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A Guide to Physician Assistant Jobs

The healthcare industry is witnessing boom times and naturally, Physician Assistant jobs are on a roll. The demand for Physician Assistants is steadily growing in both rural and urban areas, and here is a guide to the career.

Education

Typically, Physician Assistants are required to complete a 26-month training program after they successfully obtain a 4-year college degree and get some job experience. All Physician Assistants must get themselves re-certified every six years and they must complete 100 hours of ongoing education every two years.

There are two professional bodies in the industry – the AAPA (American Association of Physician Assistants) that regulates and the NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) that administers exams and takes care of continuing education.

Job Description

Physician Assistants are an important part of the doctor’s office. They are supervised by a licensed doctor, but also allowed to work independently inside the doctor’s office. They must be within 1 hour of their doctor’s call.

They help in diagnosis and analyzing lab reports including x-rays. They can also listen to patients and note down their history, decide treatment to be administered to them, write prescriptions, prescribe therapy, examine patients, and provide surgical help. Plus, the Physician Assistant must possess excellent communication skills as he has to interact with patients most of the time.

Physician Assistants are on their feet most of the time interacting with and attending to patients. Assistants who are part of a surgical team are the busiest of the lot. This is not an easy job – it requires handling stress and working late nights, weekends and holidays. The Physician Assistant must handle all physical and mental stress with a cool and calm that does not show on his face because that may panic the patient.

Different American states prescribe the tasks that a Physician assistant can perform. So, if you want to know the exact job responsibilities, refer to your state’s employment website.

Job Prospects and Outlook

Physician Assistant jobs are expected to grow at a rapid clip as compared to other jobs. Physician Assistants’ demand is especially higher in hospitals, clinics, prisons and other facilities situated in rural and inner city areas. As per a government report published in 2008-end, it is estimated that physician assistant jobs are expected to grow by 39% from 2008 to 2018. This is because healthcare industry is evolving and lowering its costs at the same time. Appointing Physician Assistants helps a healthcare establishment lower its cost without compromising on quality of service or productivity. States too are now allowing physician assistants to perform more medical procedures and all these factors are leading to a higher demand for professionals.Physician Assistant Jobs

Salary

A Physician Assistant’s salary depends on a few factors, which are:

  • Specialization: Physician Assistants trained to handle complicated medical conditions like HIV or AIDS or cancer get paid more than other assistants who can handle regular medical conditions. The demand for specialized physical assistants is very high and their salary can even exceed the maximum figure (given below).
  • Area: Rural healthcare facilities pay lesser than urban centers. Urban centers in densely populated areas pay more than urban centers in thinly populated areas. So, one factor that determines salaries is the cost of living, which is higher in the urban areas.
  • Experience counts as well. Highly experienced Physician Assistants get a higher salary.

As per Salary.com, Physician Assistants earn anything between $75,000 and $106,000 yearly. A more realistic average would be between $65,000 and $90,000, give or take a few exceptions. Remember, that specialization counts and so, specialized Physician Assistants can expect to get a higher salary. Hospitals and outpatient centers pay the highest salary, while government facilities and educational institutions pay low. As stated above, urban centers pay higher than rural centers.

Physician Assistants can also expect their employers to pay for their state licensing fees, registration fees, credential fees and professional liability insurance.

Career Prospects

Physician Assistants can choose to specialize in handling critical medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, neonatology, cancer, etc. As mentioned above, professionals who specialize in such critical medical conditions are paid a much higher salary. Many schools offer specialization programs in specialties like surgery, cancer, HIV, neonatology, pediatrics, emergency medicine, and more.

Then, a Physician Assistant can enroll for a postgraduate residency training program in areas like emergency medicine, rural primary care, occupational medicine, etc.

A Physician Assistant pay increases with time and experience. However, the assistant must always remain under the supervision of a licensed doctor.

Advantages

Physician Assistant jobs have many advantages – PAs do not have to attend to med school, they do not have to go through the taxing internship that all doctors go through, and they can learn different specialties or move from one specialty to another with ease. They also are rewarded with a self-satisfying career that helps people recover from medical conditions, many of which can be major.

Every day is different in the life of a PA and he comes across new challenges daily. A Physician Assistant can never be an entrepreneur because he can only work under the supervision of a licensed doctor.

This is all you need to know about Physician Assistant jobs and career prospects.