Photo by Aiko De Guzman
A Physician Assistant (PA) career may be the perfect choice if you love making a difference in people’s lives and are keen on learning how to test, diagnose, and treat diseases without having to enroll in medical school.
A PA job pays more than other jobs because it requires skill and is in high demand. This demand is projected to grow well in the next decade, so it’s a good opportunity to consider if you want to grow your career in the healthcare industry. If you are already an NP or FNP, it will take years of additional studies to complete a PA course because it is a different track.
Once you are a nationally-certified, state-licensed PA, you can diagnose and treat patients, record patient history, prescribe medication, and perform certain procedures under a doctor’s supervision in a medical setting like hospitals, clinics, and aesthetic medical spas. To get there, below is an overview of the education, training, and credentials you have to acquire:
Education And Training
If you’ve always aspired to work in a challenging environment with a team of like-minded professionals, here are the steps to pursue a PA career,
- Undergraduate Studies
If you intend to pursue a PA career after college, enroll in undergraduate studies that include many Science subjects. Undergraduate studies in Pre-med, Biology, Nursing, Sports Medicine, Health Sciences, Emergency Medicine, and BS Physician Assistant (BS-PA) are the best choices. Child Development, Psychology, Pharmacology, Genetics, and Gerontology Graduates can also proceed to a PA course.
The chosen bachelor’s degree course should include prerequisite subjects that provide a good foundation. These subjects are focused on understanding the human body, pathology, research, and therapeutics like:
- Research Methods and Statistics
- Healthcare Experience
If you are serious about pursuing a PA Course, consider getting at least 200 hours of supervised healthcare experience. Accumulating up to 2,000 hours is better because this can help offset a low GPA score in a crunch.
If you are a registered nurse, medical assistant, or graduate of paramedic science, try to apply for a job where you can chalk up the necessary experience (and hours). Experiences in community-based healthcare can also be important. So, make sure you engage in volunteer work, community health activities, and mentorship activities.
- Send Applications To PA Schools
This process is made systematic through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). CASPA is a centralized application service that sends your application and transcript to prospective PA schools that use this service.
Filling out your information through CASPA makes your information readily visible, with no need to send applications repeatedly to individual schools. However, each PA school would have other requirements like Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Grade Point Average (GPA) scores, essays, and other documents. Some schools might also require a Miller Analogies Test (MAT), which measures analytical thinking.
The Physician Assistant course is considered a Masteral program, completed after the appropriate undergraduate studies. Because it is such a highly in-demand course, prospective students fear that they will fail to enter PA programs.
Some are wary of the 20% acceptance rate, but it’s good to know that not all states require GRE and some schools require lower GPAs than others. In addition, some companies offer admission consultancy for Physicians Assistant Schooling.
- Enroll In An Accredited Physician Assistant Course
Make sure you do your legwork and only apply to schools approved by the commission that reviews and accredits program offerings for the PA. This course can take around two years. This will bring you one step closer to internal medicine physician jobs.
- Get National Certification
After completing the two-year Physician Assistant Course, be prepared to take and pass the 300 points Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).
Passing the exam will enable you to practice as a PA under the supervision of a physician. It is not a lifetime license. You must pass the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) every ten years to prove you are still competent to treat patients. If you fail to pass the exam the first time, you are given multiple opportunities within six years to pass it.
- Pass State Licensure Examinations
Every state would have its licensure requirements. PAs must obtain a license before being allowed to work in that state. Usually, an NCCPA certificate, proof of a master’s program, and continuing education are required to be given a state license.
Launching Your PA Career
Write a cover letter and a great resume that includes all the medical rotations you’ve experienced during your training. Include aspects that should cover your academic education.
Aside from clinical skills and knowledge, future employers are also looking for applicants who can communicate well and show empathy.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a PA earns from USD$37.47 to USD$57.43 per hour and averages USD$119,460 annually. The top-paying employers that hire PAs are research services, skilled nursing care facilities, outpatient services, and local government units. As of May 2021, clinics hired about 61% of PAs, while hospitals hired about 26%
Being a Physician Assistant is an ideal career path for those seeking to help patients in a medical setting in various disciplines. While it does not require the same rigorous hours as physician training, it is demanding and challenging since it still deals with people’s health.
A PA must finish both undergraduate and graduate courses. To become a PA, you must have the right academic credentials, supervised clinic or health-related experience, pass the national certification, and hold a state license.