When you tell someone you are going into the medical field, your typical reaction is “Wow, so you want to be a doctor?” At first, I had no idea what I wanted to be, all I knew was that I loved science and I loved learning about the human body. After some research and the help of clubs and amazing people at San Diego State, I found the perfect career: physician assistant.
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, a "PA" is a “nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. They practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the majority of the U.S. territories and the uniformed services.” Physician assistants are highly respected healthcare professionals that work side-by-side with physicians in order to give the best patient care.
But what makes being a physician assistant so great? Here are just a few of the benefits of becoming one.
1. Less schooling AKA less debt.
A physician assistant will graduate from their program and receive training in a quarter of the time it would take a medical student to do. The average program is 26 months, which includes about one year of didactic, which is classroom learning, and about a year of clinical rotations where you will receive in-field training. For a public medical school, the median cost for all four years is $207,866. The average physician assistant school cost is $65,564. These numbers, of course, change depending on which school you attend, but there is clearly a huge difference. Also, since school is shorter, you can get working sooner to start paying off those dreaded student loans.
2. Great money.
According to PayScale, physician assistants make an average of $87,342 a year. This, of course, changes with specialties, highest being dermatology and emergency room assistants, making on average around $130,000 a year. Although doctors do make a bit more, they also hold much more responsibility and tend to work longer hours, often being on call as well.
Most physicians work 40 to 60 hours a week, whereas physician assistants have more flexibility and can work fewer hours if they want, or they can pick up extra shifts.
3. Flexibility in your career.
Unlike physicians, physician assistants can switch specialties throughout their career with just a short amount of on-job training. For physicians, it would require another three or more years of residency to switch. This is perfect for me not only because I thrive off of change and I love learning, but because it opens you up to many more job opportunities.
4. Ability to practice medicine.
Physician assistants basically have the same responsibilities as a physician, and in some underserved areas, they can serve as the primary care provider. They can examine patients, prescribe medication in most states, order and interpret diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat illnesses and perform minor surgeries, without having to go through extra years of training like a physician does.
5. Job opportunities.
As we know, it is starting to become harder and harder to get a job out of school. But, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, job growth for physician assistants is expected to grow 30 percent between 2010 and 2020.
In conclusion, being a physician assistant is an excellent career that allows you to practice medicine, help people and still have enough time to live a life outside of your career. Although being an assistant doesn’t have the big title of “doctor” or “physician,” it is still a very prestigious position that requires many years of hard work and training.
I hope this has taught you a little more about the field and what these care providers do, and maybe it’ll even inspire you to check out this profession for yourself.