Wonder how long does it take to become a physician assistant? I did, so I looked into how many years of college it takes to be a PA.
The standard degree for practicing physician assistants is a masters, which means youll need to spend 4 years in undergraduate school obtaining bachelors, then 2 more to get the professional degree.
That said, expect to take 2 years to become a physician assistant after you get your bachelors degree. You then can acquire a license, certification and registration.
What is a Physician Assistant?
Physician Assistants (PAs) are healthcare professionals in a level between the doctors and the nurses.
They may see patients in a medical clinic under the oversight of a physician, or assist a surgeon in the operating room.
They are often regarded as having higher responsibilities and level of authority than nurses, but lower than doctors.
States have different laws governing the practice of physician assistants, so their roles will vary from one state to another.
Generally, PAs provide healthcare and see patients under the supervision of physicians.
When a PA prescribes medication and orders, there must be a physician in the facility under whose authority the PA performs these roles.
Physician supervision is typically very minimal that PAs perform their clinical responsibilities almost independently.
For some states, though, especially where there are few doctors to serve the health needs of the population, PAs are sometimes designated and authorized to become physician extenders. As such, they see, diagnose and treat patients without physician supervision.
How do you become a physician assistant?
1. Complete a bachelor’s degree program
A bachelor’s degree in science, such as B.S. Biology, is preferred undergraduate degree for one who intends to pursue a PA master’s degree.
This will save you from taking additional credit hours of prerequisite laboratory sciences when you will be ready to take the PA program.
Most physician assistant education programs require four years of a bachelor’s degree in science, although there are programs that consider non-science undergraduate coursework with healthcare-related work experience, or are experienced registered nurses or paramedics.
2. Complete a Master’s degree program in Physician Assisting.
You have to earn a master’s degree in Physician Assisting from an accredited P.A. school. This usually takes around two years to complete, inclusive of 8 clinical rotations with each rotation lasting 5 weeks.
In choosing your PA education program, make sure that they are accredited with the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA).
These are usually master’s degree programs which include classroom and laboratory preparation in physiology, pharmacology, human anatomy clinical medicine, medical ethics, physical diagnosis, and pathology.
The coursework also includes supervised clinical instructions in family medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, and internal medicine.
Clinical rotations are not only opportunities for learning under close supervision by a physician. It often becomes the place where physicians find the assistant that they need because they can closely observe a student at work.
3. Obtain a certification and a license, and be registered.
Physician assistants must be licensed before they could practice their profession.
They must pass a national examination called the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) before they can use the title of Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).
Continuing education equivalent to 100 hours every two years is required to retain the certification. Starting in 2014, recertification examination will be required every ten years.
Are there opportunities for advancement?
Similar to physicians, PAs may also specialize in a variety of medical specialties of their choice, such as surgery, internal medicine, emergency, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and urology.
Acquire a license and gain experience as a PA-C before you consider embarking on an accredited postgraduate educational program and obtaining certification from the NCCPA for your preferred specialty.
Gaining clinical knowledge and experience will open prospects for more important responsibilities and more rewarding jobs.
How much does a PA earn?
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in May 2012, PAs earned an average annual wage of US$ 92,460. There are 83,640 PA jobs reported to the BLS and this number is expected to increase by 38% in 2020.
More than half of the PA professionals work in physicians offices.
The highest paid PAs are those working for specialty care hospitals, such as cardiology facilities and cancer care hospitals. In the May 2012 data, they earned a mean annual wage of $100,060.
What qualities and skills are important to becoming a PA?
If you are serious with the idea of becoming a PA, bear in mind that this profession involves working with people and spending so much time attending to other people’s problems.
As such, PAs must be great communicators and listeners. As much as they have the clinical skills, they must have equal compassion and emotional maturity to understand people.
In difficult situations, they must know how to work under pressure. They must also develop the ability to give attention to details and exercise due diligence in solving problems and treating patients.
Is there a resource available for those interested to become PAs?
You may refer to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) for additional information about becoming a PA, such as the different laws and professional requirements imposed by the different states.
This resource will also be able to provide a list of accredited PA programs and the schools that offer them.
I hope this helps you with the time required to become a physician assistant.