurses have an individualized and personal care model for their patients. This fact means they focus on providing one-on-one, intimate care for their patients as their primary welfare advocates.

Because medical school teaches doctors the science of the body and diseases, they are more inclined to treat those. Meanwhile, nurses are trained how to care for and uplift a patient’s well-being, so they focus on that aspect.

Doctors and nurses are very different in this regard. Ultimately, a doctor and a nurse have to work together to help the patient feel better as soon as possible.

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Career Opportunities

Doctors and nurses also differ in the career opportunities available to them after graduating from school. However, the fields they can work in are practically the same.

I’ve enumerated some of the possible career paths that both doctors and nurses can pursue:

  • hospital or clinical work
  • administrative work (nurse management or hospital management)
  • public health
  • education
  • care facilities
  • government 


Doctors and nurses fulfill different roles and thus receive different compensation for their work. However, one thing is sure, both doctors and nurses are paid generously for their hard work and dedication. 

On average, a nurse earns anywhere between $30,000 to $60,000 annually. A doctor, on the other hand, makes over $250,000-300,000 in a single year depending on the specialty.

One helpful tip for aspiring healthcare workers: don’t let the numbers rule your life. Remember, we do this not for the paycheck but for the sake of helping people achieve an even better quality of life by improving their health.

Aside from generous salaries, doctors and nurses also receive various benefits from private and public institutions for their unwavering service.


For a nurse to be allowed to work and practice, they must first obtain a license. Licenses for nurses are acquired depending on the requirements of the state.

Some states require additional certification for various specialties such as neonatal and pediatric care.

A licensed nurse is called a registered nurse or RN. A licensed nurse practitioner is called an NP.

The licensure for doctors also depends on the requirements per state. An aspiring doctor must obtain an MD or DO according to the rules of the state. 

Since doctors have specializations, they must also be certified for these. These certifications are regularly renewed. 

A person looking to obtain an MD should complete the required licensing examination.

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Another admittedly minor difference between nurses and doctors is their attire. 

Doctors are known for their iconic white coats. Under these coats, they can wear professional or hospital-prescribed clothes such as scrubs.

Nurses do not wear white coats. Instead, they are more commonly seen donning hospital scrubs.

This could be because a nurse has to dash around the hospital at times, and a coat can make that too tiring or uncomfortable.


Doctor vs. nurse: Doctors and nurses fulfill different roles in the healthcare sector because of their difference in education. It follows that they also have different salaries for the services they provide. 

Both of these medical professionals can pursue careers in various trajectories that do not always have to be in the hospital. Doctors and nurses can have jobs in the academe, in policy-making, and many more.

In the end, despite their differences, doctors and nurses are tasked to do the same thing. They both have to care for a patient.

Doctors employ a more scientific approach to caring for their patients. That is to say, we doctors have to diagnose and prescribe the proper treatments to ensure a patient gets better.

On the other hand, nurses spend time and provide the patient with primary care. This includes administering treatment, bathing them, and even feeding the patient. 

Despite these differences, doctors and nurses are both integral to the healthcare sector. They both care for, health, and uplift lives. 

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