Physicians Assistant Programs Lead to Lucrative and Fulfilling Careers
Choosing to attend physicians assistant programs can be your first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding new career. In today’s economy, job security is paramount. Careers in the medical industry is uniquely suited to those seeking long-term stability, career advancement and the personal gratification of performing useful, meaningful work.
Once you have decided to pursue a physicians assistant career, you will first need to find a qualified and reputable program to provide you with the training and the certification you need for employment. If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, you can seek entry to a physician assistant master’s degree program. These programs typically take two years to complete. If you have not yet completed college, you can instead seek entry into a physician assistant bachelor’s degree program, which is accelerated so that at the end of four years of coursework, you will have completed a bachelor’s degree as well as your physician assistant training.
What You Can Expect from Your Coursework
You will be given a broad overview of all aspects of medical care, anatomy and physiology to psychology and emergency care. The third and fourth years of a bachelor’s program will include clinical rotations and course work. The second year of the master’s program places an emphasis on acquiring professional, clinical experience.
Becoming a physician assistant requires a considerable deal of commitment to completion of the necessary course work and clinical. Accelerated bachelor’s programs allow you to acquire the clinical experience you need for certification while completing your degree, saving you time on the process. However, the time commitment can be steep. You can expect your schooling to be a full-time endeavor, leaving you little time for outside employment or socializing. The master’s program can be completed in three years and focuses heavily on acquiring actual work experience, but it too will require a significant time investment to complete the program promptly.
Upon completion of your degree program from one of the country’s accredited physicians assistant schools, you will be required to take and receive a passing score on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, or PANCE. The PANCE is a standardized multiple choice examination that takes five hours. You will be eligible to take the exam seven days after you have completed your program. You may attempt to take the exam as many as six times in six years before losing eligibility.
To keep your skills current and ensure you are always working with up-to-date information and technology, every two years, you will be required to complete additional 100 hours of coursework in continuing education. Every six years, you will need to renew your certification. This can be completed with a combination of examinations and work experience.
What Is Involved in a Physician’s Assistant Career
Once you have completed your education and passed the PANCE, your job duties will be remarkably similar to those of a medical doctor. Your education and training will have prepared you to handle routine medical care in a wide range of situations. You can expect your daily practice to include treating small injuries, gathering medical histories and ordering diagnostic tests and X-rays and analyzing the results. You will also examine patients and prescribe medication as needed. On a managerial career track, you may be tasked with supervising other employees.
For the most part, physician assistants find employment practicing in primary care. Jobs are available in the private and public sectors. Private hospitals and practices employ physician assistants. Public jobs include those in schools, prisons and public hospitals.
Physicians Assistant Salary and Career Outlook
Physician assistants complete lengthy educational requirements and are rewarded with ample employment opportunities for a lucrative annual salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment market for physician assistants is anticipated to increase 30% during the current decade from 2010-2020. This represents greater overall growth than other medical professions.
A number of factors contribute to the growing demand for physician assistants. One is the aging population of the Baby Boomer generation in the United States. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, they will require more general medical care. More providers are necessary to ensure their needs are met. As the Boomers continue into retirement age, and beyond, their vast numbers and longer life expectancy will make greater demands upon the medical industry than at any point in the past.
Another factor is the increasing specialization of medical doctors. More and more often, physicians are choosing specialties and pursuing education, credentials and experience to make them top in their respective fields. As more doctors choose to specialize, however, the number of general practitioners decreases. People who are seeking routine or preventative medical care may not require the services of a specialist. Instead, they need general practitioners who have a broad knowledge of general medical treatment and care. Physician assistants can readily fill this gap with their ability to treat common injuries and illnesses, perform basic diagnostics and prescribe medication.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average physicians assistant salary in 2010 was $86,410 per year. Salaries can range from $57,450 on the low end to $117,720 on the high end. Schools and colleges tend toward lower annual salaries while private hospital employment generally offers the highest. Salaries can also be affected by geographic location and your personal experience.
Jobs growth is expected to continue in every sector. Hospitals, schools and private practice are among the highest-growing industries as doctors continue to specialize their care and practices turn to physician assistants to provide general practice needs. Outlook is exceptionally strong in underdeveloped and rural areas that are not well-served by local hospitals or schools.
Qualities You Will Need to Be a Successful Physician Assistant
When you are choosing a career, you must keep in mind that your own personality and character traits will make a significant contribution toward your ultimate success. With that in mind, there are three key traits recognized as being critical to doing well in a physicians assistant program and embarking upon a successful career. While these traits can be nurtured and developed throughout your education and career, you will find yourself at an initial advantage if they already come easily to you.
You must be detail-oriented. Your duties will include taking and analyzing medical histories and ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests. You will be working in a fast-paced and high-pressure environment that requires you to keep a solid grip on the details as to avoid making potentially life-threatening mistakes.
You must be emotionally stable. Careers in the medical field can, at times, be extremely challenging from an emotional standpoint. You will need to be capable of providing objective, quality care to your patients. You will also need to be able to cope with negative outcomes without allowing them to affect the quality of care your other patients receive.
You must be compassionate. Granted, your patients will appreciate a compassionate and empathetic bedside manner. However, the greatest benefit of this character trait will be its ability to make this a truly rewarding career path for you. A compassionate person will derive immense gratification from working every day toward helping fellow human beings. For the right person, a physicians assistant career can be meaningful and fulfilling on a personal level as well as a financial one.