I want to become a physician assistant; where do I start?

August 10, 2016

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If you’re considering becoming a PA, you have picked a good career!  Physician assistants are in demand. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the next ten years, the field is expected to grow by about 30 percent.

What does the role entail?

Physician assistants work under the supervision of a doctor to diagnose and treat people of all ages with various conditions. The job can be rewarding and challenging. But the first question you might have is how to become a physician assistant.

Keep in mind, the actual career path to becoming a PA can vary. For instance, some people gain experience in a healthcare career, such as an EMT or a nurse’s aide, before becoming a physician assistant. In other instances, students earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to PA school.

But information on how to become a physician assistant would not be complete without starting from what you can do in high school. That’s right, even if you’re still in high school, it’s not too early to start preparing for your career as a physician assistant.

Becoming a PA

One of the first things you can do is take several science classes. For example, classes in biology, math and anatomy will prepare you for the classes you need in college and PA school. It’s also important to keep your grade point average up as high as possible. Getting into physician assistant school is not easy. The higher your grades are, the better chance you have of getting accepted.

The next thing you may want to consider doing is learning more about the field. PA school takes a lot of time and money. You want to be sure you’re making the right choice.

Once you’re sure you have found the right profession, consider earning a minimum of an associate degree. It’s important to understand that PA admission requirements vary. Some physician assistant programs require a bachelor’s degree.  Regardless of whether you enroll in an associate or bachelor’s degree program, you should take certain classes, such as medical terminology, statistics and anatomy.

The next step to becoming a PA is completing an accredited physician assistant program. Most PA programs can be completed in about two years to 28 months. Classes may include, physiology, pharmacology and medical ethics. Students are also required to complete clinical rotations at hospitals affiliated with the PA school. During clinical rotations, students work under the supervision of doctors and licensed physician assistants and gain hands-on experience treating patients.


Once you graduate from a physician assistant program, you’re not quite finished yet. You still have to pass an exam to become licensed to practice as a PA. In the United States, to become licensed, physician assistants are required to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

It may seem like a long road to becoming a physician assistant. But it’s a career that can be well worth the effort. Working as a PA can be exciting, offer diverse work responsibilities and an opportunity to make a difference every day you go to work!


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.