7 Steps On How To Become A Physician Assistant

How to Become a Physiscian Assistant

Whether you’re searching for a career or making a big career change, it’s never going to be easy to decide what career path to take. That is why in today’s post, I’d like to share the 7 steps on how to become a physician assistant.

It’s a brief overview of what you’ll need to take in order to become one and be successful in every step that you take towards becoming a PA. They are arranged in chronological order so that you’ll know which steps to take first and why.

So let’s get started.

1. Decide why do you want to become a physician assistant

Each person have a different answer because we have different goals and motivations. But the top reasons why most “people” wanted to become a PA is because of the following:

  • Great Income and Salary – The Median salary range for Physician Assistants are in the $80-$90K per annum. It’s definitely one of the highest paying careers in the healthcare profession.
  • Employee Benefits – Aside from the huge salary that you can get from the job, you’ll also have employee health benefits that usually includes your dependents (spouse and kids). We all know that health insurance costs are really high in the states, and these benefits can be of real help especially when health concerns arises unexpectedly.
  • Very Flexible career – This is one huge advantage for Physician Assistants because they can specialize in different areas of medicine. They can become Orthopedic Physician Assistant, Pediatric Physician Assistant, etc. without doing the normal residency programs that is required for the doctors.
  • There will be lots of Jobs – According to the BLS, the demand for this career is really growing at a very fast rate. Primarily because of the increasing number of patients and demand for healthcare professionals.
  • Skills, Knowledge, and People skills are used – The job of a Physician Assistant requires that you meet, talk, evaluate, and connect with patients during Physical examination, evaluation, treatment,  and diagnosis. You are not just confined in an office doing paperwork, but you’re actually applying the skills and knowledge that you’ve learned in providing excellent care to other people.
  • Being able to make a difference – For some people, this is their way of “helping” and “making a difference” in a person’s life. You can definitely help make people’s lives a lot better by becoming a physician assistant.

2. Assess your current credentials and skills

There are several Physician assistant degrees, Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree. Keep in mind that each school has a different set of application requirements. Make sure you’ve chosen a school with an Accredited PA Program, and then, request for an Application checklist. Getting a Master’s degree in Physician Assisting requires good grades, patient experience(s) and completing pre-requisite subjects if you haven’t taken them yet.

Generally, you’ll be asked for your Official transcript, A personal statement of application, a 2×2 Photo (usually taken within 6 months), reference letters, and completion of the application papers. You must submit these requirements before the deadline set by the school you’ve chosen. You can start looking for accredited Physician assistant programs near you by clicking here.

3. Apply for several physician assistant schools and programs

Don’t make the mistake of applying for just one or 2 Physician Assistant schools or programs. Competition is very stiff, and most schools have rigorous selection process. Your goal would be to get accepted to several institutions and decide which one you prefer to pursue. It is best to have options rather than waiting for approval from just 1 or 2 institutions. If you’re not accepted after their deadline, it might take you another semester before you can start studying as a Physician Assistant.

Click here to find several PA Programs near you.

4. Complete your physician assistant program

The complete PA Programs (Without taking the Prerequisite subjects) would take around 27 months. During this time, you’ll  have about 12 months of lecture based discussion with your PA professors, while the rest (15 months) will be most likely spent in clinical rotations and actual training.

Some people who are studying and working at the same time would probably finish the program longer. You’ll need to check with your institution if they have have part time PA programs, because most of them would require full attendance during the 27 month period.

5. Study and pass the PANCE.

In order to work and be certified, you’ll need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam or PANCE for short. Passing the PANCE test is a prerequisite for getting a license in whichever state you wish to work as PA. The PANCE is done in front of a computer, where you answer multiple choice questions about your medical, surgical, and healthcare knowledge.

6. Get Licensed and Start looking for a Job

Once you’ve passed the PANCE, you can then, get licensed in the state that you wish to work for. Make sure you’ve applied for the state board and have submitted all of the required credentials including your PANCE results. Depending on each state, this licensing process may vary and could take a few weeks or even several months. I would highly recommend that you complete all your credentials and paperwork to avoid delays and expedite the process.

7. Start Working as a Physician Assistant.

Now that you’re licensed, you can now start looking for a job. However, you have to make sure that you renew your certification and take continuing education credits. Your license should be renewed every 2 years. Keep in mind that it is against the law to work as a PA with and expired license.

Congratulations! You’ve just joined a wonderful and exciting career as a Physician Assistant!


Photo credit the National Guard under CC 2.0

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