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How To Get a Job as a Physician Assistant

Working in the medical field, though difficult, is highly rewarding: you play a critical role in ensuring the health of your patients, making sure that they are able to return home to their families and the activities that they love. There are numerous different jobs within the healthcare profession, and the perfect one for you really depends on your own personality and knowledge base; some people enjoy the hands-on aspects of working in a private practice or hospital, while others would rather focus on the scientific components and perform critical research. Regardless, there is a job for anyone who is bright, hardworking, and empathetic.

While most of us think about doctors or nurses when we imagine working in healthcare, there are several other roles one can take, such as a physician assistant. This job has many of the responsibilities that come with being a doctor, such as performing exams, diagnosing illnesses, and assisting in surgeries, but it provides more flexibility and has fewer administrative elements, being almost entirely focused on patient care. Better yet, it requires less training and is in high demand: the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a 28% growth in demand for physician assistants by 2031. These professionals make a respectable $131,000 per year on average, and they can get licensed much faster than a doctor.

To become a physician assistant, you need to receive a Master’s degree and pass a certification exam

Unlike nursing, there are no specialized undergraduate programs for physician assistants as of now, which means that you have a little more flexibility in what bachelor’s degree you pursue. Most physician assistants attain a Bachelor of Science degree, usually in one of the life sciences, as this gives them a firm background in what they’ll need to know for their Master’s degree. You should check with the Master’s program you would like to apply to for their prerequisite requirements, as this will allow you to avoid having to do extra undergraduate classes before you apply.

Once you have your BS, you should apply to a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS), of which there are over 250 in the United States. Be sure that the program you choose is accredited by the  Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), as you will not be able to take the certification test otherwise.

These programs take two to three years to complete, during which time you will complete clinical rotations in various specialties. This is a great time to familiarize yourself with the different areas of medicine and decide which seems to be the right fit for you.

Once you’ve completed your program, you will take the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination). This is a multiple-choice test that covers a variety of medical and surgical concepts, including laboratory values and diagnostics; it is offered at over 200 testing sites across the country, and you’ll need to register and pay beforehand.

Next, you’ll apply for a state license wherever you will be practicing. Every state has different requirements for receiving and maintaining licensure, and you can usually review this information on your state’s Department of Public Health website.

Like other medical professions, you need to renew your license every two or three years, and you will have to stay in good standing with the ARC-PA in order to continue practicing medicine. This includes completing continuing education (CE) credits on time, as well as avoiding any negative behavior that may cause you to be reprimanded by the licensing board.

Finding a job as a physician assistant is easier than ever with practice-specific job boards

Now that you’re a fully-fledged physician assistant, it’s time to jump in and start helping people with a full-time PA job. Physician assistant jobs are available all across the country and in numerous settings, including research institutions, private practices, clinics, and hospital systems, and there are a variety of specialties you can consider too.

It used to be that you had to find physician assistant jobs by word of mouth or hunt through pages of irrelevant listings on generalized job boards; however, all that has changed with the creation of job boards specific to the medical field. These specialized job boards are the best way to find healthcare roles: many hospital systems will not advertise licensed positions through places like Indeed and LinkedIn to avoid a rush of irrelevant applications. When posting here, they know that only those in the medical field are likely to register and fill out their profile, so they can be assured that they will receive high-quality applicants – like you.

Just as with any other job, there are a variety of factors to consider when choosing which position to accept. If you’re moving to take the role, ask if they provide relocation assistance, and research the cost of living in your new area to be sure that you’re not taking a drastic pay cut by moving to a more expensive place. You should also explore whether they provide any assistance with repaying your student loans, and if they have nonprofit status so that you can enroll in the Public Servant Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

There are many steps to becoming a physician assistant, but the payoff is enormous: you’ll enjoy a flexible career that allows you to help others every day. Study hard and take your exams, and soon enough, you’ll find the PA role of your dreams.