Physician Assistant - Neonatology: Career Overview

A physician assistant in neonatalogy requires significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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Physician assistants are highly trained medical professionals who typically possess a master's degree, have completed a residency, and passed national certification and state licensing examinations. A neonatology physician assistant works with newborn babies. They usually complete their residency in a neonatal intensive care unit to prepare for a career in this field.

Essential Information

A physician assistant (PA) with training in neonatology treats newborns while under the general supervision of a physician. Jobs for PAs are expected to increase, and neonatal PAs should be in particularly high demand. A neonatal PA has several years of medical training, in addition to a bachelor's degree and, usually, some health care experience. They often complete a residency in a neonatal intensive care unit after earning their degree. PAs need national certification as well as a state license.

Required Education Master's degree program for physician assistants is most common
Other Requirements Postgraduate residency in a neonatal intensive care unit
Licensing and Certification Must pass national certification examination and state licensing examination
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 30% for all physician assistants
Median Salary (2015)* $98,180 for all physician assistants

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description

Neonatology is a hospital-based specialty of pediatrics. This area of health care focuses on ill or premature newborns. A PA who specializes in neonatology most often practices in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

A neonatal PA performs physical examinations and orders laboratory tests. They also make diagnoses, develop appropriate management plans and initiate treatments that may include prescribing medications.

Education Requirements

Most PA training programs are taught at medical schools, 4-year colleges or allied health schools. The majority of incoming students already hold bachelor's degrees and have a background in health care, but this might not be a program requirement. PA programs generally take around two years to complete and usually culminate in a master's degree, although some award a bachelor's degree, associate degree or certificate. Specific science areas, including anatomy, biochemistry, infectious disease, pathology, pharmacology and physiology, are covered by any PA program. When appropriate, combined lecture and laboratory experience is also integrated into coursework.

Like all PAs, neonatal PAs must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. They must also pass a state licensing exam. Every two years, PAs must complete at least 100 hours of continuing education training to maintain their certification. They must be re-certified by passing an examination every six years.

A neonatal PA specialist will have the same general educational and experiential background as other physician assistants but with additional training focused on the care of newborns. One-year, postgraduate residency programs allow PAs to gain practical experience in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for all physician assistants should grow by 30% in the 2014-2024 period, much faster than the average for all U.S. occupations. The BLS attributes this to growth in the health care field and to cost containment by facilities hiring less expensive PAs rather than physicians. Some neonatal departments are using PAs trained in this specialty to fill gaps in their workforces.

The BLS reported that the median annual wage for all physician assistants was $98,180 in 2015, with the middle 50% earning between $83,520 and $118,200. The BLS does not maintain separate salary statistics for physician assistants who specialize in neonatal care.

Neonatal physician assistants work under the supervision of a doctor and care for newborn babies. They may be responsible for diagnosing ailments, developing treatment plans and prescribing medication. Entering this field requires a master's degree and completion of a residency as well as possessing national certification and state licensure. PAs are required to complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certification.

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