Pediatric Physician Assistant: Salary and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pediatric physician assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Pediatric physician assistants provide healthcare services to children under the supervision of a medical doctor. In some instances they work under limited supervision. They are required to possess a master's degree and state licensure.

Essential Information

A pediatric physician assistant (PA) provides children with diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive medical care under the direct supervision of a fully trained and licensed medical doctor. To qualify for employment, applicants must complete an accredited and specialized pediatric PA medical program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements State licensure; specialized pediatric certification by NCCPA
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 30% (all physician assistants)*
Average Salary (2015) $99,270 (all physician assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education of Pediatric Physician Assistants

Many PAs begin with health-related college degrees in nursing or emergency medical technology. Interested medical workers returning to school generally complete their PA studies in about two years. Institutions that offer PA training include 4-year colleges, medical and allied health schools, community colleges, military schools and hospitals.

PA programs are available with awards ranging from certificates to master's degrees. However, to become a pediatric PA requires additional specialized postgraduate training and certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

Studies

In addition to general medical courses in anatomy, physiology and pharmacology, pediatric PA students study newborn care, pediatric gastroenterology, oncology, pulmonology, neurology and cardiology. Coursework also covers neonatal and pediatric intensive care and pediatric orthopedics, in addition to supervised training in routine, in-patient and emergency care of children. Pediatric PAs are also trained in the toxicity, complications and effectiveness of drugs on children, and some states allow them to prescribe specific medications to children under strict guidelines.

Salaries for Physician Assistants

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the average yearly salary for all physician assistants was $99,270 in May of 2015 (www.bls.gov). At that time, most PAs were employed in physicians' offices, which paid an average salary of $98,630. The highest salaries went to those who worked in management, scientific, and technical consulting services, where the average annual wage was reported to be $129,990 in 2015.

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Career Info for Pediatric Physician Assistants

Responsibilities

In rural and inner-city settings, the pediatric PA may be the only medical care provider available, except when a supervising doctor visits once or twice a week. Therefore, pediatric physician assistants need to be self-starters who work well with children, are emotionally sound and can remain calm in emergencies.

These PAs may also be called upon to make house calls or check on patients in the hospital and report their findings to the primary physician. Their duties include examining, diagnosing and treating children in clinical settings as well as mending minor injuries by applying sutures, splints or casts. They spend other parts of their day interpreting lab tests and x-rays, in addition to performing various clerical duties.

Physician Assistant Statistics

Additional data collected by the BLS indicates that employment for PAs is expected to grow by a much faster than average rate of 30% between 2014 and 2024. The best job opportunities are likely to occur in rural and other underserved medical settings, due to difficulties these facilities have persuading qualified physicians to work away from more lucrative medical centers. Part of the upsurge in job opportunities also results from states' increasing allowance of PAs to perform more procedures.

BLS statistics also show that PAs held around 98,470 jobs in 2015. Although knowledge and experience can lead to more responsibilities and higher pay, there is a ceiling for all PAs, due to the fact that the job always requires physician supervision.

Pediatric physician assistants perform a wide range of tasks in healthcare settings including diagnosing and treating children's illnesses, interpreting lab results, and performing clerical tasks. They must have a master's degree and state licensure; they are sometimes required to have specialized pediatric certification. Job growth in this field is significantly faster than the average for all occupations.


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