The physician assistant is one of the newer professions in the medical field. These medical professionals can be very involved in healthcare, to the point where they may diagnose and treat patients. They may often work in doctor’s offices or hospitals as part of a medical team, and they usually are under the supervision of a managing doctor, who can be called upon to oversee more complex cases. The route to getting physician assistant training is a little bit confusing because there are several ways to obtain this training.
Physician assistant training doesn’t necessarily involve the same degrees. People can enter a program with little to no college and earn an A.A, or they can enter a four-year bachelor program. Successful candidates who are already assistants or who have received a bachelor degree in a related topic could still enter a master’s program to get physician assistant training. The main requirement is that the school entered is one accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) in the US, or by whatever physician assistant accrediting agencies exist in other countries. Accredited programs in the US are listed on the Physician Assistant Education Association website.
No matter where people start physician assistant training, it is impossible to get a job until after people have completed an exam, and everyone takes the same exam in the US. The examination for a master’s student is no different than the examination taken by a student who will earn an A.A. It should be no more challenging for one student over another if a physician assistant training program is accredited and students have worked hard to master material.
It’s not that getting physician assistant training means having no college experience. In fact, most programs will have prerequisites. These can include taking courses in English, math, biology and chemistry, possibly anatomy, and in things like medical terminology.
It might be a very good idea to investigate programs first to determine what prerequisites exist. Most of them can be fulfilled at a local community college. At the bachelor level, students would take approximately two years of undergraduate studies that cover these areas before entering fully into the training program. Students looking for a master’s degree must still have completed a curriculum that emphasized medicine, though again each program has its own requirements.
In the US alone there are over 100 schools that are accredited by the ARC-PA. Numbers are expected to grow because this is a growing field. Physician assistants can truly assist doctors and patients in a variety of environments and since they can do much of the work of a doctor, but are paid considerably less, it's projected they will become increasingly important, and employed more often in healthcare in the future.