Orthopedic Assistant Training and Education Program Information

An aspiring orthopedic assistant (OA), also known as an orthopedic physician assistant (OPA), must typically complete a formal education program and become board certified. Master's degrees in physician assisting are the most common training route for this profession. Read on to learn more.

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Essential Information

In a master's degree program in physician assisting, students learn how to monitor and manage treatments, perform patient evaluations, educate patients on treatment options and assist in some surgical procedures. The program often includes a strong hands-on component and requires completion of at least one clinical experience in a medical facility. After completing this degree program, prospective OPA's may complete an orthopedic residency to gain hands-on training and experience related specifically to orthopedic medicine.

Applicants to physician assistant master's programs must have completed a bachelor's program that included specific prerequisite courses. They may also need to meet specific GPA requirements, have 500-1,000 hours of relevant experience working with patients, and submit GRE test scores.

Master's Degree in Physician Assisting

The first year of a physician assistant master's degree program often focuses on basic medical care and subject background, while the second year focuses on clinical procedures. Some programs include courses specifically in orthopedics. Common course topics in this degree program include:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Diagnostic medicine
  • Clinical decision making
  • Physical assessment
  • Healthcare ethics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physician assistants in general held about 118,800 jobs across the country in 2018, and employment is expected to increase 31% from 2018-2028. Due to more physicians choosing to focus on specialty areas of medicine, and because physician assistants provide a cost-effective solution for basic care, these professionals should see an increased role in health care.

An September 2019 report from indicated that the total annual salary for most orthopedic physician assistants earned $97,148.

Certification Information

Individuals who graduate from a master's degree program for physician assistants are eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE). Those who pass the examination become Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) and are eligible to practice under the supervision of a licensed physician, including an orthopedic surgeon.

Certification is also available from the National Board for Certification of Orthopedic Physician's Assistants/National Board for Certification of Orthopedic Assistants. Individuals seeking OPA-C/OA-C certification must pass an exam and have five years of experience in orthopedic medicine that includes hands-on training in casting, bracing, splinting, and surgical assisting.

Prospective orthopedic assistants can acquire the necessary training through a physician assisting master's program. These programs train students to handle many common medical situations, from physical assessment to patient diagnosis. Graduates are prepared for professional certification as physician assistants. They may also pursue specialized continuing education in orthopedics.

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