Physician Assistant Undergraduate Degree Program Information
Learn about the bachelor's degree programs that can prepare you for graduate training as a physician assistant. Get information on course requirements, certification and continuing education as well as salary and job growth expectations.
Physician assistants (PAs) are healthcare professionals who are licensed to practice medicine under a medical doctor's supervision. Most PAs hold master's degrees earned during a post-baccalaureate PA training program, but a bachelor's degree gives them a good career foundation. Students learn how to gather patient histories, perform physical examinations, administer diagnostic tests and perform medical procedures like sutures, injections and immunizations. Students in PA undergraduate programs should have strong interpersonal skills and sound judgment. Graduates are prepared to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE), which is necessary to become a certified physician assistant.
Applicants to physician assistant undergrad programs need to have a high school diploma or GED. ACT or SAT scores are expected. Some schools require previous exposure to the healthcare industry.
The first two years of a PA bachelor's degree program are spent learning theory, and the last two years are comprised of clinical work. Lectures involve anatomy, biology and chemistry. Class topics are:
- Clinical pharmacology
- Diagnoses and procedures
- Health law and ethics
- Human physiology and anatomy
- Making clinical decisions
- Medical terminology
- Physician assistant internship
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Jobs for physician assistants are expected to increase by 30% between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported in May 2012 that a physician assistant's mean annual wage was $92,460. This salary is dependent on specialty, setting and experience.
Continuing Education Information
Physician assistants are expected to keep their medical knowledge up to date, which requires additional classes every few years. Some physician assistants go on to earn master's degrees in the subject. Those who want to be specialized PAs, such as surgeon assistants and anesthesiologist assistants, can seek further training.
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