How To Become A Physician Assistant

physician with assistantBecoming a physician assistant is rather challenging, and students who want to pursue this career path should know that they can spend up to six years or more learning the profession, in both academic and clinical settings. Just like any other job in the health care setting, working as a physician assistant requires a combination of skills and knowledge in the field of examination, surgery, patient care, diagnosis as well as treatment. That being said, here are several guidelines for those who want to become physician assistants in the future.


What Does A Physician Assistant Do?

Also known as a PA, the physician assistant works closely with a licensed physician, in order to provide high quality medical care and attention to patients in need. These professionals take care of patients, administer treatment prescribed by the physician, assist the surgeon in medical interventions, make rounds in hospitals and they also perform various physical examinations and small, basic medical procedures under the close supervision of the physician. In addition to this, the physician assistant can even prescribe medications in some cases, and they can also choose to specialize in one of many different areas of medicine. The PA can work in various clinical settings, including the armed forces, private hospitals, state hospitals as well as community health centers.

These health care professionals also analyze the medical test results and they can perform a variety of clerical and administrative tasks as well, such as managing the inventory, answering phone calls and e-mails and such. It is important to say that becoming a PA requires considerably more than just classroom teaching and hands-on experience, as these professionals must show empathy when working with patients, as most of the patients are in pain or not feeling well. This is a very demanding job from a mental and a physical standpoint, but most PAs say that it is equally rewarding at the same time, even though they sometimes might be required to work nights or even during the holidays.

How To Become A Physician Assistant?

There are several clear steps one needs to take in order to become a certified or licensed PA and to work legally in the United States of America. After getting the high school diploma, students must complete a formal education program that is reviewed and approved by the ARC-PA. ARC-PA stands for the Accreditation Review commission on Education for PAs, and the basic requirements for admission include a bachelor’s degree or some other form of college education, along with a minimum of 36 months of experience in the health care setting. Most of the physician assistants who choose to enroll in these programs already have some experience in either emergency medical care or in nursing.

For most PAs, earning the Bachelor’s Degree in this medical field turns out to be considerably more challenging than getting their Master’s. Most of them are able to pursue an entry level position, but if they want to aim higher they will have to advance their studies – that being said, the Bachelor’s Degree training programs include courses in health care ethics, statistics, medical terminology as well as quantitative methods. Many of those who enroll in these courses already have some experience working as nurses, paramedics or EMTs, experience that certainly come in handy for them throughout the course of the training period.

After getting the Bachelor’s Degree, it is not uncommon for most physician assistants to push their careers in the health care environment a mile further by enrolling in an accredited program that will eventually result in a Master’s degree. These programs typically last for two years, and they include classroom medical instruction, as well as in-depth courses in diagnostics, pharmacology, patient assessment, human anatomy as well as physiology. At the end of the two-year training program, students should have all the theoretical and the practical knowledge they need in order to work as PAs, under the close supervision of a licensed physician.

physicians with female assistant

Getting Your License As A Physician Assistant

Once you have managed to obtain your Master’s Degree in the field, it is important to move on an pursue your licensure in order to practice in the profession. As you may know already, all the states in the US require PAs to be licensed, and every candidate must firstly graduate from one of the numerous degree programs accredited by the ARC-PA.

Upon graduation, students will be eligible to sit for the PANCE, or the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, which is administered by the NCCPA, or the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants. If you manage to pass this national certification exam, you will officially receive the PA-C designation, which will undoubtedly open many doors for you in the future and significantly increase your chances of getting a well-paid job in a health care setting. Nonetheless, it is also important to mention that the certification is temporary and students are required to sit for a re-certification exam once every six years in order to maintain their designation active and valid.

Pursuing A Specialization

Most of the physician assistants choose to practice in a certain medical specialization, be it paediatrics, urology, emergency care or internal medicine, and each one of these specializations is rewarding and fulfilling in its own way. In order to specialize, all applicants must hold the PA-C designation mentioned above, and they must also possess at least one year of clinical experience in the chosen specialization. Once they meet these two requirements, the physician assistants can sit for the final specialization exam.

Salary And Job Growth

Statistically speaking, a 38% job growth is expected by 2022, and the average yearly salary of a physician assistant in the United States of America is of $92,500, although this can vary significantly from one state to another and from one working environment to another.


To sum it all up, becoming a physician assistant can be quite challenging and it involves many years of study and hard work. Achieving the final certification and pursuing a truly lucrative career in the field requires graduating from accredited training programs, having some health care experience, passing an interview as well as obtaining several letters of recommendation from licensed physicians.


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