In the physician assistant program you will learn highly specialized, non-invasive skills. But first, what is a physician assistant? A physician assistant is a health care professional licensed to provide patient education, evaluation, and health care services. Physicians assistants must have a bachelor’s degree and attain a PA training program which is accredited by the National Commission of Physician Assistants. If attending medical school is not an option but you enjoy the idea of working in a medical setting, a physician assistant degree can offer you the chance of pursuing your goals and earning a good salary in the process. Upon graduating from physician assistant schools, physician assistant perform many of the same functions as a doctor, except in the complex cases.
To learn more about the program, request additional information from schools which offers a M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies. There are almost 140 accredited physician’s assistant degree programs in the United States, a majority of which are campus-based programs.
Physician Assistant Education and Training
Let us look at some information on how to become a physician assistant. First, you should ensure that you have the prerequisites for physician assistant and this will vary by physician assistant program.
Prerequisites for Physician Assistant Programs
It is a good idea to check with your prospective schools what the requirements, but in general, they must have completed a bachelors degree from an accredited college or university. Undergraduate courses that should have been completed prior to applying for the degree may include the following: General Chemistry, Biology, College Algebra, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Statistics.
In addition applications may be required to have at least minimum 3.0 overall GPA or higher. Applicants must have a minimum combined score of 1000 points or more on the verbal and quantitative sections.
Physician Assistant Requirements and Courses
In a Master of Science in Advanced Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.) program students typically complete 2-year program requirements. Depending on the school, during the first year in a physician assistant masters degree, physician’s assistant students may take physician assistant courses in:
- Disease prevention
- Principles of Pharmacology
- Medical Ethics
- Medical Communication
- Clinical Decision Making
In the second year of a physician assistant program, you get clinical experience in primary care medicine, inpatient medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, geriatrics, emergency medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics. Other courses may include:
- Medical Nutrition
- Clinical Medicine
- Advanced Clinical Medicine
- Medical Nutrition
Clinical rotations done over several weeks at a time in the second year may include the following settings:
- Behavioral Medicine
- Emergency Medicine
- Family Practice
- Pediatric Health
- Women’s Health
- Internal Medicine Outpatient and Inpatient
- Orthopedic Medicine
- General Surgery
Physician Assistant Certification
As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensure is required in all States and the District of Columbia in order to practice. Physician assistants must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
To do so, graduates must have attended accredited PA education programs and only those who have successfully completed the exam may use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified.” In order to remain certified, PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years, and every six years, they must pass a re-certification examination or complete an alternative program and take required exams.
What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant?
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants work in many similar setting, such as hospitals and clinics in both rural and urban locations. The both treat illnesses, and provide patient teaching and prescribe medications. The difference is mainly in their training and background, as well as the scope of practice.
Both often have advanced training (masters) but how they are trained is where the differences come in. They are also provided certification or licensure by different bodies, mainly AANP and ANCC for nurses and NCCPA for PAs.
Physician Assistant Careers
Over 50% of physician assistants work in primary care medicine. 20% surgery or other surgical sub-specialties. You can work in private practice offices or clinics, hospitals, public health clinics, schools, prisons, and home health care agencies among other areas.
A physician assistant’s responsibility is to record patient’s history and the begin diagnostic and treatment processes. This requires an examination of the patient, interpreting lab results and medical tests. Physician assistants also do first aid for example wrapping or splinting injured joints, and putting casts on broken arms and legs. In most states, physician assistants are allowed to write prescriptions for prescription medication and in many cases they work under the supervision of a Medical Doctor (MD) or physician.
Physicians assistants duties typically include:
- Taking medical histories
- Examining and treating patients
- Ordering and analyzing lab tests and x-rays
- Prescribing medication
- Treating minor injuries
- Managerial duties, supervising various medical staff and ordering supplies
Estimated Income and Projected Career Growth
Many physician assistant colleges qualify you for a full-time job after two years of study in a PA degree program. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the medical assisting field to grow as doctors need larger support teams to accommodate growing number of patients. The BLS reports that over 53% percent of jobs for PAs work in physicians office while 24% work in general medical and surgical hospitals, public or private practice.
Employment is expected to grow faster for those who graduate from an accredited physician assistant program. than the average for other occupations especially in rural and inner-city work environments. The BLS reports that the median annual wage of physician assistants in May 2008 was $81,230 . The middle 50% earned between $68,210 and $97,070. The lowest 10% earned below $51,360 while the highest 10% earned over $110,240. Salary.com reports that as of 2011, physician assistant median Estimated Income for was $89,990.
Physicians Assistant Programs
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