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The Pros and Cons of the Physician Assistant Profession

The physician assistant (PA) profession is a gallant, prestigious, self-satisfying and rewarding profession. It makes for an excellent career choice. However, as with all professions, it has its drawbacks too. Here is a detailed list of the pros and cons of the physician assistant profession.

The Pros

  1. The biggest advantage of the profession is that a physician assistant does not have to attend med school. Med schools take very long and cost a fortune in fees. A physician assistant program takes 2 years to complete and you get to learn similar concepts that doctors learn. You also get to practice medicine. Plus, patients hold you in high esteem, and regard you as their doctor. So, you spend just 2 years pursuing a PA degree, and from there on it’s a comfortable life.
  2. Physician assistant work is exciting – they help people recover, they research new drug discoveries, they work in labs, they supervise technicians, they order tests, and more. So, a PA is all around the place interacting with people, saving lives and making the world a better place to live in. The workplace is very dynamic and every day is a new day complete with new human experiences.
  3. PA can choose to specialize in a practice that truly interests them. They can start off as a regular physician assistant, decide what interests them the most, and then specialize in that practice.
  4. Though it is a demanding career, a PA does not have to grunt it out like a doctor. That said, the PA profession needs a lot of commitment, dedication and may be required to work on weekends and in graveyard shifts.
  5. American states are now entrusting more duties and responsibilities to physician assistants. A PA costs lesser than a doctor and that brings the healthcare costs down. They treat patients and help cut down patient-waiting time. All these factors make the PA a very important healthcare professional who is very highly in demand.
  6. The PA profession is growing at a fast rate. PAs who specialize can get very high salaries. How much do physician assistants make? A mental health physician assistant’s annual salary was $115,000 in 2010, a cardiology PA received an annual salary of $109,000 in the same year. This is in contrast to a regular (clinic) PA’s salary, which starts at $70,000/year. So, as the demand for PAs is increasing, those with specialization in critical medical conditions are being paid higher salaries.
  7. A physician assistant can move from one specialty to another with ease, thereby making it a very flexible profession. Of course, the PA must obtain a degree in the new specialty
  8. There are employment opportunities galore all over America. PAs can choose their preferred employer. They can work in inner-cities, rural areas, suburbs, wherever – they will always find a job in a geographical location of their liking.
  9. When a PA administers treatment and watches the patient, who is down in the dumps, recover and become a healthy citizen again, it gives them a feeling of soul-satisfaction. This is a very motivating career.
  10. Physician assistants always keep themselves up-to-speed with the changes in the healthcare industry, including changes in healthcare laws, technological advances/obsolescence, new medicines, government impact, ethical impact, and more. They are a very knowledgeable, very with-it healthcare professional.
  11. They work in a clean and wholesome atmosphere with some of the best brains in the healthcare business. They learn so much while working in very comfortable and clean environs.


The Cons

  1. Like it or not, the level of bureaucracy in the healthcare industry has dramatically increased. Physician assistants spend a lot of time filling in forms and records and that takes them away from their practice.
  2. Physician assistants must hold themselves to very high standards. If they make a mistake that impacts a patient’s life, then there can be severe emotional, legal and ethical consequences. A mistake can completely blank out a PA, and therefore they must be very careful, methodical and detailed in their work. That said, we are all humans and we all make mistakes, and so it is likely that a PA may err sometime in their profession.
  3. Well, a PA does not make as much money as a physician. However, this is not a con because a PA spends lesser time, work and money in obtaining a degree than a physician.
  4. A physician assistant works under the supervision of the physician 90% of the time irrespective of skills and experience. They do have some freedom, but is supervised by their physician. Therefore, a PA can never ever be an entrepreneur.  That said, this is not a con, it is a law, and therefore it must be obeyed.
  5. Physician assistants must obtain 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and get themselves re-licensed every 6 years.
  6. Some physician assistants say that the quality of their CME is below standards in rural areas.


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