The salary outlook for physician’s assistants is bright and sunny right now and the weather isn’t going to change any time soon. Physician’s assistant earn between $72,000 and $94,000 a year, with some tipping the scale at over $100,000 a year. The health industry isn’t always a very high-paying field but the difficult job of physician’s assistants earns them excellent financial rewards throughout the year. Add on a tremendous amount of health benefits and you’ve got one of the fastest growing occupations in the field of medicine. Physician’s assistants perform so many task for their supervising physician that it makes their hefty salary well worth it.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Physician’s assistants are well paid, but they’re well paid for a reason. They do an enormous amount of work for physician’s and over the years their job duties have expanded to include many of the duties that were once reserved for physicians and nurses. Assistants work under the watchful eye of a licensed physician but they do many highly skilled medical tests and diagnostic procedures that directly influence the care of patients. Some physician’s assistants are even able to write prescriptions and diagnose certain conditions under the supervision of the doctor that they work for.
Supervising physicians are the people that are responsible for just how much a physician’s assistant does on the job. Some doctors prefer to keep medications and diagnosis limited to their own expertise; other doctors have a tremendous amount of faith in the physician’s assistant and give them more responsibility. The duties of physician’s assistants always vary by office but every office is bound to ensure that a physician’s assistant never performs a procedure or diagnosis that they are not allowed to by law.
As time goes on, physician’s assistants are trusted with even more responsibilities in medical offices and the fast-paced nature of medical advances means that it’s important to enter every job with the proper training.
Training and Education Requirements
Because of the extensive job duties of a physician’s assistant, as well as the life and death nature of the work that they do in the health field, it’s important for every PA to receive an education from an accredited PA program. The quality of the education will help to ensure that you’re able to properly care for your patients and that you are completely comfortable with the many daunting tasks assigned to you by your supervising physician.
Physician’s assistants frequently choose their occupation after they’ve already obtained a four year degree. The field continues to grow in popularity and many people opt to switch to this particular occupation later on after they’ve worked in another area of the medical field.
Medical assistant training programs are usually two-year degree programs that result in an associate’s degree. Higher degrees are available, such as a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Physician’s assistant programs are a combination of courses such as nutrition, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, clinical medicine, and other health-related subjects. Before enrolling in any training program for physician’s assistant degree, it’s important to make sure that the program is an accredited training program. Many programs are not and receiving a degree from a school that isn’t accredited can make it much more difficult in finding a job.
Every practicing physician’s assistant must hold a state license and be nationally certified. There are no exceptions to this rule. Every state has different qualification requirements to become licensed, but the big requirement from all states is a pre-existing national certification before application for state licensure.
In order to become certified, physician’s assistant must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam. This exam is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. It is impossible to gain access to this test unless you’ve received a degree from an accredited school, meaning that if you plan to practice, you must attend an accredited school. When you’ve passed this exam, you’re free to call yourself “Physician Assistant-Certified.” Every two years you will be required to complete 100 hours of medical education and you must be re-certified every six years.
Professional organizations for physician’s assistants allow the assistants to take their careers to newer levels. It shows potential employers that they’re fully dedicated to being the very best physician’s assistant possible. It shows a commitment to keeping with the research of modern medicine.
The NCCPA and AAPA are the two professional organizations for physician’s assistants. These two associations give physician’s assistants the opportunity to learn more about their craft, become close with other assistants, and dedicate themselves more fully to their career.
The NCCPA was established in 1975 as a not-for-profit organization. It offers national certification for assistants. They monitor assistants to ensure that they have the education and experience necessary to do their job fully. They make sure that standards for physician’s assistant work are upheld.
The second major organization, the AAPA, came to life in 1968. Its goal is to fully represent the specialties in the military, federal services, Gaum, and the United States. Physician’s assistants receive support through this organization, which works with those PAs which graduated from an accredited institution. Retired physician’s assistants are also members of this organization, as are students.
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