Schools Offering Physician Assistant Degrees
- Average Salary: $86,410
- Job Outlook: 30% growth (much faster than average)
All stats from BLS.gov
Physician assistants are medical professionals who must work under the supervision of a licensed physician, but they also perform many of the same functions as a physician. They are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients, prescribe some medications, treat minor injuries, and assist in surgical procedures. Physician assistants are especially popular at large, metropolitan hospitals that offer many different services and treat large numbers of patients.
Many prospective physicians are instead drawn to physician assistant programs because assistantships require significantly less education and training. While doctors attend eight years of school and complete residencies, physician assistants usually have only a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, amounting to about six years of school, and do not have to complete a residency. Physician assistants also usually face fewer legal difficulties throughout the course of their career and work more reasonable hours. Certification is required, but the demands of the exams are much less significant than the demands of physician exams.
Now is an excellent time to go into the physician assistant profession. Medical facilities see the economic benefit of employing more physician assistants and fewer fully licensed physicians. Much higher than average employment growth is expected for this profession, and wages generally range from $68,210 to $97,070. The training for physician assistants can also prepare graduates for other high-paying careers in medicine.
- Geriatrics: Those who specialize in geriatrics are prepared to work specifically with elderly and aging people. The elderly often have specific nutritional, medicine, and mobility needs and require the attention of those who have specialized knowledge in geriatrics.
- Pediatrics: Pediatricians care for young children and babies. Physician assistants who study pediatrics learn about the growth and development process and study diseases or disorders that the young are susceptible to.
- Obstetrics: Obstetrics is the branch of medicine that is dedicated to pregnant women and their unborn children. Physician assistants who work in obstetrics may help deliver children and are especially helpful in Caesarian deliveries.
- Occupational Medicine: Occupational medicine is not a common specialization for physician assistants, but it is sometimes available. Occupational medicine is a specialized branch of medicine that emphasizes injury and disease prevention in the workplace.
- Orthopedics: Physician assistants who specialize in orthopedics will concentrate on the skeletal system more than other physician assistants, as orthopedics is the branch of medicine that works with correcting breaks or deformities in the skeletal system.
- Cardiology: Cardiology is an important branch of medicine, especially for the aging, as it encompasses the health of the heart and circulatory system. Physician assistants with a strong background in cardiology will be marketable job candidates.
- Surgery: A physician assistant who studies surgery will have much of the same training as a surgical technologist and will be appealing to employers at major hospitals where surgeries are more common. Salaries are usually higher.
- Bachelor's Degree: 4 years to complete
- Master's Degree: 2-3 years to complete
In order to be admitted to a physician assistant training program, a candidate must graduate from an accredited undergraduate institution, preferably with a bachelor's degree that is somehow related to the practice of medicine. There are physician assistant bachelor's degree programs, but general science degrees in biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, or kinesiology are accepted as well. Pre-med or public health majors are favored as well.
There are 142 programs in the United States approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Most of these programs lead to master's degrees, and these are generally preferable to certification or associate degree programs. Physician assistant training programs include courses such as biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, medical diagnostics, medical ethics, and anatomy. Lab work is expected, and the best programs usually include some work-study opportunities.
Every state in the United States requires physician assistants to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, which is offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Maintaining licensure requires a certain amount of continuing education hours and re-passing the exam every six years. The $475 exam features questions on medical and surgical knowledge.
All physician assistants must have a bachelor's degree and must complete some sort of training program; this program can lead to a master's degree, but it does not have to, and having a master's degree does not typically lead to a higher income for physician assistants. Overall, the average annual earnings for full-time physician assistants in the United States are approximately $85,710. First-year physician's assistants command lower salaries, typically averaging about $74,470 per year. A physician assistant's specialty, years of experience, and geographical location will have a significant impact on their expected salary. (BLS)
Nearly all healthcare professions in the United States are expected to experience much higher employment growth than most other professions. Even compared to other healthcare professions, physician assistant positions are likely to grow extremely quickly. Overall, 39 percent employment growth is expected over the next several years for physician assistants. The older American population is aging quickly, so more demand is being placed on the health care system. At the same time, hospitals are seeking ways to cut costs. Because physician assistants can perform many of the same tasks as an actual physician for a much lower salary, hospitals are utilizing these professionals more and more often. (BLS)
A massage therapist uses massage techniques to help individuals who are suffering from muscle soreness or pain, often as a result of surgery or injury. Some massage therapists may work in spas or individual massage centers with those seeking massages for relaxation purposes. Physical therapy centers popularly employ massage therapists. Some massage therapists have minimum training, having completed only a certification course, whilst others have completed associate degrees or more extensive training programs. Sports trainers, like massage therapists, also often work with injured or recovering patients. However, they usually have more extensive medical training, including classes in kinesiology, physiology, nutrition, and fitness. Sports trainers are employed by gyms, schools, and professional or collegiate sports teams.
Like both sports trainers and massage therapists, physical therapists regularly treat injuries. A physical therapist must be licensed and well educated, with a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Master's degrees are common. Physical therapists are critical professionals for recovering patients, as they help those with diseases or injuries who need to re-learn how to use their bodies.
A medical assistant is often compared to a physician assistant, but physician assistants generally perform more complex tasks, require more schooling, and command higher salaries. Medical assistants perform much simpler functions, such as drawing blood and checking blood pressure. Medical assistants work in all kinds of medical settings and can usually be hired with just an associate degree.