How to Become a Physician Assistant

Projected Job Growth: 30%
Projected Employment Change: 24,700

Physician assistants, unlike medical assistants, are medical practitioners who operate under physicians. They can perform higher-level tasks than medical assistants, such as performing exams on patients, ordering tests, diagnosing conditions, prescribing medicine, and following their supervising doctors’ directions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that physician assistants will see faster-than-average job growth, and that physician assistants average an annual salary of $86,410, though individual salaries will vary.

Why Physician Assisting?

In addition to possibly earning a competitive salary, physician assistants have the opportunity to specialize within their careers. They can pursue postgraduate education in fields that interest them, which gives them control over tailoring their careers. As they advance, physician assistants could earn higher salaries and may eventually be offered the opportunity for promotion with more responsibilities. Physician assistants who wish to enter supervisory positions have the option of going back to school to become fully licensed physicians.

Getting Into Physician Assisting

To become a physician assistant, students must first earn a master’s degree and achieve licensure. Master’s degree programs in this field are extremely competitive, so prospective physician assistants are encouraged to gain some health care experience prior to applying to a graduate program. Graduate students take classes in anatomy, medicine, medical ethics, and diagnoses, and will also take laboratory-based classes. Though it is difficult to find online degree programs in physician assisting, prospective physician assistants can earn their bachelor’s degrees and prerequisite credits online. Online college degree programs offer students the opportunities to earn college credit without having to sacrifice their careers or other obligations. The best online bachelors degree programs will prepare students to pursue graduate degrees in physician assisting.