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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.

Physicians Assistant

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 Program
            • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
            • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
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            Medical Assistant
            • Features career programs in surgical technology, professional fitness trainer, vocational nursing, and an associate of science program in health administration.
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            • Campus is close to many attractions in Glendale, California, including the Los Angeles Zoo, Universal Studios, Alex Theater, and downtown Los Angeles.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
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            Medical Assistant (8-Month Diploma Program)
            UEI College , Gardena
            • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
            • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
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            • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
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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.
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            • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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            Medical Assistant
            • Offers career placement assistance services to recent graduates.
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            Medical Assisting
            • Offers programs in nursing, medical assisting, pharmacy technology, dental assisting, and more.
            • Six Campuses across Northern CA: Fremont, San Jose, Sacramento, S. San Francisco, Hayward, and Concord.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, with programmatic approvals from the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians and the Board of Registered Nursing.
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            Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy
            • Ranked 23rd among the Best Online Graduate Education Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A public research university with an enrollment of more than 42,000 students.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 16:1, and 43.1% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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            • Accredited
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            Medical Assistant
            Brightwood College , Chula Vista

            About Brightwood College

            Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.

            About Education Corporation of America

            Education Corporation of America's institutions broaden access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

            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
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            • Transferable Credits
            Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Science
            • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
            • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
            • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
            • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
            • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
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