If you’re looking into new careers in healthcare, one of the fastest growing professions with a medical education requiring less time than a physician’s and high salary expectations,consider becoming a physician assistant.

Growing demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.” Physician assistants (also known as PAs) practice medicine as part of a team with doctors and can perform many of the same healthcare tasks such as performing examinations, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting lab tests, prescribing medication and much more.

"The biggest advantage to becoming a PA is the fact that we receive a general medical education, allowing us tremendous flexibility throughout our careers..."

“While PAs report competitive salaries and a high level of satisfaction with their careers, by far, the biggest advantage to becoming a PA is the fact that we receive a general medical education, allowing us tremendous flexibility throughout our careers and in the healthcare team,” said Robert Wooten,PA-C,President,American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Education and training

The typical education for PAs is a master’s program that includes instruction in core sciences like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, behavioral science, medical ethics and more. Aspiring PAs must also complete more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations, with an emphasis on primary care in ambulatory clinics, physician offices and acute or long-term care facilities. Most PA programs take a little over two years (27 months on average), while comparatively, physicians go to medical school for at least four years after obtaining their bachelors.

Additionally, when PAs enter the medical profession, prospects are generally quite bright. “AAPA’s data shows that a newly graduated PA can expect to be earning nearly $80,000 right out of school, and in ten years, most of them could be earning over $95,000” says Wooten.