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Physican Assistant

Job Duties

Physician assistants (PAs) provide healthcare to patients under the direction of physicians. They are delegated work by a physician, including diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services. They perform a wide range of duties, such as taking medical histories, examining and treating patients, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests and x rays, making diagnoses, and prescribing medications. They keep track of patients' progress and counsel them regarding treatment options. They are allowed to prescribe medications in 47 States and the District of Columbia. Some PAs have duties such as managing other workers or ordering supplies and equipment.

In rural areas or inner city clinics where physicians are not always present, PAs may serve as the principal care providers. In these situations, PAs consult with a supervising physician as well as with other medical professionals. Some PAs make house calls; others travel to hospitals and nursing care facilities to check on patients and report their progress to physicians. Supervising physicians, as well as State law, determine the specific duties of physician assistants. Many PAs work in primary care specialties, such as general internal medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine. Or they may specialize in general and thoracic surgery, emergency medicine, orthopedics, and geriatrics.

Job Skills

Physician assistants need to be natural leaders and have high self-confidence and emotional stability. In order to stay current on advances in medical technology, they must be willing to continue their studies throughout their entire career.

Income

In 2002, physician assistants earned a median annual salary of $64,670. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $35,410, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $90,350.

Training and Education

In all States, PAs must graduate from an accredited, formal education program, of which there are about 133 offering master's and bachelor's degrees. Almost all PAs have at least a bachelor's degree. Admissions requirements for these programs usually include 2 years of college and some work experience in the healthcare field. Most applicants have either a bachelor's or a master's degree. Many have worked as registered nurses. PA programs usually last about 2 years. Programs are full time and are located in schools of allied health, academic health centers, medical schools, or 4-year colleges. A few are found in community colleges, the military, or hospitals.

Physician assistants are required to pass the Physician Assistants National Certifying Examination, which is administered by the Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and only open to graduates of accredited PA education programs. Those who pass the exam are granted the credential "Physician Assistant-Certified." PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years in order to renew their certification. And every 6 years, they are required to pass a recertification exam.

Employment

In 2002, physician assistants held about 63,000 jobs. More than 50% worked in offices of physicians or other health practitioners. About 25% worked in hospitals.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of physician assistants is expected to increase faster than the average. This will be due to an expected expansion of the health services industry. Another factor will be a new focus on cost containment within the industry, which will result in physicians and healthcare institutions relying more on physician assistants due to their cost-effective and productive nature. Opportunities will be best for physician assistants in States that allow them a wider range of practice options.

For more information on becoming a physician assistant, please see our directory of schools offering Medical Training.


Physican Assistant Training

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            Medical Assistant
            • Offers a free trial period so students can attend classes before paying tuition.
            • Provides blended courses that combine traditional classroom instruction with online learning.
            • Lets students connect with peers at any time, and instructors during office hours with online chat rooms.
            • Gives students the chance to participate in externships and clinical training work under the general supervision of college staff.
            • Has accelerated programs that allow students to take the same coursework in a shorter timeframe.
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            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Medical Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
            UEI College , Bakersfield
            • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
            • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
            • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
            • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
            • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
            • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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            Medical Assistant
            • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
            • Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.
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            Medical Assistant

            Why Brightwood?

            Real-World Training

            We keep education relevant by employing instructors with real-world experience in the field, who bring their career backgrounds to the classroom. Our programs are continually assessed by faculty, staff and members of the business and education communities to help ensure your studies align with your career goals. Programs offered by Brightwood College focus on local employment needs, in areas such as allied health, nursing and technical and professional programs.

            Certified Nurse Assistant
            Platt College , Alhambra
            • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
            • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
            • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
            • 3 campuses in Southern California.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
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            Medical Assistant
            • Offers career placement assistance services to recent graduates.
            • Our short-term allied health programs will give you the skills and knowledge to become a part of the exciting health care field.
            • Programs include Medical Office Specialist, Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant and Healthcare Administration.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
            • Main campus is located in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles.
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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            Certificate - Medical Assistant
            • Offers a program that translates work and military experience into college credit, transfers in credit from other college programs, and offers the flexibility of day, evening and online coursework.
            • Provides in-person tutoring, IT support, access to library resources, and job placement assistant for graduates.
            • Features a new blended-learning curriculum, which involves a mix of campus and online courses.
            • Has 11 campuses across Southern California, Washington, and Alaska, and online courses with campus support. 
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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            Certificate - Medical Assistant
            • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
            • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
            • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
            • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
            • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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            Respiratory Therapy (AS)

            The Secret to Getting Ahead is Getting Started

             

            Congratulations! Your interest in California College San Diego is an important first step toward changing your life. A career-focused degree is the key to a new career with a potentially higher income, better benefits, and more satisfaction.

            Professional Medical Assistant
            • A part of the Select Education Group (SEG).
            • Offers several scholarship and financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.
            • California campuses accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and accreditation for the Salem campus from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 4 Campuses located in Clovis, Modesto, and Redding in California, and Salem, Oregon.
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            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits