Your Path to Becoming a Physician Assistant

Physician assistant path

Physician assistants (PAs) are in high demand throughout the medical field, and that’s only expected to increase over the next decade. Because of the high demand and good median wage, entry into these educational programs is very competitive. Here’s what you need to know about the path to becoming a physician assistant.

Setting Up for Success

Fierce competition for spots means checking into these programs as early as possible after you begin college, preferably sometime during your freshman year. Before entering a program to become a physician assistant, you may need:

  • Bachelor’s degree – Most students in physician assistant programs already have a college degree.
  • Medical experience – Many programs require hands-on experience (up to three years) in the healthcare field. This experience may be obtained by holding certain positions, such as:
    • Paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
    • Lab Assistant, Phlebotomist, etc.
    • Volunteer with Peace Corps
    • Surgical Technician
    • Registered Nurse (RN) or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
    • Other healthcare-related positions
  • College-level coursework in basic science and behavioral science including (but not limited to):
    • Anatomy
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Microbiology
    • Physiology

Ensuring that you meet these minimum requirements is essential for entry into a program to become a physician assistant. Without the proper preparation, you could miss valuable opportunities in top-notch programs.

What to Expect in a Physician Assistant Program

Most programs take two academic years to complete, but some are longer. During that time, you’ll be educated on a variety of science subjects. You should also expect about 2,000 hours doing clinical rotations. These will likely emphasize primary care in a variety of settings, including clinics, private practices, acute care facilities, and long-term care facilities. You may experience rotations in a variety of fields, as well, including:

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Family Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • General Surgery

Once you’ve completed your program, you can take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, or PANCE. This exam is offered by the NCCPA, or National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Once you successfully pass the PANCE, you can begin using the title PA-C, or Physician Assistant-Certified. 

Getting Licensed and Moving Forward 

You must be licensed in the state where you intend to practice before you start practicing. States have a variety of requirements for PAs, but every state requires PAs to graduate from an accredited program and successfully pass the PANCE. For national certification, there are continuing requirements, such as 100 hours of CME (continuing medical education) credits completed in every 24-month period. National certification also requires that you take the PANRE (Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam) once every ten years.

After graduation and certification, you’ll likely be qualified for a number of different job opportunities, from entry-level positions in thriving private practices, to primary caregiver in small clinics, and beyond. PAs can perform a wide variety of healthcare-related tasks, and often work in tandem with other healthcare providers as part of a team that provides patient care. As PAs are more cost-effective than traditional physicians, they can expect to see job offers that run the gamut of healthcare. In fact, they are present and in high demand in every patient-centered healthcare field.

Choosing the PA Path

Working as a PA offers the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of others. This is a course of action that requires a large investment of time and hard work. It isn’t the path for everyone interested in healthcare, but the numerous, rewarding career opportunities are definitely worth considering.

If you’d like to apply for a physician assistant career at Elliot Health System, click below.

Physician Assistant Careers

Comments are closed.