How To Become A Physician Assistant

Are you wishing to learn how to become a physician assistant? If so, you are not alone. Employment is projected to rapidly increase in this area and many are choosing to turn to health care for their new career. Admission training program requirements vary greatly and most will require that you have a minimum of a college degree.

Some work in the health care field is also beneficial. Once your education is complete, you must pass an exam before you may become licensed. Those who live in rural areas or inner cities will have the most job opportunities.

Education of a Physician Assistant

If you wish to learn how to become a physician assistant, the first step is to complete an educational program. This program in most cases takes two years to complete if you attend full time. Medical schools, four year colleges, academic health centers and allied health centers offer this type of program.

You may also be able to find one at a community college or through the military. As of 2008, 142 physician assistant programs were accredited or provisionally accredited. Out of these programs, 113 offered a master’s degree program, 21 offered a bachelor’s degree and three offered an associate degree. Five programs give you the option of obtaining a certificate.

Physician Assistant License

The next step in the path of how to become a physician assistant is to obtain your license. Once your education has been completed, you will need to pass an exam known as the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. This exam is overseen by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Once you have successfully passed the exam, you will then be able to call yourself “Physician Assistant-Certified”. Continuing education is also required. Every two years you must take a minimum of 100 hours of continuing medical education and every six years either a re-certification exam or alternative program must be completed.

Salary of a Physician Assistant

The annual median wage for someone who has learned how to become a physician assistant is $81,230. This figure was accurate as of May 2008. Those in the lowest 10% earned less than $51, 360 while those in the top 10% earned more than $110,240. If you choose to work in a general medical or surgical hospital, you can expect to make more than if you choose to work in a college, university or professional school.

Your wages will vary by where you choose to work, how many years of experience you have, your practice setting and specialty. Consider all of the above when determining if a career as a physician assistant is right for you.

Intro Video

Check out this interesting video from Youtube from a working PA. She explains the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant. She also gives a little info on what made her choose this career path. Valuable stuff. This particular PA works in a cosmetic surgeon’s office. Obviously this is highlighting a private practice’s environment. As you can see, this setting allows you to work in a smaller environment with more responsibility.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie Freesburr December 5, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thanks for the info. I think this is the job for me. It will be so cool to be able to help people and hopefully work with little kids!!:)


admin December 6, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Good for you! This really is a great career path to choose, especially since it has one of THE fastest job growth rates we’ve come across at 39%. When you consider the average for U.S. jobs is around 7% that’s fantastic.


Shawn Grandstaff February 16, 2012 at 4:57 am

Hi there. I’m 34 yrs old and know I’ve got a late start on this but I really want to do something in the medical profession and this is one that I would love to do. Is it that complicated to get going on this? I know it will be tough going to school and I will do it full time I just want to know the simplest way to go about this keeping it simple will help. I have two little boys so my life is a bit complicated already but am at a time in life that I can go to school I just want to know the simplest way to go about it. What do I have to do to make it happen? What classes will get me there without going thru a bunch of unnecessary stuff if that makes sense? I guess what I’m saying is what are the steps to get there even if it takes a 4 years or whatever? Or if It can be done in 3 yrs going full time? Can you help me with that and just lead me in the right direction? I will find the schools I just want to take the right classes for it. Thank you for any help.


Shawn Grandstaff February 16, 2012 at 5:02 am

By the way, I can’t do online courses just because there are way too many distractions at home with the boys. It’s very difficult to study when I keep playing with them, which is great but will take to much time away from me.


admin February 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Hi Shawn,

The best route to take is to go through an accredited program. The best way for you to figure out the best program for you in your situation/area is to go through the PAEA website. Check these two link out: and
PAEA is the official Physician Assistants hub and provides a ton of great, reputable info. They provide step by step information that is more comprehensive than we can leave in this comment box! The key is to take an accredited program so that your credits will be recognized once you complete the program.

Good luck!


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