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Physician Assistant – Career Insights

Medicine is a science and an art that is constantly changing and evolving. It is one of the few professions that are growing currently and is projected to continue to grow exponentially over the course of the next ten to twenty years. Put in plain language, people will always get sick and will always need someone to help them to find a way to get better.

What is a Physician Assistant?

A Physician Assistant is a professional health care provider who is licensed by the state in which they practice. Most of them practice under the supervision of a physician in a practice which is owned by the physician. Becoming a Physician Assistant requires some hard work and attention to detail, but is quite rewarding.

In their role as a PA, they will perform various duties, up to and including:

  • Patient examination
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment Planning
  • Treatment implementation
  • Laboratory test examination and ordering
  • Surgical assisting
  • Prescribing medicine
  • Specializing in various areas of medicine.


The Physician Assistant profession is one of the more critical programs in medicine and like nursing, there is a shortage of PA’s.

With a median annual salary of about 90 thousand dollars, and far fewer post-graduate bills than a physician will have, so becoming a Physician Assistant through an accredited Physician Assistant program is a wise choice for a profession. Salaries are high and continue to rise and the profession is well respected in the medical community.

Physician Assistants have a wide array of flexibility in their choices of career path, with many fields of practice and specialties open to them. There is a far lower debt upon graduation from school to repay, so that your student loans will conceivably paid in a relatively short time in comparison to becoming a physician.

Becoming a Physician Assistant will be a challenge to your patience, and to your intellect. It will help you to overcome prejudices, to develop and hone your skills in compassion and in medicine. It will reward you in many ways, both financially as well as emotionally.

After graduation you may practice in a wide array of different fields and be able to change your specialty far more easily than a physician may do. The training that you take will take approximately 2.5 years and will be able to practice after that time span. In addition, you will be able to help countless people by the skills that you develop and the knowledge that you have.

How Do You Become a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistant programs are available all around the United States. In fact, at last count there were more than 100 PA programs which were accredited in the United States. Application to these Physician Assistant programs is the first step toward becoming a PA.

Becoming a physician assistant will take about 2.5-3 years to accomplish, depending on the program that you select. You will need to apply to the school of your choice, having selected it, and then follow a prescribed application process that will typically include:

  • A formal application process-filing of college or university application
  • An Essay
  • Formal interview


What Will You Study ?

Once you have been accepted into the Physician Assistant program, your course of study and the degree that you will be awarded may differ, depending on the length of your studies, as well as the venue from which you graduate.

Typically, when you are in your first year of studies you will be required to attend classroom studies as well as hands-on, clinical studies, for 5 days per week. You will attend classes about 8 hours per day.

In some cases, you will be attending school with physicians, taking clinical practice along with them. The first year of PA school is actually quite accelerated and may be stressful. It can be likened to the first three years of medical schooling.

You will study coursework such as:

  • Clinical Lab procedures
  • ECG and EKG
  • Infection control
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • General Surgical procedures
  • Communication and interviewing techniques
  • General medicine
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Pediatric Medicine


What Degree Will Be Conferred?

There are approximately   149 programs of study for the Physician Assistant which have been accredited in the United States. Of those PA courses, 5 offer certificated programs, 3 offer Associate Degrees, 21 give a Bachelor’s Degree and 113 offer Masters Degrees. Each of these is an accredited program.

What’s Next After Graduation?

Once you graduate from PA school your options for practice are virtually unlimited. Many graduates of accredited programs for Physician Assistants will work in the hospital setting, while most will perform under the supervision of a physician in a physician’s office setting.  In most cases you will join the practice of a state licensed physician and work under his or her supervision. You need not be supervised physically, but in most cases, will operate with a great deal of autonomy.

You are not necessarily limited to working in the practice of another person, however, although this is not well known.

You will be able to specialize in nearly any field that you like and you will be able to change specialties with far greater ease than a normal physician, and you may even own your own practice. Many PAs work in their own practices and hire a physician to supervise them in their activities.

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