How to Become a Physician Assistant

If you decide to become a physician assistant, you would have to practice under the supervision of a licensed physician. Your responsibilities would include, but not be limited to, providing patient care, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. You could work in emergency rooms, clinics and primary care hospitals. Pediatrics, elderly care or surgery are among possible areas of specialization.

Educational Requirements

  • Major in physical sciences as an undergraduate.
  • Study subjects like biology, anatomy, chemistry and psychology in your undergraduate program.
  • Gain experience in the clinical field, either through an internship or volunteering.
  • Attend a training program after either two or four years of college.

Having three to four years of clinical or nursing experience is beneficial for getting admission into the physical assistant's training program.

Physician Assistant Training Program

You can apply to the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) training programs. The first-year course will be with medical students. The training program covers subjects like human physiology, biochemistry and pathology. Major topics covered are medical ethics, diagnoses and clinical technical skills.

The second year is dedicated to practical training. It is very intense, with subjects like psychiatry and internal medicine.

Summer internships pave the way to initial job offers. Summers should be spent constructively, building experience and developing expertise in the field. 

With the conclusion of training, you get a physician assistant degree. After that, you can complete the Physician Assistant National Certificate Exam (PANCE). This is required in most jurisdictions to begin employment as a physician assistant.

Gaining Clinical Experience

Working as an assistant in your chosen area of specialization is helpful. If you are planning to work in an emergency department, obtaining experience as an emergency medical technician (EMT) is very useful. Having at least two or three years of experience enables you to acquire the job you want more easily. This is because it may put you a notch above your competition.

Job Responsibilities

The functions of a doctor and a physician assistant are quite similar. However, you will not be handling the complex cases. Your responsibilities would be:

  • obtaining a patient's medical history;
  • performing the initial examination of the patient;
  • analyzing X-rays and lab tests;
  • treating minor ailments;
  • prescribing medicines and explaining them to the patient; and
  • performing managerial tasks, like supervising medical staff and ordering supplies. 

Work Environment and Opportunities

As a physician assistant, you could gain experience in any medical area. Most physician assistants work in primary health care. Some work in surgery or surgical branches. The various options available are in hospitals, private practices, schools, prisons or health care agencies. More information on job opportunities for anyone who wants to become a physician assistant is available on

Tips for Becoming a Physician Assistant

  • Concentrate on being patient; patience is as necessary as the career's academic qualifications.
  • Perseverance and the ability to juggle a busy schedule are musts.
  • Develop effective communication skills.
  • Determine and specialize in a particular area of interest in the latter years of training.
  • Maintain powerful interpersonal skills and reasoning abilities.