Institutions offering physician assistant education are being inundated with applications from all over the nation. According to the latest numbers put out by the PAE Association, 12,000 students are studying in PA programs. The high number of students sounds adequate when compared against the 75,000 people working as PAs and the forecast for 39% growth in the decade up to 2018.
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.
The admissions process is just as competitive as any other field in medicine. A candidate usually applies to many different institutions. But the difference is that only one application has to be sent. Over 120 of the total 150 programs use CASPA, a web-based unified application process for students who want to apply to one or more of the programs.
CASPA is an acronym for Central Application Service for Physician Assistants. They accept applications every year within a specific time-frame, which is not the same as the individual college or university program deadline. After CASPA has collected all the forms, supporting documents, references, etc., students can simply select which institutions should get their application.
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 work in and move between clinics offering any and all kinds of medical services, from family care and pediatrics to gynecology. They can just as well work with surgeons in specialized medicine, including orthopedics and cardiovascular surgery. Emergency care units are another avenue where a PA can take a lot of the load.
While physician assistant education is bound to be hard and competitive, life on the other side of the program is very rewarding. Being a PA is currently ranked as the second best job in America, with job satisfaction off the charts and high salaries to match. As per the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), the mean income in their profession for those who work 32 hours per week is a little over $93,000. An AAPA survey also shows that 89 percent of PAs would happily choose the same profession if they had to make a career choice all over again.