Physician Assistant Training
Requirements for admission to training programs vary; most applicants have a
college degree and some health-related work experience. All States require
physician assistants to complete an accredited, formal education program and
pass a national exam to obtain a license.
Education and training. Physician
assistant educational programs usually take at least 2 years to complete for
full-time students. Most programs are at schools of allied health, academic
health centers, medical schools, or 4-year colleges; a few are at community
colleges, are part of the military, or are at hospitals. Many accredited PA
programs have clinical teaching affiliations with medical schools.
In 2008, 142 education programs for physician assistants were accredited or
provisionally accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for
the Physician Assistant. Eighty percent, or 113, of these programs offered the
option of a master's degree, 21 of them offered a bachelor's degree, 3 awarded
associate degrees, and 5 awarded a certificate.
Most applicants to PA educational programs already have a college degree and
some health-related work experience; however, admissions requirements vary from
program to program. Many PAs have prior experience as registered nurses,
emergency medical technicians, and paramedics.
PA education includes classroom and laboratory instruction in subjects like
biochemistry, pathology, human anatomy, physiology, clinical pharmacology,
clinical medicine, physical diagnosis, and medical ethics. PA programs also
include supervised clinical training in several areas, including family
medicine, internal medicine, surgery, prenatal care and gynecology, geriatrics,
emergency medicine, and pediatrics. Sometimes, PA students serve in one or more
of these areas under the supervision of a physician who is seeking to hire a PA.
The rotation may lead to permanent employment in one of the areas where the
Licensure. All States and the District of
Columbia have legislation governing the practice of physician assistants. All
jurisdictions require physician assistants to pass the Physician Assistant
National Certifying Examination, administered by the National Commission on
Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and open only to graduates of
accredited PA education programs. Only those who have successfully completed the
examination may use the credential "Physician Assistant-Certified." To remain
certified, PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every 2
years. Every 6 years, they must pass a recertification examination or complete
an alternative program combining learning experiences and a take-home
Other qualifications. Physician assistants
must have a desire to serve patients and be self-motivated. PAs also must have a
good bedside manner, emotional stability, and the ability to make decisions in
emergencies. Physician assistants should have an enthusiasm for lifelong
learning, because their eligibility to practice depends on continuing education.
Advancement. Some PAs pursue additional
education in a specialty. PA postgraduate educational programs are available in
areas such as internal medicine, rural primary care, emergency medicine,
surgery, pediatrics, neonatology, and occupational medicine. Candidates must be
graduates of an accredited program and be certified by the NCCPA.
As they attain greater clinical knowledge and experience, PAs can earn new
responsibilities and higher wages. However, by the very nature of the
profession, clinically practicing PAs always are supervised by physicians.
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
Find related resources below:
Physician Assistant Employment
Physician Assistant Training
Physician Assistant Job Outlook
Physician Assistant Income