Physician’s assistants (PA) are one of the most in-demand career fields out there today. With the Affordable Care Act allowing healthcare access to more people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 38 percent growth with a median pay of $90,000 a year. Becoming a physician’s assistant is a very rewarding and high paying job that will give you the opportunity to work in the medical field alongside doctors and surgeons as a patient’s first line of medical expertise.
Accredited distance learning colleges offer online physician’s assistant degree programs to get your associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and even certifications. However, almost universally, you will have to have a master’s degree in order to work as a physician’s assistant. Most physician assistant programs require at least two years of college coursework in the sciences, plus as many as three years prior hands-on healthcare experience working with patients, for example as a registered nurse, paramedic, or medical assistant.
When choosing a school, be sure to choose one accredited by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), or the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for Physician Assistants (ARC-PA). These programs will prepare you to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), which is required in order to become a licensed PA in the U.S. Certain states may also require other certifications or exams, so it is important to check with the licensing board of the state where you would like to work.
Throughout your education and training your will learn about anatomy, physiology, physical diagnosis, microbiology, medical ethics, clinical laboratory science, and more. Even for online programs, you will be required to complete at least one year in clinical rotations your final year of study in area including family and internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and general surgery. After graduating, gaining the required competencies, and passing the required exams, you will then be able to work as a physician’s assistant to help improve the lives of those around you, diagnose medical conditions, and prescribe medication for those in need.
There are also specializations that can help improve your employment opportunities and pay in fields such as, internal medicine, dermatology, urgent care, surgery, pediatrics, and emergency medicine. Each specialty program is typically one to two years long after becoming practicing a PA, but will pay off in the long run.
Physician’s assistants also have to maintain a Physician Assistant – Certified (PA-C) designation throughout their work, which means earning 100 approved continuing medical education credits every two years, and complete the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam every six years. Though the workload might seem like a lot and the work hours can be during any hour of the day, PAs are valuable members of every medical facility and are paid very well. If you want to help prevent and treat diseases and medical conditions, improve patient care, and work in the healthcare industry, then a physician’s assistant program might be right for you.