How to become a physician assistant & the salary

Written by nicki howell
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How to become a physician assistant & the salary
Become a physician assistant. (physicians desk image by Keith Frith from

Physician assistants practice under a board-certified doctor to performance routine clinical tasks. PAs receive special training that allows them to provide preventive treatments and diagnose health issues. As of 2008, job growth for physician assistants is expected to increase 39 per cent by 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, before launching this career, you'll need to receive specialised training and achieve certification.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Complete the required education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician assistants must complete an accredited program. As of 2008, there were 142 programs accredited in the U.S. The majority of these programs offer a master's degree (113 programs). A small percentage of the programs offer a bachelor's degree. Individuals who achieve a master's degree have access to higher wages and more career opportunities. Find programs in your area by contacting the Accredited Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

  2. 2

    Apply for licensure with your state. As of 2008, all states require physician assistant licensure. Register to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (see References). You can register to take the exam with the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

  3. 3

    Find physician assistant positions. Physician assistant positions can be found at medical hospitals, outpatient care centres, private practices and universities. Positions can also be found through professional associations, such as the American Academy of Physician Assistants (see Resources). Your school's career services department can also help you find open potions.

  4. 4

    Negotiate your physician assistant salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician assistants earn £33,384 to over £71,500 annually, as of 2008. Target medical and surgical hospitals, which pay the highest wages. Outpatient care centres also pay high wages. Income will vary based on geographic location, education level and years of experience. Don't accept the first offer; make sure to negotiate.

  5. 5

    Complete continuing education requirements. Certification renewal is required, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Every two years, physician assistants need to complete 100 hours of continuing education to keep their license current. These courses can be found through the American Academy of Physician Assistants (see References). A recertification exam must also be taken every six years to remain licensed.

Tips and warnings

  • Some PA programs require that applicants have health-related work experience. For example, many programs prefer to accept candidates with a history in nursing, emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Check with the schools you're interested in the find out requirements.
  • Physician assistants may be required to work irregular schedules, depending on the employer. They may also be on their feet for long periods of time.

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