Throughout the U.S., there are plenty of career opportunities for physician assistants, also known as PAs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects PA employment to rise 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than average. Today, hospitals, physician groups, nursing facilities and other types of providers are seeking qualified PAs to examine patients, diagnose problems and provide treatment or make recommendations to the examining physician.
One reason for the rising demand is that the U.S. population is aging, creating a need for more medical and healthcare professionals in general. Another factor is that more physicians are becoming specialists, and opening the door to PAs who can provide primary healthcare services.
To become a PA, you first need to earn a bachelor’s degree and then complete an accredited program for physician assistants, which usually takes two years and leads to a master’s degree. Graduates need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) and obtain a state license as well.
But there are both personal and financial awards for completing the PA program. Most PAs enjoy the challenge of being on the front line of patient care, and assessing and diagnosing patients with a wide range of conditions. Many PAs also order and interpret lab tests, assist in surgical procedures, prescribe medications and educate patients and families about wellness and preventive health care.
Salaries for physician assistants are also highly competitive. As of May 2010, the median annual wage for PAs was $86,140, according to the Department of Labor. If you are interested in a PA career, you can find more information from the American Academy of Physician Assistants at www.aapa.org.