How to Become a Physician's Assistant

Become a Physician's Assistant

Home > Career Training > What To Do Now? > What To Do Now? Physician's Assistant Career Training

Are you interested in the medical field but don't think you want to become a doctor? You might want to consider retraining for a career as a physician's assistant (PA). A physician's assistant can help people recover from illnesses and injury. If you are caring, have good interpersonal skills, and are interested in the world of diagnosis and treatment, you can improve your skills and retrain as a PA, which can open up new job possibilities. The outlook for this job into the future is good, even in a poor economy, because physician's assistants are less expensive to hire than doctors.

Career Advice: Physician's Assistant

Physician's assistants are found in many of the same settings as doctors--hospitals, clinics, and private practices. The field is growing and expected to keep on thriving into the future, especially in areas where doctors are scarce.

As in any area of medicine, a physician's assistant has opportunities to work in different settings and with diverse populations. Do you enjoy working with children, adults, or the elderly? Do you prefer emergency cases or more long-term ongoing care? PAs who work in the city face different challenges than those located in rural areas. A patient puts his or her trust in your knowledge, competence, and attention to detail. An ability to both work effectively as part of a team and also make good decisions independently are critical to this important job.

Retraining as a Physician's Assistant

The knowledge and skills you need for a career as a physician's assistant are specialized and require specific education and training. You would typically need to have at least two years of college plus two years of PA education, along with required training and supervision. Whether you explore on campus or online PA training courses, you need to make a commitment to learning diagnostic skills as well as the treatment of illness and injury. This commitment can pay off both in terms of career success and a positive contribution to the health of others.

Career Outlook

  • Median Annual Salary: In May 2013, the physician assistants earned a median annual salary of $94,350 with top 10% making more than $130,620.
  • Top Paying States: Rhode Island, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Washington.
  • States with Highest Employment: New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida.
  • Career Outlook for 2012-22: 38 Percent - Much faster than national average of 11 percent for all careers.
  • Physician assistants employed in 2012: 86,700
  • Number of physician assistants working in offices of physicians: 50,510
  • Number of physician assistants working in hospitals: 19,380
  • Number of physician assistants working outpatient care centers: 6,040
  • Length of typical physician assistant programs: 2 years
  • Typical admission requirements for physician assistant programs: 2 years of college, some health care experience
  • Popular coursework: biochemistry, clinical medicine, pathology, human anatomy, disease prevention, microbiology, clinical pharmacology, geriatric and home health care
  • Examination required for licensure: Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination
  • Continuing education requirements: 100 hours of medical education every 2 years, re-certification examination every 6 years
  • Projected best job opportunities: Rural areas, inner-city clinics
  • Recommended skills: self-motivation, ability under pressure, good bedside manner
  • Popular physician assistant specialties: pediatrics, general internal medicine, family medicine, surgery
  • Duties for physician assistants in surgery: preoperative and postoperative care, first or second assistant designation

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physician Assistants
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physician Assistants, May 2013 Wages