Physician assistants typically need a master's degree. Most applicants to masterís programs already have a bachelorís degree and some work experience. Then, they must complete an accredited educational program for physician assistants. That usually takes at least 2 years of full-time study and typically leads to a masterís degree. All states require physician assistants to be licensed.
Most applicants to physician assistant education programs already have a bachelorís degree and some healthcare-related work experience. However, admissions requirements vary from program to program.
Many assistants already have experience as registered nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), or paramedics before they apply to a physician assistant program. For more information, see the profiles on registered nurses and EMTs and paramedics.
Physician assistant education programs usually take at least 2 years of full-time study. In 2011, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant accredited 165 education programs. Most of these accredited programs offer a masterís degree. Others offer a bachelorís degree, and a very few award an associateís degree or graduate certificate.
These physician assistant programs are at schools of allied health, academic health centers, medical schools, and 4-year colleges. A few are part of the military or are found at community colleges or hospitals.
Physician assistant education includes classroom and laboratory instruction in subjects such as pathology, human anatomy, physiology, clinical medicine, physical diagnosis, and medical ethics. The programs also include supervised clinical training in several areas, including family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and pediatrics. Many accredited programs have clinical teaching affiliations with medical schools.
Sometimes, students serve in one or more of these areas under the supervision of a physician who is looking to hire a physician assistant. In this way, the rotation may lead to permanent employment.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition
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