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Physician’s Assistant: Career Profile, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements
Research what it takes to become a physician’s assistant. Learn about job duties, employment outlook, education requirements and licensing to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Physician’s Assistant?
A physician’s assistant provides preventive and diagnostic healthcare services for patients under a doctor’s guidance. Daily tasks may include, but are not limited to, examining patients, ordering diagnostic tests, providing treatment and prescribing medication. Physician’s assistants will also help educate the patient and their family on the patient’s condition and treatment plan, and they’ll monitor any progress. These professionals often conduct research to stay updated on the latest treatment options. Physician’s assistants may specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as surgery or emergency medicine. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know to enter this profession.
Education Field of Study
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Is the Career Profile for a Physician’s Assistant?
A physician’s assistant performs many of the routine tasks and procedures of a physician, which enables the physician to carry out other important tasks. Working autonomously under the general supervision of physicians, physician’s assistants are trained to compile patients’ health histories, and they also learn to examine, counsel and educate patients on health matters. If necessary, the physician’s assistant orders or performs procedures such as laboratory tests and electrocardiograms and interprets the test results.
In some states, physician’s assistants are also allowed to prescribe some medicines. Many physician’s assistants focus on primary care, family medicine, internal medicine or pediatrics, but some specialize in other areas of medicine such as emergency services, rural primary care or geriatrics. Most physician’s assistants work in doctor’s offices. Hospitals, outpatient centers and colleges and universities are also your potential employers.
What Is the Employment Outlook?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for physician’s assistants are expected to expand by 30% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov ), which is considered highly accelerated growth. The boom in the healthcare industry and the need to limit the rising costs associated with hiring more fully licensed physicians creates this demand.
The BLS projects that job opportunities for physician’s assistants could be especially strong in underserved and rural areas, places that don’t usually appeal to large numbers of doctors. The BLS also reports that in May 2015, physician assistants earned an average salary of about $99,270; those working in doctor offices averaged about $98,630, while those working in outpatient care centers received an average of about $106,080.
What Education Requirements Must I Attain?
Most physician assistants complete a Master of Science program, and you’ll find that most applicants to physician’s assistant degree programs already have undergraduate degrees in scientific fields. Physician’s assistant programs often require previous healthcare experience, and applicants come from a variety of medical backgrounds including nursing and physical therapy.
Your physician’s assistant program should take about two years to complete. You’ll take courses such as pulmonary medicine, blood borne pathogens, history and physical examination, pharmacology and applied physiology. Clinical training in areas such as internal medicine, pediatrics and emergency medicine is also offered.
How Do I Become Licensed?
To become a licensed physician’s assistant, every state requires that you complete an accredited physician assistant degree program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) offers this examination and supervises the continuing education process. Approximately 100 hours of continuing education must be completed every two years. You must also take a recertification test at 10-year intervals.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are a few related careers that require at least a master’s degree. These nurses are considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and provide patient care in their designated area of medicine. Some other related jobs that require a master’s degree include occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists. Occupational therapists work to improve the skills of sick or injured patients so they can perform everyday tasks at home and at work. Speech-language pathologists work to diagnose and treat any complication with their patients’ communication or swallowing disorders.
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