How to Become a Physician Assistant in 7 Easy Steps

How to Become a Physician Assistant? One of the most significant jobs in the medical field is that of a physician assistant. While doctors and nurses are frequently mentioned, a physician assistant plays an important role in diagnosing and treating patients.

Physician assistants help healthcare teams while working under the direction of physicians. They require a high level of education and significant training in a medical context.

Coursework and practical hours educate physician assistant students to help during surgical operations, design treatment plans, and work in a fast-paced healthcare environment.

The responsibilities are numerous and varied.

In the morning, they may visit with patients one-on-one, and in the afternoon, they may collaborate with a group of medical experts.

They may be involved in the development of a treatment plan and may be directly involved in the administration of medicine.

PAs keep many hospitals and clinics moving in the correct direction by combining a wide range of abilities.

They are well compensated, have excellent job security, and interact with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Do you think you have what it takes to become one of the best physician assistants in the country?

And do you want to know How to Become a Physician Assistant? you will also learn how to become a physician assistant after high school. Thus,

Continue reading to learn more about this fascinating profession!

What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

What exactly does a physician assistant do?

A physician assistant, as the name implies, assists doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals with a number of activities.

They do a variety of tasks that assist the hospital or clinic in moving forward efficiently.

Also, a physician assistant assists the doctor by reviewing patients’ medical records, doing basic examinations, administering therapy, and educating or counseling patients as needed.

While doctors are usually the ones that make the diagnosis and organize the therapy, PAs may be compelled to do so depending on their employment.

In a rural setting, a physician assistant may serve as the primary care provider, communicating with a physician only when necessary.

They will work in all fields of medicine, from general care to emergency and psychiatric services.

Depending on the position and state or regional restrictions, the amount of effort they put in and the degree of control required from physicians will vary.

Is it Hard to Become a Physician’s Assistant?

It’s not easy to become a PA, yet it takes less time than becoming an MD.

Physician assistants are licensed after completing a four-year degree, a 25-month accredited physician assistant program, and a one-year clinical rotation.

Qualifications vary by state but most complete a four-year degree, a 25-month accredited physician assistant program, and then a one-year clinical rotation.

Also, some people find that working as a physician assistant is a better fit for their personality. While doctors and physician assistants do a lot of the same things, PAs are more concerned with patient care.

They don’t have to worry about budgets or bureaucracy, so the work that drove them to medicine in the first place takes up a larger portion of their time.

Although physician assistant salaries are not as high as those of doctors, they are nevertheless well rewarded.

In addition, PAs have more consistent schedules. They can log in and out of their required shifts without having too much spill over into their off-duty hours.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Physician Assistant?

To answer this question? you may want to ask how long to become a physician assistant? Because the job title includes the word “assistant,” it’s tempting to imagine that physician assistants don’t require much schooling. Isn’t it possible to get a two-year degree?

A master’s degree from an approved university is usually required of a physician assistant (two years of post-graduate education after completing a four-year degree).

To become a physician assistant, you’ll need to complete six years of hard schooling.

Most applicants to PA schools will have at least a year of medical experience in addition to their four years of school.

How Many Years Does it take to become a PA?

To become a PA, necessitates a four-year college education, usually in a science or healthcare-related field.

An aspiring PA enrolls in a two- to three-year PA school after completing their bachelor’s degree.

They can choose to stop at this level.

However, a master’s degree from an approved university is usually required of a physician assistant (two years of post-graduate education after completing a four-year degree).

Generally, to become a physician assistant, you’ll need to complete six years of hard schooling.

How Much Does it Cost to go to Physician Assistant (PA) School?

With the high rate of undergraduate debt, especially for medical and PA schools is on the high, it’s definitely time to move on to the next logical question:

How much is PA school a year?

The cost of PA school is rising, as it is for most college and graduate degree programs in the United States.

To know cost, one-year physician assistant program costs an average of $50,289 in public resident tuition.

For a 27-month physician assistant program, the average cost of public non-resident tuition is $88, 6777.

Non-resident tuition increased by 3.5 percent on average during the last five years, while resident tuition increased by 5.33 percent.

How Much do PAs Make Right Out of School?

how many years of school to become a physician assistant
how many years of school to become a physician assistant

A lot of reports show how massive PAs make once they are out of school.

Let’s see how much a certified PA makes. 

According to the most recent NCCPA data, certified PAs earned an average of $113,186 in 2020, with a median of $105,000.

Meanwhile, PAs in dermatology ($129,246) and critical care medicine ($125,522) earned the most money.

In the last six years, the average compensation for PAs has risen by 15.0 percent.

In 2020, family medicine PAs had a massive leap with an average of $105,286, emergency medicine PAs got $125,110, and orthopedic surgery PAs earned $122,477.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median compensation for PAs is $112,260, with the top 90% earning $157,120.

This is an increase of just under 4% from the previous year’s median income of $108,610.

In addition, most recent compensation report from the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), the median annual income for PAs has risen to $107,500.

This is an increase from the previous year’s AAPA pay report of $105,000.

According to the Melnic salary report for 2020, the average PA pay is $115,799. PAs that worked as first assistants earned an average of $130,000 per year.

Meanwhile, PAs who are paid by the hour rather than by the year earn an average of $60.00 per hour.

In addition to all these, most PAs receive extra non-salary benefits in addition to their base salary: Individual health, dental, and liability insurance are still covered benefits for most full-time PAs.

How to Become a Physician Assistant in 7 Easy Steps

The path to becoming a PA is long and winding, but it will be well worth it once you get your white coat and are certified.

But how can you get started in this well-paid, flexible, and in-demand profession?

#1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree and complete common prerequisite courses.

A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to finish, however some future PAs take an extra year to guarantee that all PA school qualifications are met.

Consider majoring in a science-related degree; the required curriculum will apply to PA school prerequisites.

Keep in mind that your PA program may need some common classes like statistics, ethics, and physics that are not required for your undergraduate degree.

To meet these requirements, you may need to take some more classes.

#2. Compile hours of healthcare and patient care experience (HCE/PCE).

All future PAs will need to have prior healthcare experience. Two types of experience are sought by PA programs: healthcare experience (HCE) and patient care experience (PCE) (PCE).

Patient care experience is when you are directly accountable for the care of a patient.

Healthcare experience is when you are not directly responsible for the care of a patient.

It’s best to have these kinds of experiences as soon as possible, but some future PAs will need to take a “gap year” to get the hours they need.

You can get health care experience by being a:

  • Medical assistant
  • Paramedic
  • Medic
  • Emergency medical technician
  • Peace Corps Volunteer
  • Registered Nurse
  • Surgical Tech
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Typically, PA programs demand at least 1,000 hours of HCE or PCE. Although each program is unique, minimum criteria can be obtained on the websites of PA schools, the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), or the Applicant’s Manual of Physician Assistant Programs.

#3. Apply to Attend an Accredited PA Program

It’s time to start preparing your application once you have your bachelor’s degree and a significant quantity of HCE/PCE.

You’ll most likely apply through CASPA, and you’ll need the following items, among others:

  • Undergraduate and post-graduate transcripts: It’s critical to have these as early as possible in the application process.
  • Recommendation letters: These are typically references from professors, supervisors, physicians, and, of course, PAs. PA programs can provide information about your character, work ethic, intelligence, and honesty.
  • A list of HCE/PCE candidates: As previously said, you’ll need to distinguish between the various types of hours you’ve accrued. You will be required to produce an accurate audit of all of your HCE/PCE to CASPA.
  • Statement of purpose: CASPA requires a 5,000-word essay describing why you want to be a physician assistant and why you should be accepted for the PA program of your choice. One of the most significant components of your application is your opportunity to convey your personal story. Make sure your essay is proofread by friends, mentors, and editors! Keep in mind that once you’ve submitted your essay, you won’t be able to make any edits or edits!

#4. Prepare for an Interview

After you’ve submitted your application to CASPA, you’ll have to wait. It’s a good idea to start interview preparation while you wait for your letter in the mail, email, or phone call from your top-choice PA program.

You can look up interview techniques online, consult reference books, and enlist the help of friends to do a mock interview.

Because every PA school conducts candidate interviews differently, it’s wise to contact the PA program and inquire about their typical interview process.

If you’ve prepared well, you should be able to ace the interview and be approved!

#5. Start Preparing on Time

It’s time to start learning now that you’ve enrolled. It’s no simple task to get through PA school.

PA school will be the most difficult 23-27 months of your life. However, it’s critical to keep focused on your ultimate goal: becoming a PA.

There will be times when you consider quitting and question whether your sacrifices are worthwhile, but don’t allow the stress to get the best of you.

Simply keep learning, reading, and asking for assistance as needed. In the end, your PA program’s instructors will be just as committed to your success as you are.

#6. Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)

You’ll be ready to take the PANCE after graduating from a recognized PA program (the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam). The PANCE consists of 300 questions in total. You have five hours to complete five sections of 60 questions. (You get 45 minutes for a break and 15 minutes to practice using the software.)

The PANCE results usually take a few weeks to arrive. If things don’t go your way the first time, you have the option to repeat the exam.

The PANCE is the second to the last step in the process of becoming a PA. All that’s left to do now is locate a job and put what you’ve learned in PA school into practice.

However, PAs must obtain a state license to practice after completing the exam. Because state licensing standards differ, PAs should contact their state’s licensing authority for more information.

#7. Obtain and Maintain State Licensure and Certification

In order to practice as a PA, you must first obtain a license in your state.

According to the AAPA website page on state licensing, which includes a link to a list of all 50 states’ licensing boards, all states need PAs to graduate from an ARC-PA recognized PA curriculum and pass the PANCE exam.

You must complete additional hours of continuing medical education based on your state’s requirements to maintain national certification.

Physician assistants must earn at least 100 continuing education credits every two years to keep their certification.

During the tenth year of their recertification cycle, they must additionally pass the PANCE.

Being a physician assistant (PA) is a fulfilling career that assists numerous patients on a daily basis. Take pride in your accomplishments.

Types of Physician Assistant Degrees

Physician assistant schools can be extremely competitive, and the majority of them require applicants to have prior job experience before being admitted.

Working as an EMT, paramedic, medical assistant, or emergency room technician are all popular ways to get expertise. Students that enroll in this program study a number of courses similar to those found in a pre-med program.

Before applying to a master’s program at the graduate level, students must have a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related discipline and approximately three years of practical experience. These usually take three years to complete and include both classroom and clinical rotations.

Graduates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), conducted by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, to become a physician assistant-certified (PA-C) (NCCPA).

In order to practice, they must also obtain a state license and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years. Physician assistants must take the Physical Assistant National Rectifying Exam every ten years.

Bachelor’s Degrees

Most schools and universities do not provide a bachelor’s degree in physician assisting. Those who are certain they wish to follow this vocation can instead get a four-year degree in similar fields such as those described above.

Some colleges also have physician assistant tracks to prepare students for master’s programs. At this level, students study human anatomy and physiology, psychology, medical physiology, pharmacology, and clinical medicine fundamentals.

Graduates will have a solid understanding of the physician assistant profession, medical ethics and moral behavior, and how to deliver primary care services.

Students will participate in a clinical component in addition to classroom-based courses to obtain hands-on experience working directly with patients and in a medical context.

The following are some examples of frequent undergraduate courses:

Professionalism and Ethics in Physician Assistant Practice

Ethical and professional issues a PA must address throughout their career and theory-based evaluation methods for various clinical dilemmas and situations.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Fundamental principles of ethics working with patients and physicians
  • Ethical evaluation of clinical dilemmas
  • Informed consent
  • Principles of autonomy

Principals of Clinical Medicine

Fundamentals of physician services, including working with different patient populations and managing patients in different types of clinical environments.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Study of disease encountered in ambulatory and hospital settings
  • Implementing patient management plans
  • Managing patient referrals
  • Sound decision-making at all levels

Pharmacology

General principles of pharmacology and its applications in-patient care. Covers dose-response relationships, classes of pharmaceuticals, and drug interactions in the body.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Patient instruction and counseling
  • Compliance with prescribed therapeutic regimens
  • Writing prescriptions

Community and Public Health

Practical knowledge of the health system, healthcare policy, and community healthcare systems; topics in health maintenance and disease prevention strategies to better serve the community.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Health maintenance
  • Disease prevention
  • Impact of ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation on the community

Principles of Emergency Medicine and Surgery”

Fundamentals of surgical disease and an introduction to life support techniques used to handle acute medical situations and take care of trauma patients.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Fundamentals of preoperative care
  • Emergent care practices
  • Handling life-threatening illnesses and injury

Master’s Degrees

A master’s degree is the bare minimum for becoming a physician assistant. Typically, the first half of the three-year curriculum is devoted to subjects such as health care ethics, health care policy, and health care administration, with the remaining time spent obtaining clinical experience.

Students will gain advanced problem solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills throughout the course that will serve them well when working with doctors and nurses in a medical setting.

Classes are designed to prepare students to provide high-quality patient care while also assisting a primary care physician, surgeon, or other medical professional.

Before graduating, students must present a thesis and complete a certain number of hours of supervised clinical practice. Students who have finished a master’s level degree are the only ones who are eligible for state licensure.

Introduction to the Physician Assistant Profession”

Comprehensive understanding of the role of a physician assistant within the healthcare system, federal programs that support the profession, and general responsibilities

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Understanding of healthcare delivery systems
  • Federal programs and initiatives in health care delivery
  • Risk management and quality assurance

Fundamentals of Clinical Medicine

Effective clinical care practices to build relationships with patients and physicians in a medical setting; ethical behavior in clinical practice and professional code of conduct.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Study of the disease process
  • Managing medical problems in the primary care setting
  • Differential diagnosis of symptoms
  • Clinical problem solving

Pharmacotherapeutics

Principles of pharmacotherapeutics and prescription practices; may include topics in pharmacodynamics, clinical pharmacokinetics, and basic pharmacological principles

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Principles of pharmacotherapy
  • Individualizing medication regimens
  • Drug safety and drug mechanisms
  • Pharmacotherapy decision making skills

Pathophysiology

Comprehensive understanding of the mechanism of disease; study of cellular and systemic physiology, and problems associated with the major organ systems.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Basic physiologic regulatory mechanisms
  • Clinical correlations for the treatment of disease
  • Mechanism of disease as a physician assistant

Research Methods for Health Professionals

In-depth understanding of research methods and research findings, guidelines on evaluating different research methods, and analytical review of healthcare research trends and studies

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

  • Characteristics of research studies
  • Methods of control in experimental research
  • Internal and external validity
  • Experimental research designs

Conclusion

We all know that doctors are always in demand, but PAs don’t have the same problem.

In fact, many clinics that do not do surgery choose to recruit physician’s assistants in order to save money.

Physicians in need of assistance with non-critical patients are frequently on the hunt for qualified physician’s assistants.

Physician assistants have a bright future as well, with the BLS projecting a 37 percent increase in employment from 2016 to 2026, substantially faster than the average for all occupations. Physician assistants will be needed to give treatment to patients as the demand for health care services develops.

Becoming a physician assistant is a rewarding medical profession.

References

  • Aapa.org6 Steps to Become a PA
  • teach.comHow to Become a Physician Assistant
  • Thepalife.com – How Much Money do Physician Assistants (PAs) Make?
  • Thepalife.com – How Much Does it Cost to go to Physician Assistant (PA) School?

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