While most PAs hold master's degrees earned during a post-baccalaureate program, a handful of bachelor's programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant are available that lead to professional licensure. Students in physician assistant bachelor's programs learn how to gather patient histories, perform physical examinations, administer diagnostic tests and perform medical procedures, like sutures, injections and immunizations. Graduates are prepared to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE), which is necessary to become a certified physician assistant.
Physician Assistant Bachelor's Program
Applicants to physician assistant undergraduate programs need to have a high school diploma or GED. ACT or SAT scores are expected. Some schools require previous exposure to the healthcare industry.
The first two years of a PA bachelor's degree program are spent learning theory, and the last two years are comprised of clinical work. Lectures involve anatomy, biology and chemistry. Common courses Include:
- Clinical pharmacology
- Diagnoses and procedures
- Health law and ethics
- Human physiology and anatomy
- Making clinical decisions
- Medical terminology
- Physician assistant internship
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Jobs for physician assistants are expected to increase by 30% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported in May 2015 that a physician assistant's mean annual wage was $99,270. This salary is dependent on specialty, setting and experience.
Continuing Education Information
Physician assistants are expected to keep their medical knowledge up to date, which requires additional classes every few years. Some physician assistants go on to earn master's degrees in the subject. Those who want to be specialized PAs, such as surgeon assistants and anesthesiologist assistants, can seek further training.
Only a few schools offer physician assistant bachelor's programs that qualify students for professional licensure - master's programs are much more common. These programs include both lecture-style courses and extensive clinical training. The job outlook for the physician assistant field is excellent, with 30% employment growth expected for the 2014-2024 decade.