How Do You Become a Physician’s Assistant?

Physician's AssistantDo you want to learn more about how to become a physician's assistant? These professionals work closely with a medical team under the supervision of a licensed physician and are qualified to diagnose, treat, and care for patients. They review medical history, provide education, recommend treatment, and perform diagnostic tests and other basic procedures. Additional duties of a physician assistant vary from state to state. According to U.S. News and World Report, physician assistant is one of the best health care jobs available. Read on to find out how to get started in this exciting profession.

Education Programs for Physician Assistants

Physician assistants must have a master's degree to practice in most states. Prior to obtaining this degree, most applicants earn a bachelor's degree in a health care related field, such as nursing, as well as gain some work experience in a hospital or similar setting. Physician assistant master's programs usually take about two years of full time attendance to complete, and include classroom study, laboratory instruction, and clinical training under the supervision of a licensed physician. Look for a program that's accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

Licensing and Certification for Physician Assistants

In all 50 states, physician assistants must be officially licensed. The first step in this process, after graduating from a master's program, is to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), administered by the National Commission on Certification for Physician Assistants. Once you pass the exam, you can then apply for a license to practice in your state. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically require a certain number of continuing education hours each year in order to maintain licensure. Many physician assistants also choose to obtain additional training to specialize in a specific area, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or surgery.

Salary and Job Outlook for Physician Assistants

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for those in this role is upwards of $90,000. Jobs in hospitals will command the highest salaries, followed by outpatient care centers, doctor's offices, education, and government. Job outlook for physician assistants is also very strong, with a 38 percent increase in jobs for this career projected by 2022. That's much faster than average for other occupations and will result in an estimated 33,300 new jobs. Much of this growth will be driven by the increased need for health care services as baby boomers age.

Related Resource: National Institute of Health Internship

The ideal candidate to be a physician assistant is compassionate and enjoys helping others, and has well developed communication skills to be able to work closely not only with physicians, but with patients and their families. Attention to detail and problem solving skills are also important, as is the ability to work well under pressure (particularly for those who specialize in surgery). To learn more about how to become a physician's assistant, contact an accredited master's program in the location where you're interested in attending school.

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