Pediatric Assistant Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Pediatric assistants are either trained physician's assistants or certified medical assistants. Physician's assistants typically earn a master's degree and medical assistants earn an associate's degree and then become certified.

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Pediatric assistants work in pediatricians' offices as physician assistants who perform patient examinations and diagnose and treat illnesses under the supervision of a physician or as medical assistants who help out with clerical duties and sometimes perform basic patient-care tasks, such as taking vital signs or height and weight measurements. Depending on their chosen career path, training is available through master's or associate's degree programs.

Top 10 Schools with Physician Assistant Programs

The following list includes a number of public and private schools that offer graduate degrees for physician assistants.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Graduate Tuition*
Duke University Durham, NC 4-year, Private Master's $79,268 (2016-2017)
University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 4-year, Public Master's $19,168 In-state; $40,294 Out-of-state (1st year, 2016-2017)
Emory University Atlanta, GA 4-year, Private Master's $43,299 (2016-2017)
George Washington University Washington, DC 4-year, Private Master's $43,074 (2016-2017)
Oregon Health & Science University Portland, OR 4-year, Public Master's $36,972 (1st year, 2016-2017)
Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT 4-year, Private Master's $17,190 (2015-2016)
University of Colorado Denver, CO 4-year, Public Master's $19,635 In-state; $42,515 out-of-state (1st year, 2016-2017)
University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 4-year, Public Master's $9,072 In-state; $17,270 Out-of-state (2016-2017)
University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha, NE 4-year, Public Master's $16,820 In-state; $48,120 Out-of-state (1st year, 2016-2017)
Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC 4-year, Private Master's $43,070 (1st year, 2016-2017)

*Sources: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); School websites

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School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when selecting a pediatric assistant school:

  • Decide on a school based on location, faculty, electives offered, hands-on medical training options and professional connections for graduates.
  • Choose a school that is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
  • Master's degree program lengths can range between two and three years; length of the program may affect the range of the curriculum.
  • Many public institutions offer lower tuition rates to local or in-state students; private schools are much more expensive, which may be a factor for some students.

Medical Assistant Associate's Degree Programs

Both the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools accredit medical assistant programs, including associate degree programs. Students who graduate from a program accredited by one of these agencies are eligible to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant exam, offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants. In addition to class work, many medical assistant programs offer externships in medical offices.

Physician Assistant Master's Degree Programs

Similar to medical school programs, PA programs include first a classroom component and then an extensive clinical component. Most physician's assistant programs are in fact designed to imitate medical school training on a smaller scale, since PAs work closely with doctors and often work in their stead in more rural areas. PA programs typically take 24-27 months to complete, and require intensive courses in hard sciences.

Programs may also include clinical rotations in different fields of specialty, including surgery, obstetrics, and primary care. Students interested in becoming pediatric assistants can select a pediatric clinical elective during the second half of their program. Pre-requisites vary, although most programs require students to enter with a bachelor's degree in hand.

In addition to medical assisting associate's degree programs, a number of colleges and universities offer physician assistant master's degrees. When choosing a physician assistant program, students should factor in features such as cost, accreditation and the availability of hands-on training opportunities.

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