Physician’s assistants are medical professionals who operate independently, see their own patients, and write their own prescriptions. However, the PA must work under the guidance of a physician, meaning that while they are independent for the most part, they usually work very closely with a medical doctor. The doctor may oversee their daily workload or only check in occasionally. It very much depends on the dependability of the PA, and the personality of the doctor in charge.
Getting into a PA Program
A physician assistant program is a master’s degree that must be completed after a bachelor’s. It differs from a master of science in nursing program because it does not require any specific undergraduate major. Most programs do require prerequisites like higher level math classes and human anatomy. Programs can be very competitive, so good grades are a must.
PA programs require courses in clinical medicine, ethics, pediatrics, cardiology, pathology, psychiatry. Students will take two years of class work followed by a one year internship, where they have hands on practice in their field. The entire program usually takes three years to complete. Once they successfully complete the program, they are required to pass a certification exam.
Where PA’s work
Once PA’s have graduated from an accredited program and have passed a state or national licensing exam, they can begin working as a medical professional. Most PA’s will work in hospitals or medical clinics, but some will also work in conjunction with a doctor in private practice. Jobs are generally plentiful as the field is growing much faster than average right now.
Benefits of being a PA
Physician’s assistants are generally well-paid professionals who work steady hours. As a new PA, right out of school, you could expect to be hired in with a salary of about $62,000 a year. During mid-career, PA’s earn about $90,000 a year. The highest paid PA’s earn more than $124,000 a year. That’s more than enough to cover living expenses and pay back any student loans.
More than the monetary value of the profession, most PA’s say that they enjoy working with patients so closely. They enjoy the autonomy of their profession, but without the same level of responsibility that doctors have. They can really get to know their patients and help them deal with problems. There are very few actual physician duties a PA cannot perform, so the level of autonomy when helping patients is actually very high. Most PA’s work full-time and report very high levels of job satisfaction from what they do.