Becoming a Physician Assistant

The physician assistant profession is a career which can be lucrative in a short period of time. It is a relatively new field, having only been around since the late 1960s after the Vietnam War ended. Experienced naval officers coming home needed jobs. However, with no equivalent professions related to what the officers had done during the war, the physician assistant profession was born.

When researching physician assistant school prerequisites, you will discover that it is no longer necessary to have miltary experience.  However, it is still required to have medical experience prior to entry into the physician assistant program at most schools.

Work Requirements 
Most physician assistant programs prefer that applicants have two years of relevant medical experience before applying. Work as a paramedic, a nurse, a respiratory therapist, or a medical assistant are examples of relevant work history experiences.

Volunteering, office work, medical billing and coding are not considered relevant medical experiences. Hands-on experience with patients is the key requirement for qualification.

Educational Requirements
Being in solid academic standing is also a requirement when applying for PA programs. You need to have taken and completed certain prerequisite classes. Most programs require general courses in English, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and microbiology. The majority of the physician assistant programs will also require a bachelors degree. (Some programs will not require this as a prerequisite, but this is changing so that eventually all programs will require the undergraduate degree.)

Application Process
The application process is competitive, as there are many applicants applying each year for a small number of openings. Make sure that your application is strong overall, and that you also have a strong, well-written personal statement as well.

Interview Process
The interview process is intense, and will require careful preparation. Practice ahead of time carefully and dress appropriately.  You may be asked personal questions regarding your character during the interview. (Are you the type of person that the interviewer would trust with the care of a member of their family?)

Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician’s Assistant
There is a difference between a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician Assistant.  A Physician Assistant must be supervised by a physician, while a Nurse Practitioner may have their own practice.  For more details, go to Laying the Foundation for Physician Assistant Degree Programs.

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