How Long Does It Take To Become A Physician Assistant

Most of the jobs in the world require the person to undergo some or the other form of training. This training might be anything from a period of 6 months to 10 years or more. It is easy to judge a job by considering how long it takes to become a professional in that field. It takes an immense amount of time to establish yourself in the medical field. For example, to be a physician assistant, one needs to complete something around 9 years of training. These 9 years are spent in learning various skills that are required to become a PA. Here is how that period is broken down –

Bachelor’s Degree

Unlike a medical assistant, applying to be a PA requires you to have a bachelor’s degree. Yes, this means that in most cases you must have also completed in high school with relatively good grades. Your bachelor’s degree could have you major in almost anything. But it helps a lot if you have taken any of the subjects related to medical science like Medical Terminology or Healthcare ethics during this time. Usually, this bachelor degree takes around 4 years to complete. It could take more if you have to stay for an extra semester or year just in case you might want to improve your grades.

Healthcare training

After getting your bachelor’s degree, becoming a PA also requires you to have a master’s degree. But the catch is that most of these programs offer a master’s degree only to people who have completed at least 3 years of healthcare training. This gives you some professional experience and teaches you a bunch of stuff that will be useful later as a Physician Assistant. Some of the most popular choices for training during this time includes being an EMT, paramedic or a nurse.

Master’s degree

After getting a bachelor’s degree and doing some healthcare training, obtaining a master’s degree shouldn’t be too hard. It takes about 2 years to go through the Master’s Physician assistant program before getting the degree. The course teaches you a variety of things like Anatomy, Pathology, Physiology, Pharmacology, Clinical medicine and medical laws and Ethics. During your master’s you are also required to complete at least 2000 clinical hours. If you do not do this within your 2 years of time, you might end up taking more time to get your degree. Luckily some programs offer an internship or a physical assistant shadow program that lets you complete these clinical hours with ease.

The Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)

After all your years of turmoil, you are just one step away from getting the degree in your hand. Only those who graduate from ARC-PA program (the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant) are eligible or this test. Studying for the test might require some time, possibly six months or more, depending on your knowledge and capabilities. This test can be attempted 6 times in a span of 6 years before you are mandated to complete another ARC-PA program to try again.

Additional certification

A physician assistant can then decide whether to go for additional certifications to earn a bit more or to climb the proverbial career ladder. It can be about vascular access, nutritional support, ultrasound and many others.

Maintaining the certificate

Existing PAs might need to sit for the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) every few years to maintain their certificate. In addition to that, they are required to undergo about 100 hours of education every 2 years to remain active.

So, to sum it all up, the average number of years required is –
Bachelor’s degree (4) + Healthcare training (3) + Master’s degree (2) + PANCE (0.5) =
Total (9.5)

So, the minimum time required is about 6 years (without healthcare training or preparing for PANCE) and the maximum time required is infinite (since you can keep giving the PANCE repeatedly), with an average of 9.5 years. But the real question is – Is all these years of training worth it to become a PA? In my opinion, with an average salary of $90,000 and the satisfaction that one gets from helping people feel better, it definitely is!