Physician Assistant Career Requirements

A physician assistant works alongside doctors providing patient care, they may be required to work in variety of settings such as a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic. The training that is required of a physician assistant can be quite extensive and requires not only a bachelor’s degree but also a master program that which lasts two more years, there is also a certification exam as well as continuing of their education.

Under the supervision of a licensed physician, a physician assistant will see patients. A physician’s assistant is able to perform a physical examination, diagnose and even treat a patient. There are those who work in general practice and those who specialize in a certain area of medicine such as cardiology, obstetrics or orthopedics. A physician’s assistant can be employed by a private practice, hospital or public health care clinic.

What are the Education Requirements for a Physician Assistant?

The first thing that an aspiring physician assistant (PA) will have to earn is a bachelor’s degree in a science related area. After this, students move on to apply and hopefully enter a physician’s assistant program. This degree program will provide a variety of laboratory work, classroom training as well as practical training.

Generally a school will offer a two year physician assistant program, which is graduate level, however there are schools that offer programs which lead to a certificate or bachelor’s degree. There are many physician assisted programs which are affiliated with a teaching hospital or medical school.

There are physician assistants that choose to take on additional training in a specialty area of medicine such as internal medicine, geriatric, emergency medicine, pediatrics, occupational medicine as well as surgery.

Program Coursework

The coursework that is included in a physician assistant program will consist of pharmacology, physiology, human anatomy, pathology, biochemistry and ethics, A large part of a program will include hands on training in clinical medicine. This will focus on areas like pediatrics, gynecology, family medicine, geriatrics, surgery and is of course, supervised.


It is required for all practicing physician assistants to be certified from the NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants). Those who are able to earn their certification are able to refer to themselves as a Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C). To be able to maintain their certification the physician assistant must complete one hundred hours of continuing education, this is required every two years. Every six years a re-certification exam will be required in order to remain certified.

Once they have completed their certification requirements, a physician assistant will be able to, similarly to a physician, handle the examination of patients, take the patient’s history down, order lab tests and make a medical diagnosis. They are also able to prescribe medications and treat a routine condition. There are cases in which a physician assistant will put in stitches, treat injuries and cast broken bones. As directed by state law, all of these responsibilities will be carried out under the supervision of a physician.