Physician Assistant Degree
A physician assistant provides medical care under the supervision of a doctor or surgeon. Most of a physician assistant’s duties include providing therapeutic and diagnostic care to patients. They may examine and treat patients, record medical histories, order laboratory tests and X-rays, the results of which they must interpret, and also diagnose a patient’s medical condition. This demanding career requires specific training and certification which may vary from state to state. When choosing a state in which to practice, a prospective physician assistant should review that state’s laws to determine what type of education and certification they must obtain before they can practice.
A physician assistant’s hours and schedule will vary depending upon where they choose to work. In a hospital, a physician assistant may work nights, weekends, and holidays. In some cases, their schedule will be synchronized to that of a supervising physician. If employed in a clinic, these workers may have a regular weekday schedule. Those thinking of entering this field should be aware that their hours may be irregular, long, or may require working non-traditional hours. A position as a physician assistant is usually well-compensated, with most practitioners earning between $74,000 and $85,000 per year.
Obtaining a physician assistant degree is vital to beginning any career in this competitive field. Many who enter a physician assistant degree program have already obtained a degree in another discipline. Education that qualifies individuals to practice as a physician assistant will generally take at least two years of full time study, though some students choose to obtain a four year degree. Regardless of the length of the program, it is very important that the prospective student verify that the institution of their choice is properly accredited to ensure that their credentials will be recognized by a potential employer. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant is an excellent resource for students wishing to verify that an institution is accredited. A simple online search will reveal which institutions have been accredited by the Review Commission.
Each college offering a physician assistant degree will have different admission requirements which must be met by each student before enrolling in the program. These degrees may be offered at community colleges, teaching hospitals, medical schools, or four year universities. Students can expect to complete a variety classes within the program, which may include:
- Clinical Medicine
- Physical Diagnosis
- Medical Ethics
These programs may also include supervised clinical training, which can prove especially indispensable as it provides necessary hands-on experience. Such an internship may result in an employment opportunity for the student if the supervisory physician is seeking a physician assistant.
Once the degree is obtained, each graduate must complete a national examination which provides them with a license to practice. This Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination must be successfully completed in order to practice legally in the United States. In order to retain this certification, physician assistants must complete 100 hours of further medical education in two year intervals. Every six years after their initial certification, each physician assistant must re-take the national examination in order to maintain their certification status. Alternatively, they may complete an alternative program consisting of learning experiences and a take home examination.