Physician Assistant Programs: A Guide To Choosing the Right One

The right physician assistant programs will lead to a great career, but it helps to know where to start.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the profession and how to train. We’ve compiled the following guideline to help you learn a little more about becoming a physician’s assistant.

The Big Misconception

There’s a misconception out there that physician assistants and medical assistants are the same thing. Not even close. To become a PA requires completion of physician assistant programs, certification and licensing.

In fact, most PAs have a bachelor’s degree and four years of healthcare experience before they even begin physician assistant school. That’s why they make the long dollar. The job is listed as number two on CNN Money’s list of great careers.

The term assistant is a it misleading. The truth is physician assistants do everything a medical doctor does, they just work under a doctor’s supervision. PAs are authorized and qualified to write prescriptions, diagnose patients and perform a wide array of medical procedures.

top physician assistant programs

How To Get Into Physician Assistant Programs

If you’re thinking about becoming a PA, dedication and perseverance is a must. Of all the allied health schools, physician assistant programs are among the most rigorous and challenging.

It also helps if you already have a bachelor’s degree and some experience in healthcare. Most of the educational programs in the United States are master’s degree paths.

The training closely resembles that a physician goes through in medical school, to give you an idea. It’s heavily based on science, biology and anatomy. Those enrolled in a PA educational program typically devote most of their time for schooling, and may only work part time to accommodate the demanding coursework.

The key to getting into physician assistant programs is organization and research. Prospective students should carefully review the application guidelines to make sure they are qualified and have all the necessary supporting materials. This will likely include the following items and plenty more.

  • Previous degree
  • Official transcripts
  • Letter of recommendation

It’s also important to keep in mind that most schools charge a fee to apply. This helps cover the administrative costs of processing applications and verifying all the information. To save some cash, it might be a good idea to narrow down your picks to the top three. Blanketing every school in your area with applications could prove to be a costly endeavor.

Post Graduation Considerations

Once you have that master’s degree in hand, you’ll have to get licensed to legally work as a PA. The first step is gaining national certification through the National Commission on on Certification of Physician Assistants. Earning certification requires passing the NCCPA exam. The American Academy of Physician Assistants offers a great series of study materials on the organization’s website.

Each state will also have its own certification agency and you’ll want to talk to your school to determine how to prepare for state examinations.

Certified physicians assistants will experience outstanding job opportunities and room for advancement while earning a salary of roughly $86,410 annually. It’s a rewarding profession that provides the opportunity to help people  and earn a great living.

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