How to Become a Physician Assistant in Maryland
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medical field is expected to significantly outpace national job growth averages over the next ten years. Due to recent health care requirements, the nursing and physician assistant professions will experience the most growth. It is believed that tighter regulations along with poor reimbursements will cause many doctors to consider different paths within the health care industry or to abandon the field altogether.
Physician Assistant (PA) Defined
While nursing is familiar to most people, few understand the profession of the physician assistant. A physician assistant is a health care professional who works directly under the supervision of a medical doctor. He or she is able to write drug prescriptions, diagnose conditions, perform minor medical procedures along with advising and counseling patients.
Physician assistants may also conduct outpatient care visits. Most employment opportunities lie within private practice. However, opportunities also exist within hospital and outpatient care facilities. Physician assistants may assume managerial duties in the absence of the resident doctor. Work hours differ from facility to facility but may require PA(s) to work in 24 hour locations.
Educational Requirements for the Physician Assistant
Most physician assistant programs are 2 years long and may require the student to have some “hands on” experience prior to being accepted. This may vary slightly with each program. However, many students who enter PA programs do maintain backgrounds in a myriad of disciplines within the health industry. Typical courses of study include classes within social sciences, biology and chemistry. Students entering PA programs also maintain higher levels of education. Education requirements beyond high school will generally depend upon the program for which the student has applied.
There are several physician assistant programs in Maryland. They are comprised of certificate, bachelor and master requirements. Based upon a students current level of education, these programs can take from two to four years. Most are sponsored through university and junior college institutions. The Essex Physician Assistant Program at Townsend University is one of the foremost physician assistant schools in Maryland. The program mandates that students possess a degree and clinical training prior to application.
Regardless of the school chosen, all students must pass the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam once education requirements have been satisfied. Employees must also maintain certifications by completing 100 hours of continued education training every two years. PA(s) must also pass a recertification exam every six years. However, depending upon experience, some PA(s) may re-certify with a combination of experience and a take home exam.
The Future for the Physicians Assistant
As stated earlier, the next ten years looks very strong for those who choose to work within this field. Since the mid 2000’s, the state of Maryland has experienced a steady climb in job opportunities. National average salaries range from $75,000 to $100,000 per year in addition to full medical benefits and opportunities for advanced training. Salaries are generally driven by geographical location, experience and education.
Therefore, some physician assistants may choose further their careers within internal medicine, pediatric and emergency care. Physician assistant salary in Maryland ranges from $90,000 to more than $130,000 per year. This is nearly double average salaries within the state and is $20,000 more than similar disciplines within the medical field.
As medical professionals become more scare within rural and city communities, the Physician Assistant will provide immeasurable value to the community and an industry that seems ever changing. The opportunity offers a solid career with handsome financial rewards as well as personal and professional satisfaction.