What is a Physician Assistant?

What is a Physician Assistant?

When considering a career in the medical field, it’s important to explore all the opportunities available. We’re all familiar with doctors and nurses, but what is a physician assistant? These highly skilled professionals are an integral part of any healthcare team, and choosing this occupation is a smart professional choice.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at just what a physician assistant does, how long it takes to become a PA, and the job prospects for this rewarding career.

The Basics – What Does a PA Do?

What is a physician assistant? A physician assistant is different from a nurse, medical assistant or doctor.  PA’s are professionals who help doctors or surgeons by performing skilled procedures under the doctor’s supervision. In some cases, a PA works more independently and consults with a doctor on only the more complex cases.

In a typical setting, such as a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital, a PA works closely with patients. They take medical histories, prescribe medication, treat minor wounds, order tests and x-rays, and interpret the results of those tests, among many other duties.

Some settings, such as very rural or inner-city clinics, often have a hard time affording a full time on-site doctor. In these places, physician assistants play a critical role in patient care. They see patients every day and tend to minor illnesses and medical questions. A doctor supervises their work, but this supervision may consist of phone calls or weekly in-person meetings. The physician assistant refers more complex cases to the nearest appropriate doctor.

How Can I Become a PA?

What Is A Physician Assistant

What is a physician assistant? A physician assistant has completed an intensive course of study in the medical field. If you’re considering becoming a physician assistant, there are some basic steps you’ll need to take along the way. Below we’ll explore how to become a physician assistant.

Obtaining your college degree is essential. Most PA programs require at least an Associate’s degree for admittance to their program. You can, however, complete just an Associate’s degree in physician assisting, take the national certification test, and then work as a PA. However, this option is becoming obsolete, and physician assistants with only an Associate’s degree tend to earn less than PA’s with more advanced degrees.

If you decide to pursue higher education, your next step will be a Bachelor’s degree in physician assisting. You can enroll in these programs with an Associate’s degree in any subject, although it’s best to have a background in science or biology.

Another option for education is a Master’s degree. This degree will give you the most job opportunities upon graduation, and those opportunities generally come with higher salaries. If you can afford this level of education, it is highly recommended.

A physician assistant has detailed knowledge of the human body and how it works. While the two are often confused, a physician assistant has much more responsibility and independence than a medical assistant. Therefore, the schooling required to become a PA is much more involved.

While studying to become a PA, you’ll become highly knowledgeable about the following subjects. Keep in mind that this list is not complete, and each of the physician assistant schools has their own requirements for graduation.

  • Pathology
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Clinical Medicine
  • Medical Ethics
  • Human Anatomy
  • Physical Diagnosis
  • Pharmacology

As you can see, physician assistants are highly educated in many fields. This broad education is part of the reason why PA’s are so highly sought-after in today’s competitive healthcare workplace.

A physician assistant is a medical professional with the freedom to work in many different fields of medicine. Unlike a doctor, a PA can move between different areas of medicine throughout their career. They also have the option to spend their entire career in general practice, if that’s what they find most rewarding.

If you think you may want to focus your career as a PA, here are some common specialties. Remember that with additional training, you can generally switch your focus at any time.

  • Geriatrics
  • Family Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Sports Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Neonatal Care/Gynecology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Rural Primary Care

A great deal of freedom and responsibility come with a career as a physician assistant. This combination is often one of a PA’s favorite aspects of their job.

What is a Physician Assistant Career Outlook?

Physician assistants are highly sought after medical professionals with excellent job prospects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this profession is growing much faster than average, and is expected to remain a desirable career for years to come. In other words, here is no shortage of physician assistant jobs.

It also has one of the highest starting salaries of all medical professions. On average, a first-year physician assistant can expect to earn at least $65,000. As they pursue higher education and gain more experience, that number rises. Location plays a very large role in determining a physician assistant salary, and in many areas a first-year physician assistant can take home $80,000 or more. Salaries for specialized physician assistants can reach as high as $200,000.

Is It Right for You?

What is a physician assistant? He or she is a dedicated medical professional who truly cares for the well-being of others. Like any healthcare career, physician assisting requires a great deal of compassion as well as medical expertise. If you don’t have a passion for helping others, the high stress levels of the job may be too demanding. However, if you want to make a difference in the lives of others, you’ll likely find physician assisting to be not only a lucrative career, but an extremely rewarding one as well.

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