Master Degree Physician assistant graduate programs focus on patient, primary and special care in medical and surgical practices. Physician assistants work under the supervision of physicians, but training typically covers a wide range of diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative health care services which prepares them for a wide range of functions, such as: conducting physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting tests, counseling on preventative care, assisting in surgery, and in most states, writing prescriptions.
A physician assistant is an ideal degree for someone interested in the medical field who would like to undertake many of the same responsibilities as a doctor. In fact, it's common for first year medical students and first year Physician assistant students to share the same classes. However, Physician assistants are not required to complete a residency.
Prospective would ideally possess the following qualities:
Strong background in the sciences
Interested in Healthcare
Enjoys working with the public
Some programs may require prerequisite course work, as well as a Bachelor's degree and GRE or MCAT score. Prior healthcare experience is usually not necessary, but it can certainly strengthen the application. Generally speaking, most physician assistant schools are masters programs, but a few physician assistant doctoral programs exist.
Physician’s Assistant Graduate Programs and Curriculum
Physician assistant graduate coursework is usually two to three years in length and includes basic medical and behavioral sciences such as anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine and physical diagnosis. After the classroom and laboratory based learning is complete, physician assistant graduate students must complete clinical rotations as part of their training. These rotations could include:
In evaluating a physician assistant school, important factors to consider are:
Accreditation: A degree from an accredited school is necessary to obtain licensure
Pass rate on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam: Research the pass rate for the NCCPA Exam at your preferred institution.
Patient Care Experience: The amount of hands on training offered varies among programs, check with university or college personnel to ensure you will receive an adequate amount of field training.
Program Flexibility: Determine the level of schedule freedom you need. Many online physician assistant programs allow students to set up their own rotations.
Physician Assistant Career Paths
Graduates of a physician assistant program with a master's (M.S.) or Ph.D. degree might pursue careers as surgical physician assistants, emergency department physician assistants, orthopedic physician assistants, cardiac physician assistants and more.
Physician Assistant Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 median annual wage for physician assistants was $90,930. The top 10% of earners made more$124,770 per year and the lowest 10% of earners in this field made less than $62,430. The BLS projects that job opportunities for physician’s assistants will grow by 38% between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average of all other occupations. The graph below summarizes the median annual salary for physician assistants working in select industries of employment.