How to Become a Physician Assistant?

Are you thinking of becoming a Physician Assistant or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Physician Assistant, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Physician Assistant job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Physician Assistant

Physician assistants assist with examining, diagnosing, and treating patients. While formal education and training are an absolute necessity, physician assistants also need skills that you can't learn in the classroom. Successful physician assistants possess excellent communication, organization, and critical thinking skills. If you're service-oriented and empathetic, you'll excel at pursuing a career as a physician assistant. Finding a mentor in the field will give you insight into a physician assistant's workday. They can also help guide you through the following steps on your path to becoming a physician assistant.

Pursue a relevant bachelor's degree.

Before you apply to a physician assistant (PA) program, you'll have to complete a bachelor's degree in a science-related or medicine-related field of study. Many PA programs require applicants to complete other prerequisites, such as statistics, ethics, or physics. Keep in mind that you may need an additional year of undergraduate school to meet all prerequisites.


Earn patient care experience.

While prerequisites may vary, most PA programs require you to complete at least 1,000 hours of patient care experience (PCE) before admission. Patient care experience includes drawing blood, performing diagnostics, and assisting patients with mobility. Working as a nursing aide or orderly will earn you the necessary PCE hours.


Apply to a PA program.

After completing your bachelor's degree and earning enough PCE hours, you can start applying to PA programs. Typically, you'll need to submit your undergraduate transcript, letters of recommendation from professors and PCE supervisors, and an audit of your PCE hours. Some schools also require a personal essay explaining why you're an ideal physician assistant candidate.


Prepare for your admissions interview.

If a PA program accepts your initial application, you'll move on to the interview process. While you're waiting to hear back from the schools you've applied to, you should research interview tips and consult with your mentor to get an idea of what kind of questions you can expect. You might even want to ask a friend to conduct a mock interview for practice.


Complete your PA coursework.

After acceptance to a PA program, you can expect to spend the next 27 months reading, studying, and completing rotations in the medical and surgical fields. By the end of your PA training, you'll have completed at least 2,000 hours of supervised clinical practice.


Sit for the certification exam.

After you graduate from your PA program, you can sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). The test consists of 300 questions and you'll have five hours to complete it using a computer. To pass, you'll have to score at least 350 out of a possible maximum score of 800.


Apply for physician assistant jobs.

Once you've passed the PANCE, it's time to start applying for physician assistant jobs. It's a competitive field, so don't get discouraged if you don't land your dream job right away.

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