A physician assistant education program is a hot-ticket item in colleges and universities these days. As per the PAE Association, more than 12,000 students are enrolled nationwide in PA programs. With 75,000 PAs employed in clinics and the field expecting 39 percent growth in the decade leading up to 2018, it is no big surprise there is so much interest.
With 150 programs to choose from, students have a lot of options. Most of these programs offer accredited Bachelors or Masters Degrees. The institutions are mostly a part of medical schools, and the coursework closely tracks that of medical students. However, PA programs are shorter in duration and can be completed in just a bit over 2 years on average. This includes both classroom teaching and supervised training in clinics.
There is a lot of flexibility in terms of eligibility and entry requirements. There are even programs now available for high school graduates which include a “pre-PA” phase that must be completed before moving on to the core training and courses. But most programs require some prior health care experience. Also, every certified PA must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) in order to be considered as a qualified and certified PA.
There is steep competition for admissions, and students need to send in applications to multiple institutions. But the applications process is much easier than for other fields. A single web-based application sent in via CASPA can be used to apply to one or more of around 120 of the 150 programs currently available.
Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) has a streamlined system. Students have to send in their applications as per an annual time-frame, and this is different from the deadlines set by each individual program. Once all the supporting documents and references have been sent to and accepted by CASPA, students can log-in and select which institutions they want to apply for.
Neither the PA nor the courses are restricted to any specific field of medicine. PAs can write prescriptions, conduct physical exams and take care of a lot of the routine work in a clinic. They can order tests, and offer a diagnosis and treatment for an illness.
PAs can also move at any time to another department or clinic which offers a different medical service. They can work in pediatrics or family care or gynecology. They can work in emergency care units. A PA can also move to surgery, and work in clinics offering orthopedics or cardiovascular surgical procedures.
Needless to say, physician assistant education is not easy. Students are required to work hard and expect a fruitful career with high salaries and job satisfaction. In fact, magazine rankings place a PA career as the 2nd best job in America. The American Academy of PAs or AAPA says that those employed by a clinic and working 32 hours/week get more than a $93k mean income. A stunning 89% of survey respondents said they would again choose to be a PA if they had another career choice decision to make.
Physician assistant education programs at universities and colleges all over the nation are in big demand these days.