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Physician Assistant Job: A Lucrative Venture for Career Growth

A Physician Assistant job is fast becoming one of the most promising career avenues today. A Physician Assistant, or PA, is a trained and licensed healthcare professional who works under the supervision of a licensed physician. Their primary concern is to treat, maintain, and prevent human injuries and illnesses by offering health care services that were once done by doctors or licensed medical practitioners.

Physician Assistant job duties are almost similar to a doctor’s work scope, although with one important difference: Doctors have licenses, while PA’s do not. And without this license, there is a requirement for PA’s to be in constant supervision of a licensed medical practitioner at all times.

A Detailed Look at a Physician Assistant Job Description

Often, many people ask: “What does a Physician Assistant do on a typical day?” Here is a more in-depth discussion of their responsibilities:

Physician Assistant Job Duties

Here are some of the most common services that PA’s mostly do on a typical setting:

  • Write prescriptions
  • Give medical orders
  • Assist in surgical procedures
  • Advise patients on matters pertaining to preventive health care
  • Interpret test results
  • Order tests for specific diseases
  • Treat and diagnose illnesses
  • Do physical examinations 

Physician Assistant and Getting a Great Job

Many of them work in clinics, hospitals, and many other health-related facilities, and they can give independent medical counsel to patients, although they are first required to consult with doctors before they make their decisions.

There is often a lot of confusion between Medical Assistants and Physician Assistants. Medical Assistants perform only simple administrative and simple tasks under the supervision of doctors, nursing assistants, and health professionals. And unlike Physician Assistants who require a more advanced education, Medical Assistants can get their post-secondary education through online educational programs, community colleges, junior colleges, vocational schools, proprietary colleges, and technical institutions in their area.

Physician Assistants and their Diverse Fields of Practice

Physician Assistant duties are actually as diverse as they come, and technology has made it possible for them to apply their expertise in much broader areas. Often, they work in hospitals, as well as small clinics and doctor’s offices. Their roles are surprisingly flexible; and it’s not common for Physician Assistant duties to include surgery aide and then switch to prescription writing in an instant.

What do Physician Assistants do specifically? According to the Association of Postgraduate Physician Assistant Programs (APPAP), the following are some of the most common specialties that they do in a typical day:Physician Assistant Position

  • Surgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care
  • Pediatrics
  • Dermatology
  • Occupational Medicine
  • Neonatology
  • Sports Medicine 

So you’re interested in that Physician Assistant position

The question is, do you think it could be a lucrative career for you?

Here are some facts for you to consider:

-A Physician Assistant job description states that a person only needs to undergo a two to three years training (after they’ve gotten their degree) before they can start their practice. This is in comparison to a doctor, who normally needs to undergo around three to ten years of residency training.

-Many health care organizations actually prefer Physician Assistant jobs, because they help save them a lot of money in the end. In most cases, Physician Assistants charge less than traditional doctors and physicians.

-Using the credentials, “Physician Assistant-Certified (or PA-C) requires you to get a license, although you have to make sure that it is according to the state laws in your area. Certification, however, is quite different, as it requires you to follow standard rules and procedures that are set by a national organization. These rules are consistent throughout all the states, and you will need to maintain your certification requirements (as dictated by state laws) in order for you to renew your license.

-The average Physician Assistant salary as of November 2011 in the United States is from $81,000 to $99,000; and the median rate is estimated to be $92,000. According to indeed.com, the average Physician Assistant jobs are 11% higher in salary compared to other jobs that are being posted in the U.S. job market.

New Physician Assistant Average Annual Income

-There is an anticipated expansion of health services in the rural areas, which increases the need for Physician Assistant jobs over the coming years. A Physician Assistant position will be given a lot of opportunities for career or financial advancement–a likelihood that will continue to trend over the next coming years.

-CNNMoney.com has ranked it the ninth best jobs for working parents in 2011, besting Accountants, Financial Analysts, Auditors, and Dietitians.

-The Association of American Medical Colleges has forecasted that the supply of physicians will not be able to keep up with the demand in health care services by the year 2025. Similarly, the Council on Graduate Education has predicted a similar study. According to their research, there will be a shortage of around 80,000 (or more) medical doctors by the year 2020.

-Generally, Physician Assistant jobs who practice a specific field earn more than the average Physician Assistant. This is because PA’s that practice their own specialties are required to have residencies, just like any doctor that wants to specialize in only one field of study. The highest-paid Physician Assistant positions are those who specialize in Cardiovascular and Cardiothoracis Surgery, with an estimated salary of about $111,000. Other lucrative fields would be Dermatology ($105,000) and Neurosurgery ($99,000).

Learning the Ropes 

If you think that you will definitely thrive on this career, then it would be a good idea to get a Physician Assistant education to help you qualify for the job. Often, this starts with medical experience (usually around four years) before embarking on an intensive core curriculum.

Physician Assistant Job Description

This core curriculum is actually similar to traditional medical education, although its emphasis is on primary care. And what do Physician Assistants do to prepare themselves for this intensive curriculum? Basically, they spend around 25 months studying them from cover to cover.

It doesn’t stop there. There is tremendous competition for the training as well, and it is estimated that there are around five applications for every slot that needs to be filled. Those who pass and graduate must also pass the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants’ examination, which is an independent accrediting test. Additionally, they should also pass a recertification examination every six years and complete around 100 hours of continuous medical education every two years.

Many PA’s would later recall how challenging it was to pass all the requirements, as the rigorous trainings and information they had to undergo were similar to how traditional med students were also trained. The difference, however, is that everything would have to be condensed–from a typical four to ten years med training into just two years for those training to become PA’s.

A Recent Trend in Physician Assistant Jobs 

Trend #1: A Physician Assistant job earns more than Nurse Practitioners

Physician Assistant JobAccording to a study made by the American Academy of Physician Assistants and ADVANCE in 2010, there was a notable salary improvement of Physician Assistant jobs compared to Nurse Practitioners.

On average, Physician Assistants earned around $96,876, while Nurse Practitioners earned only $90,770. There was also a significant salary increase, with Physician Assistants enjoying an increase of $3,771 compared to a $1,191 salary increase for Nurse Practitioners.

What does a Physician Assistant do compared to a Nurse Practitioner? Often, their primary roles are quite similar as well, although the latter are expected to have a higher degree of education–such as a master’s degree. Also, a Physician Assistant needs to be under the supervision of a doctor at all times, while Nurse Practitioners are not required to do so.

Trend #2: Many Sports Medicine Practitioners are increasingly being employed as Physician Assistants.

According to ReachMD XM Radio Program, more than ten percent of all Physician Assistant jobs work in Orthopedics, which is a common practice found in Sports Medicine. And since most of the diseases and illnesses commonly found in athletes all fall under orthopedics care, a lot of Physician Assistant job descriptions now require an extensive experience and knowledge in the area of sports medicine.

It is not surprising, then, to say that a Physician Assistant career and a Sports Medicine career go hand-in-hand together. Both careers are in high demand in the sports business, and many are willing to pay a lot of money to keep their athletes in top shape.

What’s more, a Physician Assistant job related to the average Sports Medicine salary is actually more lucrative compared to the traditional avenues of medicine, averaging around $250,000 per year compared to an Associate Professor of Medicine ($100,000), and even an Associate Dean of Medicine ($180,000).

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