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How long does it take to become a Physician Assistant?

“Just how long does it take to become a Physician Assistant?” is the top question that’s asked on every single PA-related online forum. Well, here’s the answer:

  1. The admission requirements vary depending on institution. Most institutions require students to have a science-related college degree while a few training institutions grant admissions even to students who have healthcare-related work experience. If you have a science degree and some experience, the admissions committee will welcome you with open arms. So, the point here is that you must count the years that you have to spend in getting a degree and/or the work experience.
  2. Here’s an important note: if you do not want the admissions committee to reject you, read up on the history of Physician Assistants and ask a doctor or a healthcare professional to help you prepare for the interview. These professionals will know what an admissions committee will likely ask. If your application is rejected by the admissions committee, you have to take the time wasted into account just in case you don’t get admission in another college.
  3. Before you enroll for a Physician Assistant course, know that the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) requires students to complete a 26-month “accredited” course before starting practice. So, add another 26 months to the calculations, and ensure that the college you are about to enroll with is accredited. The exams are administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants’ (NCCPA). Ask the institution for an information package or a brochure.
  4. The Physician Assistant’s admission process requires a student to open an account with Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CAPSA). Now, CAPSA does not process applications in quick time – it takes rather long. So, you must ensure that you take this CAPSA-process time into account and apply early – it should not be that your application is cleared after the college has started its course. You must ensure that you do not lose any time.
  5. Some colleges require students to complete other application formalities, such as applying to an affiliated or accompanying university. Take this time into account while calculating the admissions process and as another part of the answer to every budding Physician Assistant’s favorite question – “Just how long does it take to become a Physician Assistant?”

If you consider the factors stated above, you will realize that becoming a Physician Assistant is a long process and requires a few years of study and experience, and very careful planning and preparation.

Can I start practicing as a Physician Assistant after my graduation?

Once the Physician Assistant course is over, the graduate has to be tested before he is allowed to practice. These testing programs and exams vary from state to state. However, one thing is common and that is all Physician Assistant graduates must successfully complete a licensing exam that is administered by the state. Some states allow Physician Assistants to start practice after passing the license exam, while some states don’t. You should factor this time into your calculations as well.

How much time does it take to become a PA-C, and what is a PA-C?

You should know that Physician Assistants who take the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants’ (NCCPA) exam are given the title of PA-C (Physician Assistant-Certified). If the PAs want to latch on to the “C” after the PA, they must maintain 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years, and get their skills tested once in 6 years.

So, all these factors answer the critical question – How long does it take to become a Physician Assistant? As stated earlier, becoming a Physician Assistant is a long process and therefore one must be sure of what one does every step of the way. Calculate the time that will be taken before enrolling for the course and you will find that careful planning and timing can lead you to success in the profession.