There is not better time to be asking the question of how to be a physician assistant, as the demand for the profession is skyrocketing, and it seems to be on every list of best jobs to go into, including top 5 in Money Magazine, USA News, Forbes and more. Not only that, but having a physician assistant job will come with a salary median of over $96,876 which was a projection in 2010, which income has shown to steadily climb each year, as well as the job can come with benefits such as; vision and dental, 401K, retirement bonuses, profit sharing and other bonuses. There are a set of steps that one needs to do to enable themselves to become a physician assistant, which are listed directly below.
Steps to Becoming A Physician Assistant
The first step that one needs to knock out when it comes to how to be a physician assistant, is to enroll in a physician assistant program that is accredited by the Accrediation Review Commission on Education for the Physican Assistant (ARC-PA). There are currently 159 accredited programs offered in schools spread out in the United States offering associates degrees, bachelors degrees as well as masters degrees. Being that the minimum requirement for a physician assistant job is a minimum of an associates degree, or 60 credits, it is possible to attain a job with an associates, but it should be known that almost all working physician assistants have at least a bachelors degree, with most of them attaining a masters degree. In order to become accepted into a physician assistant program, there are certain prerequisites that you must get under your belt, which below is an example of the requirements you must get to be considered for acceptance into a masters degree class:
- A bachelors degree from an accredited university or college. To make sure you are getting a degree from an accredited school, it needs to have been accredited by one of six different regional associates, which include the likes of Middle States Association (MSA), Northwest Association (NA), New England Association (NEASC-CIHE and CTCI), Western Association (WASC Junior & Senior), Sourthern Association (SACS-CC) and North Central Association (NCA).
- A cumulative GPA that is for the most part set at 3.0 or higher, as well as often times a cumlative science degree of 3.0 or higher is also required.
- Previous patient experience is almost always demanded, which PA programs usually prefer the experience to be “hands on” experience, in which some of the jobs that qualify are; RN, Nurse Aide (CNA), LVN, Corpsman, Paramedic among others. A lot of times this experience is needed to have been a paid job, with some programs allowing experience to come from volunteer work. Demanded hours can range anywhere from some to all the way up to 4000 hours.
- A Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is also required to become a physician assistant student.
- Letters of reference, preferably from those who you have worked with, like a physician, or a teacher as well as the possiblilty of personal references.
- A background and drug test.
- Proof that you have received immunizations.
- Programs usually always demand their applicants to show competence in designated “technical skills”, which can include some of the following; verbal, communication, motor skills, quantitative and observation among others.
- Completion of prerequisite courses is another major step on how to become a physician assistant student, and usually needed to be passed with a letter grade in the range of a C to B, and can have class requirements that can include; Medical Terminology, Chemistry, Biology, Physiology, Microbiology, Anatomy & Physiology, Statistics, Genetics among others.
The next step one has to acheive in order to become a PA is to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), which the only way one is able to take this test is by proving that they sucessfully passed an accredited physician assistant program. The test itself consists of 600 questions, that are all to be answered within one minute. Once you pass this test, you can go onto Step 3.
After you pass the PANCE you can then apply for licensure to work as a physician assistant through the state that you live in.
Step 4 (Optional)
This how to become a physician assistant step is completely option but can provide a better chance for employment as well as income. Being that there are various different physician assistant specialties, you can choose to complete a residency in one of the specialties, which usually last around 12 months. Specialty salaries can go up to as high as $150,000 per year.
How to Be A Physician Assistant – Staying Certified
After you have completed all the steps needed to become a physician assistant, you can now apply for jobs anywhere in your state, which jobs are most often found in physican assistant offices, hospitals, schools, outpatient centers among others. In order to stay certified, one must complete a certain amount of hours of continuing education as well as pass the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE).