Physician assistants spend their time seeing patients under the direct supervision of licensed physicians. Even though direct supervision is required, physician assistants can diagnose patients, but the final approval of a diagnosis is usually given by an actual physician. Many times, a physician assistant will choose to work in a specific area of medicine, such as orthopedics or obstetrics. There are several places in which these types of assistants can find employment, including public healthcare clinics, rehab centers, hospitals, private doctors’ offices and more.
Becoming a Physician Assistant
To enter into this line of work, an extensive amount of time must be spent acquiring the appropriate education. For starters, a person must first earn a bachelor’s degree in some field of science. To do this, about four years of studies have to be completed.
How long is PA school? Once a student graduates with a bachelor’s degree, he or she will then apply for enrollment in a physician assistant program. It can be very difficult getting into such a program, meaning a student will find it very helpful to have top-notch grades and much work experience. During the completion of the physician assistant program, a student will complete the mandated requirements through:
– Lab work
– Classroom training and lectures
– Practical training
In 2008, there were 142 accredited programs for physician assistant aspirants to take part in. For the most part, each program lasted about two years, and the result of graduating was the earning of a master’s degree; however, this is not the case for all programs. Some of them resulted in only a bachelor-level degree or some type of certification. All in all, though, graduating as a physician assistant usually takes a student about six years. If preferred, additional training can be acquired to help a student specialize in a certain field of study, including:
– Emergency medicine
– Internal medicine
– Occupational medicine
During the completion of a physician assistant program, students will be required to take courses which focus on the following topics:
– Human anatomy
Involved Hands-on Training
The hands-on training completed during the program is usually based on the area in which a student prefers to work. For example, if he or she is wanting to graduate with a focus implemented on gynecology, his or her hands-on training will usually be focused on this area.
No matter the program a student graduates from, to perform services as a physician assistant, he or she will need to become certified through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. To do this, the student must take and pass an exam. Upon successful passing of the exam, a person can then call him or herself a Physician Assistant-Certified. It should be noted that continuing education, 100 hours every two years, must be completed to maintain certification. Every six years, a recertification exam must be taken and passed.
Salary and Career Outlook
The healthcare industry is one that continues to grow on a daily basis. Because of this, there is a high demand for physician assistants, and it is predicted that this demand level will only continue to increase. As of 2009, the average annual salary for someone working in this occupation was upwards of $90,000 a year. When looking for employment as a physician assistant, it should be noted that about half of these positions are found in private doctors’ offices. Additionally, about 24 percent of them are found in hospital settings.