How to Become A Physician Assistant

It is undeniable many of us want to know how to become a physician assistant. Being a physician assistant is a challenging and rewarding job but you must have the passion to treat people. A physician assistant works in the healthcare industry and almost has the same functions as a doctor except that they do not handle complex cases. If you are decided to be a physician assistant, let us look closer into the details.

What Is A Physician Assistant?

A physician assistant’s duties includes examining and treating different patients, analyzing and taking medical histories, ordering lab tests and analyzing results, prescribing medication and can treat minor injuries. There are physician assistants that can take on managerial and supervisory roles. Over 50% of physician assistants are in primary care medicine. If you finally become a physician assistant, you can work in private clinics, public health clinics, hospitals, schools, health care agencies and prisons.

How To Become A Physician Assistant?

There is only one way to be a physician assistant and that is the educational path. So, how do you do it?

  • Earn your bachelor degree- The most basic way to become a physician assistant is to enroll in a bachelor’s physician assistant program. This program will take 4 years to complete but after this, you can apply for a physician assistant job already. The fundamentals of being a physician assistant will be taught in your bachelor’s degree. If you prefer, you can take easy bachelors degrees.
  • Accelerated online degrees – If you want to finish you bachelor’s degree early, you can enroll in an accelerated 4-year program. This program includes a graduate-level PA certificate once you graduate. During your third and fourth year, the bulk of your coursework will be about clinical work and rotations.
  • Earn a master’s degree- While earning online bachelors degrees can already land you a job, having a master’s degree can land you a better one. With a higher-level degree, career opportunities widen and salaries increase. A master’s degree will take 2 years to complete and will require at least 2 years of experience to be eligible for the master’s physician assistant program. The first year will emphasize coursework in subjects like internal medicine, pediatrics, anatomy, physiology, gynecology, microbiology, emergency medicine, pharmacology, psychology, surgery and geriatrics. The second year of the program will focus clinical experience in primary care medicine.
  • Certification- A physician assistant will need a certification in order to be a certified physician assistant and earn the title PA-C. To be eligible for certification, you must graduate from an accredited physician assistant program. After that, you should be able to pass the certification exam for physician assistants. When you pass the certification exam, you will become a certified physician assistant already but there are requirements to keep the certification status. You must complete 100 hours of medical education for the next two years and you must take a recertification exam every six years.

Will It Take A While To Become A Physician Assistant?

The amount of time to become a physician assistant will depend on the degree you will enroll in. How many years to become a physical assistant? If you take the accelerated program, you can finish your degree and certification within just 4 years. However, an accelerated program is always tougher to pursue as the curriculum is cramped into a 2-year program only. If you decide to study in the regular pace, it will take around 6 years. Nonetheless, there is not much pressure when you take this route to earning your degree.

What Is A Physician Assistant’s Duties And Responsibilities?

Physician assistants are often compared to nurse practitioners because of the similar tasks they do. The main difference between the two is that physician assistants follow a doctor curriculum while the other focuses in a nursing curriculum. Physician assistants are educated in medical and surgical care and are allowed to practice in different specialties.

Once you become a physician assistant, what should you expect to do?

  • There are different job descriptions for physician assistants in different states. Some have similar tasks to medical assistants and nurses while some have bigger roles than this. Physician assistants are more educated and clinically trained than nurses and medical assistants.
  • To make it clearer, physician assistants are mid-level providers because they are in between physicians and nurses when it comes to clinical authority. They lack the knowledge and skill of doctors but are more advanced than nurses are.
  • Physician assistants are referred to as physician extenders. They can see patients without direct supervision of a physician or doctor. This way, physician assistants earn money on their own as well. However, there are states that require physician assistants to only practice under indirect supervision of the head physician.
  • Physician assistants work in medical offices or can work in an operating room assisting the surgeon.
  • They can evaluate patients and give diagnosis. They can prescribe medication and perform some medical procedures.
  • Physician assistants have a wide variety of medical specialties to focus on including surgery, cardiology, orthopedics and internal medicine.

Some people in the medical industry think that physician assistants may provide a solution to the shortage of physicians today. In reality, the amount of training is simply not enough. A physician has 7 years of training while a physician assistant can complete training in just 2 years. Moreover, physician assistants earn around $84,326 in primary care medicine and $97,207 in the surgical field.

If you do not want to be a doctor or a nurse, but wish to work in healthcare, a physician assistant is the best career path for you. Simply follow the steps on how to become a physician assistant and you can start your path to your career soon.

Get more info on becoming a physician assistant here