Physician's assistant programs include courses in mathematics, biology, medical ethics and patient care. Students learn about diagnoses, surgical care and caring for adults and children. These programs normally take 4 years to complete, with students spending their time in the last 1-2 years at an affiliated hospital or medical center. Paramedic or nursing training is preferred for applicants. Certification via the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) will be necessary.
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Physician Assistant Program
Most physician assistant programs emphasize general math and science courses along with courses on medical procedures and anatomy. When programs make the transition to clinical courses taught by practicing physicians, the more intense courses will cover the following topics:
- Diagnostic medicine
- Medical ethics and law
- Surgical procedures
- Patient protocol and care
- Family and children's medicine
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported there were 98,470 physician assistants (PA) in 2015. Because of expansions in job responsibility for PAs and healthcare coverage, employment is expected to grow 30% between 2014-2024. The median salary for physician's assistants was $98,180 in May 2015.
Even after a student passes the PANCE certifying exam to become a licensed physician assistant, the class work is not over. Because the medical field is constantly changing and evolving, 100 hours of continuing medical education must be taken every two years. Additionally, physician assistants must re-certify every six years.
Physician's assistant programs prepare students for the industry, where employment is expanding rapidly and income is lucrative.