How Long Does It Take To Become A Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants (PAs) are medical specialists who treat and diagnose patients while working under a supervising doctor. 

Since states used to control the kind of patient care that PAs may give, the job of a PA has changed over time. 

Today, most of the patient care tasks assigned to PAs by their supervising physicians are routinely taken on by them. 

In addition, PAs have a lot of autonomy in terms of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating patients.

Therefore, this article shall examine how long it takes to become a Physician assistant, along with the steps you may take to start your rewarding profession.

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What is a Physician Assistant School Like?

The admission process for physician assistant programs can be extremely competitive, and the majority of programs require applicants to have prior job experience. 

Working as an emergency department technician, paramedic, medical assistant, or EMT are all common choices for gaining experience. 

Once enrolled, students learn about a range of subjects resembling those in a pre-med program. 

Prior to applying to a master’s program at the graduate level, students are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related discipline and roughly three years of professional experience. 

Both classroom-based coursework and clinical rotations are included in these three-year programs.

Also, graduates must successfully complete the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, in order to become a physician assistant-certified (PA-C) professional (NCCPA). 

In addition, they have to finish 100 hours of CME every two years and receive a state license before they may start practicing. 

Physician assistants are required to pass the Physical Assistant National Certifying Examination every ten years.

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Earning a Bachelor Degree

Most colleges and institutions don’t provide bachelor’s degrees in physician assistance. 

As an alternative, those who are certain they want to pursue this vocation can complete a four-year degree in a similar field, such as one of the aforementioned areas. 

To help students become ready for a master’s program, some universities also offer physician assistant tracks in these programs. 

At this level, students study important topics such as psychology, medical physiology, human anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and the fundamentals of clinical medicine.

After completing the program, graduates will be fully knowledgeable about the physician assistant profession, moral and ethical conduct in the practice of medicine, and how to deliver primary care services. 

Students will also participate in a clinical component in addition to their classroom studies to get practical experience dealing with patients and in a medical environment.

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Masters Degree

To become a physician assistant, you must have at least a master’s degree. 

In a three-year curriculum, classes like healthcare ethics, policy, and administration typically take up the first half of the time, with clinical experience taking up the second half. 

The advanced problem-solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills that students will acquire during the course will be useful to them when they interact with doctors and nurses in a medical setting. 

Students are taught how to offer high-quality patient care while assisting a primary healthcare provider, surgeon, or other medical specialist.

Before graduating, students must write a thesis and log a predetermined number of hours in supervised clinical practice. 

Only graduates of master’s-level programs are qualified to apply for state licensing.

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Is Attending a Physician School Worth It?

The notion that you can accomplish more good more rapidly is one of the many reasons to become a medical assistant in addition to the many benefits listed above. 

PAs are essential in improving access for patient populations that are underserved (e.g., the uninsured and patients in rural areas). 

They frequently spend more time with their patients than other healthcare professionals, and they can do more with less time spent.

A curriculum like Pitt’s PAS-Hybrid requires just two years of intensive graduate-level training to become a PA, as opposed to four years of medical school plus three to seven years of residency for physicians.

Other benefits of becoming a medical assistant include independence, a work-life balance, high compensation, job security, and high demand. 

Time requirements are unimportant if you have the will and passion to become a PA. 

The hybrid program in physician assistant studies at Pitt will give you the confidence and clinical expertise you need to advance healthcare while improving patient health and wellbeing.

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What Schooling Do You Need to Be a Physician Assistant?

Typically, a master’s degree program is used for physician assistant training. 

A bachelor’s degree is required for admission to physician assistant programs, as well as strong grades in preparatory courses including human anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and mathematics. 

Several hundred hours of job or volunteer experience in the healthcare industry are often prerequisites for admission to many colleges. 

A physician assistant program is organized similarly to a medical school curriculum. 

Coursework takes up the first half of a student’s program, while clinical rotations are completed during the second half. 

In addition to learning about human anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and behavioral health, PA students also study the scientific underpinnings of medicine. 

Moreover, they get knowledge about clinical abilities such as patient assessment, counseling, and diagnosis.

Student rotations at hospitals and other healthcare facilities are required once they complete their preclinical courses. 

Pediatrics, family practice, general surgery, and emergency medicine may all be included in the list of required rotations. 

Elective rotations in fields like radiography, psychology, infectious diseases, or ophthalmology are also available to students.

To practice, physician assistants need a state license. 

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) administers the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, which prospective PAs must pass in order to become eligible for a license. 

In many states, license candidates must also submit their fingerprints for a background check on their criminal past.

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How Long Does It Take To Become a Licensed Physician Assistant in 2023?

A bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years to finish, and a two-year physician assistant training course must be completed before one may become a physician assistant. 

The amount of time it takes to become a physician assistant can be extended by the fact that many of them have prior healthcare experience (as a nurse or paramedic, for example).

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How Much Does It Cost to Become a Licensed Physician Assistant in 2023?

The average cost of a physician assistant school, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, was $61,088 for an out-of-state student and $50,567 for an in-state resident. 

Fortunately, certain program types are considerably less expensive than others and can provide students with considerable discounts.

Public education in-state often costs about $31,210, but public education outside-of-state typically costs substantially more, $56,934. 

Notably, averages for private schools are even higher. 

Private PA programs typically charge out-of-state students $66,014 in tuition. 

For in-state Pennsylvania students attending private universities, the average tuition is $65,573. 

No matter where you live, tuition costs for physician assistant programs at private universities are essentially the same.

An in-state, public university is the most economical route to becoming a PA.

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Salary and Job Outlook for Physician Assistants after Study

The position of a physician assistant was initially established in the 1970s, making it a relatively recent development in the healthcare industry. 

The stated role of the PA has changed over the past few decades and will do so going forward as more skilled practitioners are required to deliver care. 

Physician assistants can expand their study in a specialization through postgraduate programs like residencies and fellowships, just like physicians can. 

PAs that have more training and experience may make more money and take on supervisory roles. 

Doctoral degrees are another option for PAs who want to work in academia or research.

In the United States, PA employment is expected to increase by 38% between 2012 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

In comparison to other occupations, this growth is far faster. 

This remarkable growth is attributed by the BLS to a number of causes, including the need to provide for an older population and improved access to health insurance and medical services. 

Physician assistants are increasingly being used by hospitals to provide primary care at lower prices, particularly in rural and urban locations.

Physician assistants in the US made an average of $90,930 per year in 2012. 

The top ten percent of earnings in this field made over $124,770 that year, while the bottom ten percent made less than $62,430.

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Although hospitals and doctors’ offices are where most physician assistants find employment, they may also hunt for positions in other clinical settings. 

Since there is a greater need for PAs in underserved urban and rural areas, your chances of landing one of these jobs may be higher. 

Recruiting firms are frequently used by businesses to identify PAs to fill gaps, and some PAs get job offers from the doctors and facilities they have worked with during their clinical rotations. 

Therefore, even if your clinical experiences do not lead to employment, you should still build a lot of professional contacts that you may turn to for guidance and leads in your career search.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the length of the PA training program? 

In contrast to physicians, who must complete four years of medical school as well as three to seven years of residency training, PAs only need to complete two years of intensive graduate-level study, including time spent in clinical rotations.

Is getting accepted to study PA challenging? 

It’s challenging to get admitted into PA programs. According to the most recent data, there are 31.6% of applicants accepted into PA schools nationwide in the United States, compared to roughly 40% for medical schools.

How challenging is PA school? 

Notably, PAs require unique training because they will be in charge of their patient’s lives. It is not easy to diagnose ailments and develop a successful treatment strategy. Even while certain colleges may be simpler to get into, PA school is equally as demanding as a medical school to prepare them for that.

What sets a physician’s assistant apart from a nurse practitioner? 

Similar to physicians, physician assistants receive training in accordance with the medical model; as a result, they concentrate on the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of the patient’s ailment. As a result of their nursing style of training, nurse practitioners put a strong emphasis on disease-related testing, diagnosis, and care of the patient.

Should I train as an MD or PA? 

Consider what you most desire from your job while deciding whether to pursue a PA or MD degree. An MD is an obvious choice if earning money is your primary motivation. However, PA can be a better option if you desire a better work/life balance and more reliable hours.



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