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How To Become A Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant

Finding a job has never been easy, especially with the recent global crisis negatively affecting the employment market. As a result, you might find yourself randomly applying for in-demand jobs.

That’s probably why you’ve come across the job description, physician assistant or PA, and yes, it is indeed an excellent choice for a new career field, mainly because it’s one of the most in-demand jobs at the moment.

Being a physician assistant also allows you to work in the medical field alongside doctors and surgeons to save people’s lives. Moreover, physician assistants can enjoy a relatively high salary ranging from USD$80,000 to USD$150,000.

But as you might imagine, becoming a physician assistant isn’t necessarily an easy task. For that, you’ll need a considerable amount of knowledge to be skilled and competent for this job. With that said, this guide will cover the necessary steps to become a physician assistant.

1. Accumulate Necessary Experience For The Admission

There are two basic conditions you must fulfill before gaining admission rights to a medical school and becoming a PA. The first condition has to do with completing prerequisite courses. The second condition is that applicants must have the necessary experience.

To further clarify, you will need to rack up two types of experience, namely (1) Healthcare Experience or HCE, and (2) Patient Care Experience (PCE).

As you may have guessed, there’s a distinct difference between these two. HCE doesn’t involve direct exposure to patients, while PCE means you have direct responsibility for patients.

For example, you can gain HCE by participating in the development of a new drug or medical device. You’re interacting with patients, but you’re still gaining experience in a medical environment. As for PCE, you can acquire this type of experience by volunteering in a hospital or involving yourself in medical missions. If you’re struggling to get hours on your PCE, you may want to visit this page to learn the best way to accumulate patient care experience.

Having PCE is a good way to get used to the interactions, as well as issues and complications that may arise in the daily life of a healthcare practitioner.

2. Get A Bachelor’s Degree Under A Suitable Coursework

If you want to become a physician assistant, you must first acquire the necessary education, and the first step towards achieving that is by getting a bachelor’s degree. This is the prerequisite if you want to study in a medical school. Take note that there are specific courses that one must complete in order to gain admission to a medical school. These courses would be:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Immunology 

Undergraduate coursework for medical students typically lasts for four years.

3. Apply To A Medical School And Get Your Master’s Degree

Now that you’ve fulfilled the necessary conditions, which is the bachelor’s degree and experience, you can finally apply to an accredited medical school and take the next step to become a PA. Since a physician assistant must have a master’s degree from an accredited institution, you must ensure you apply to a suitable medical school. You should also take suitable coursework, such as:

  • Fundamentals of Clinical Medicine
  • Research Methods for Health Professionals
  • Pathophysiology
  • Behavioral Medicine
  • Introduction to the Physician Assistant Profession

Postgraduate coursework lasts for two years, so the education for PA requires six years in total.

Physician Assistant
Doctor and practitioner examining patient’s medical records on a clipboard

4. Take And Pass The PANCE

After graduating, you will be required to complete licensing requirements to become legally eligible to work. The Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) is a required certification examination taken by physician assistants and is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

The PANCE is an important examination and is also the bare minimum that an aspiring PA should take before becoming a full-fledged physician assistant. In order to pass, you must reach or exceed the passing score of 350. Fortunately, the passing rate of PANCE as of 2021 is 96%, so your chances of success are relatively high.

Take note that you may have to pay a fee of USD$550 when you submit your application. The examination consists of 240 multiple-choice questions administered in four 60-minute, 60-question blocks. If you want to maximize your chances of passing the exam, you can look up past examinations and test materials on the internet and use those as your guide for studying.

Wrapping Up

Becoming a physician assistant is a lot of work, so patience will most certainly be a critical factor in your success. But take note that even after the examination and becoming a full-fledged physician assistant, you can still continue and improve by taking the next step towards your education and piling up certifications.


Author’s Bio: Macy Maze is an assistant for 10 years. She believes that nothing beats hard work. She shares her passion and expertise through writing blog posts and guest posts. Macy enjoys reading books, swimming, and cooking during her free time.


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