A physician assistant works under the supervision of a doctor to examine patients, diagnose medical conditions, and to provide treatment. The programs which train these physician assistants are at the graduate level. These programs can run for two years or more. Choosing an accredited program is essential for licensing and certification in all states as well as the District of Columbia.
Most physician assistant programs involve two parts. The first involves lectures, book work, and the class room phase. The second involves intensive clinical rotations. This combination helps to develop the theory and application of what the student learns.
Admissions to most physician assistant programs is quite competitive. Applicants first complete a CASPA entry. CASPA stands for Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants. This application requires transcripts of past education and three letters of reference. It also requires students to have a bachelor's degree and to have completed core classes in biology, chemistry, and microbiology. Most programs require students to pass the GRE with acceptable scores. Most programs take those students with the best GPAs. Some programs require the student to have previous medical experience. Most entering these programs are either nurses or allied medical professionals already working.
Upon completion of the physician assistant program, the PA will need to complete the licensing procedure in their home state. With license in place, the jobs available for PAs are quite numerous. Most will find work in a doctor's practice assisting the practice physicians with patient care. Many will find work in hospitals or other patient care facilities aiding doctors in diagnosing and treating patients. The need for physician assistants is expected to grow by 30% over the next twenty years.
The median salary for a physician assistant in 2010 was $86,000. The range of salaries went from $57,000 up to $117,000. The actual wages will vary by region, experience, and employer.
Many students studying to become doctors are looking to become specialists. That leaves a gap in the need for primary care providers. Physician assistants are beginning to fill this gap. They work with a primary care physician. But, they extend the reach of that practice by allowing more patients to be seen by the same practice. The role of physician assistant continues to expand as the world of medicine changes. That change will continue well into the future.