What Degree Does a Physician Assistant Hold?

An individual who is considering becoming a physician assistant often wonders what degree is required to be a physician assistant. Physician assistants (PAs) are highly trained medical professionals who assist physicians in treating patients. Physician assistants must have at least a master’s degree and complete a PA program. Here is an overview of PAs, including what degree is required and what the career entails.

What Degree or Education is Needed to Become a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants must have a master’s degree from an accredited training program. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant accredits more than 200 PA programs in the United States. Before enrolling in the graduate program, the applicant should have a bachelor’s degree and some patient care experience.

The PA program offers a mixed curriculum of classroom courses, lab studies, and supervised clinical training. Course topics include pharmacology, pathology, medical ethics, physiology, human anatomy, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis. PA students are required to complete a clinical rotation to obtain hands-on experience. They also have the option of specializing in a certain area of medicine, such as surgery, family medicine, primary care, emergency medicine, pediatrics, or psychiatry.

Physician assistants must be licensed in all the states. To obtain licensure, the PA student must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. To maintain certification the PA must complete at least 100 hours of continuing education credits every two years. Every ten years the PA must retake the certification exam.

What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

Physician assistants work on medical teams with doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals. They examine, treat, and diagnose patients in the same capacity as a doctor would. In areas or communities where physicians are only available one or two days a week, the PA may be the primary care provider at clinics and hospitals.

Other PA Duties include documenting patient medical histories, immunizing patients, providing medical treatment, ordering and reading diagnostic tests, assessing a patient’s progress, prescribing medication, educating the patient and family members on the patient’s health, researching the latest treatment methods, and talking to groups about managing and promoting good health.

Related Resource: Top 15 Most Affordable Master of Health Sciences – Physician Assistant Online

Career Outlook for Physician Assistants

The aging population requiring more healthcare for age-related illnesses and diseases as well as society’s need for better healthcare for all patients puts physician assistants very much in demand. By using the services of physician assistants, doctors can see more patients, and healthcare facilities can charge lower prices for patient care.

Physician assistants are expected to see job growth of 37 percent during the decade of 2016-2026 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This should result in about 39,600 new PA jobs created by 2026. Although PA wages can vary by different factors, PAs overall earn a very good wage. The average annual wage for PAs was $104,760 with wages ranging from $66,590 to $146,260 as of May 2017.

Working as a PA offers a rewarding career and the opportunity to work in the capacity of a doctor but requires several years less in education. Earning a degree to become a physician assistant ensures an individual that they’ll be in a career that’s almost always in demand.