How to Become a Physician Assistant?

If you have an interest in medicine, healthcare, and other similar attributes but do not want to become a doctor, then this article is ideally meant for you. There may be several questions in your mind such as-

How can I become a physician assistant? How long does it take to become a physician assistant? What are the required educational qualifications to become a physician assistant?

But before answering such questions, let us first take a look at what or who a physician assistant is.

Who Is a Physician Assistant?

Doctors are required to perform various actions to ensure the well being of their patients. However, there are specific tasks that require assistance from others.

Such services are provided by a physician assistant who can help surgeons, doctors, or other medical professionals.

The errands that a physician assistant carries out serve as a lubricant in a hospital or a clinic’s efficient functioning.

In the capacity of a physician assistant, you may be required to assist the medical professionals by performing multiple activities simultaneously.

These activities include organizing the schedules, scanning the medical information of patients, providing medication, preparing the parties according to their prerequisites, and conducting necessary tests.

Additionally, the functions of a physician assistant are regulated through governmental norms.

In rural or developing areas, the physician assistant may just work as a health care provider or may be required to communicate with the physician regarding necessary facilities or needs.

Due to such reasons, a physician assistant should have the necessary abilities and aptitudes in specific fields.

They may have to respond to contingent situations or supervise the work of other medical professionals.

But before reading the article further, you should question yourself. Can you become a physician assistant? Does this post interest you? Do you have an interest in its technical skills?

Before you becoming a physician assistant, you will have to acquire formal educational qualifications and experience.

But what if you indulge in such activities without them engaging you? Apart from losing your time and efforts, you will become demotivated.

So there are specific attributes that you must consider before diving into this profession. If you have or can develop the following traits, then you can have a lucrative career ahead.

Firstly, you should be able to maintain your composure, especially in stressful times. This is because, as a physician assistant, situations will demand you to be emotionally stable and deal with unwell people.

Secondly, you should be a person who can work on the instructions of other people. Since physician assistants work under several medical professionals, they need to be able to work according to how their supervisors describe tasks.

Situations may compel you to perform procedures on your own. So, you should have enough confidence in yourself to supervise others.

Check whether you have the collaborative skills required to work in a team as a physician assistant.

Furthermore, you should be detail-oriented as well as an effective listener, as you will have to listen to the issues of the patients and keep in mind the small details. It will help you to treat them with the right requirements.

In the end, by being adept at problem-solving and decision-making, you can gain proficiency as a physician assistant.

Also Read:Difference Between an EMT and A Paramedic: Training, Salary, Education, Scope

How to Become a Physician Assistant?

Becoming a physician assistant is a daunting and arduous task. However, the fruits of your hard work will be sweet and provide you with much satisfaction and happiness.

We will now guide you through the required educational qualifications to become a physician assistant.

High School

To pursue a profession with full interest, you should start preparing for it from high school. High school is when you can reel the maximum benefit of your free time to refine yourself.

A physician assistant requires scientific and other technical skills. So, make sure to opt for professional courses in science and math.

Pieces of training in biology, anatomy, and other related subjects will also help you in the future.

Make the best use of your social skills by finding opportunities in your society. Such activities entail working with several NGOs, hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical events.

Once you have a CNA certification (which you can get after you complete high school), you can procure a part-time job in any medicinal home or clinic.

Apart from giving you experience, such facilities will help you to get a college degree in the future.

Moreover, as a student, use the best of your potential in various extracurricular activities. Integrate with blood drives, communities, and medicinal groups of your school.

You can even demonstrate the use of first aid in your school activities.

In the end, as we all know, experience is the best teacher. So why not use others’ experiences to your advantage?

You can approach various counselors or teachers to know more about this stream and make better choices.

Apart from this, you can indulge in informational interviews with various physician assistants. Informational interviews aim at having a word with multiple physician assistants.

You can ask your doctor if they have a physician assistant who may agree to speak to you.

You could also spend a day with a physician assistant to get a glimpse of their life. Such experiences will entice you and help you to direct your talent in the right way.

Bachelor’s Degree

After doing relevant research and procuring the necessary experience in high school, you will step into college.

To become a physician assistant, an individual must enroll in a four-year Bachelor’s Degree. This degree will help you fetch an entry into a graduate program later.

But, which subject should you apply to for your degree?

To tailor your skills with the requirements of a prospective physician assistant program, it is better to enroll in a bachelor’s degree in a subject related to medicine or health.

However, some graduate schools don’t have a specific requirement for your subject choice in your Bachelor’s degree.

Also Read: How to Become a Physical Therapist? How Long Does It Take?

There are many subjects in which the applicants can earn their bachelor’s degree. Such subjects include:

  • Nutrition
  • Cellular biology or molecular biology.
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Sociology
  • Genetics
  • Immunology

However, make sure that your bachelor’s degree meets the requirements of your state or region. This is because different physician assistants are required to perform different activities based on the regulatory laws of their state.

Moreover, pursuing such subjects will facilitate your entry into any physician assistant program.

Apart from the undergraduate degree, the Master’s degree will also require you to have proficiency and experience in such subjects.

Some schools have various BS/MS Physician Assistants Program which helps the students to get skilled in comparatively less time and money.

Healthcare Experience and Patient Care Experience (HCE & PCE)

CASPAOther PA programs will require you to have mastery in healthcare experience and patient care experience. The earlier you gain command over such experiences, the better it is for you.

Generally, various PA programs need individuals to have a minimum of 1000 hours in patient care experience and healthcare experience.

However, the limit may differ according to multiple institutions and states. You can always substantiate this limit from the Centralised Application Service For Physician Assistants (CASPA).

So, what are healthcare and patient care experiences?

In healthcare experience, the applicant does not directly take care of a patient. However, in patient care experience, the applicant is liable and responsible for a patient’s care.

You can gain such experience by practicing the following professions:

  • Paramedic
  • Medical assistant
  • Peace Corps volunteer
  • Emergency room technician
  • Certified nursing assistant
  • Surgical tech
  • Registered nurse
  • Emergency medical technician.
  • Phlebotomist
  • Surgical tech

Accredited Physician Assistant Programs (Master’s Degree)

Application procedure

After procuring all the relevant requirements and degrees, you do not just sit at your homes. You need to prepare an impressive application that will help you to stand out from your peers.

But make sure that your application tailors to the needs mentioned in the CASPA.

The PA programs help you to earn your Masters’s degree in approximately three years.

The striking attribute of such programs is that they allow you to gain theoretical knowledge and convert it into practical experience.

As a prospective physician assistant student, you can acquire proficiency in theoretical knowledge in various subjects:

  • Microbiology
  • Medical ethics
  • Behavioural Science
  • Physiology
  • Physical diagnosis.
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical laboratory science

Make sure that your physician assistant program is be accredited. This means it should have been recognized officially by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

Apart from this, such a program will help you to have cognizance on how to work in physician offices, ambulatory clinics, and long-term care institutions.

You will indulge in practical knowledge of the following subjects for more than 2,000 hours:

  • Pediatrics
  • Family medicine
  • Emergency medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • General surgery
  • Obstetrics and gynecology

However, such subjects will be divided between your first and second year. The first year will teach you both medical science and clinical experience on various courses.

These courses include pathology diagnosis, strategies, emergency medicine, etc.

On the other hand, the second year will delineate in detail the complex topics like general surgery, gynecology, and medicine.

Online Physician Assistant Programs

In this era of digitization, it is easy to find online programs. Moreover, as we all know, the vicious wave of the coronavirus has shadowed the entire planet, and remote working has become the norm.

So, various online physician assistant programs will help you to use the best of your capacities in this field.

However, getting admitted to such online programs require you to fulfill various criteria, which differ from program to program.

But the programs which are accredited by the ARC-PA want applying individuals to have a minimum of a 3.00 GPA in their prior qualifications.

Let us have a glance at other requirements:

  • Letters of recommendation- You will require various letters of recommendation from your prior medical professionals to apply to CASPA. Such references help the authorities to have an insight into your technical and soft skills, and favorable company culture.
  • Undergraduate and postgraduate credentials- There are some institutions that may delay the process of handing over your degree(s). This delay can significantly affect your application process. So, make sure to receive your certifications before applying.
  • Shadowing a physician assistant or spending a day with the physician assistant.
  • Courses in Anatomy and Physiology one, General chemistry one and two with lab, organic chemistry with lab, anthropology or sociology, algebra or statistics, general biology with lab, Human Physiology with lab, medical terminology, psychology, developmental psychology, human anatomy, medical genetics, microbiology.
  • Background check
  • Community service
  • Personal statement- Many applicants apply for the PA programs, and all such applicants have the required technical skills and meet the needs of CASPA. But it is your soft skills which help you to be at an advantage over your competitors. Having an exceptional personal statement is what will put you apart from the rest.

CASPA requires the applicants to write a 5000-word extended essay about themselves. This essay should mainly answer two questions.

First of all, why do you want to become a physician assistant? Secondly, why should the university accept you in this field?

The personal statement offers you an opportunity to exhibit your skills in front of the authorities. The tone of the essay should be polite and should indicate your interest and dedication to this opportunity.

Moreover, make sure to proofread your essay in the end. This is because any grammatical mistakes or typos will exhibit your amateurism and lack of interest in the opportunity. You can use software like Grammarly for the same.

Apart from this, let another set of eyes gaze upon your essay. This is because there can be some mistakes that your friends or relatives can pick out from your writing.

Once you submit your report, you can edit it again and redeliver it.

Interview for The PA Program

STAR method

After submitting your application, it is crucial to practice for the interview. You can do this by surfing the web and finding the answers to several interview questions.

To prepare compelling and intriguing responses for a behavioral interview, you can follow several methods. One such strategy is the STAR technique. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result.

Following such tips will help you to retort to the questions in an organized way without leaving out any crucial piece of information.

Moreover, make use of your augmented networking outreach to find people who have pursued such programs. They can help you with the interview.

Different PA schools have other procedures to conduct the interview, so it is better to confirm the technique of the school before practicing.

This will help you know its culture, ethics, and working environment. Besides, researching about the institution and interviewers can assist you in tailoring your answers according to their needs.

Clear the PANCE

You will be delighted after you complete your Master’s from an accredited PA program. However, the task is not over yet.

The PA program has unlocked another level in the field of physician assistant for you. This next level is to clear the National Certifying Exam or PANCE.

This examination has a total of 300 questions. Such questions are divided into five sections, each of which has 60 problems. The time limit to complete the test is 5 hours.

However, the applicants are given a break worth of 45 minutes. They also have 15 minutes to familiarise themselves with the software.

One of the best attributes of this examination is that you will receive your results just after a few weeks.

Once you clear the PANCE, the ladder that leads you to practice physician assistance is straight ahead. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) supervises and administers PANCE.

After acquiring the required credentials and passing this examination, you can become a Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).

Also Read: What Does the Post-COVID Future Hold for PAs?

Collect Your License

Before practicing the profession, do not forget to obtain your license from the state. You can quickly get the license if you have graduated from an accredited PA program and have cleared PANCE.

Finally, you are ready to reap the benefits of your hard work from this lucrative job opportunity.

You should stay focused on every step and never let your stress overpower you while pursuing this profession.


  • Efa Yasin, exhibits her witty personality, through her intriguing writings. Her works have been published on various websites, like NOGOZO and THETOPTOURS. With her forte being in English, she has conducted researches and concocted articles on various niches like marketing, travel and tourism, information technology, and many more.

  • As a Humanities undergrad, Anwesha Sen explores her creative side by writing about fields such as finance, education, marketing, and tourism. Her work has been published on various company blogs. She thoroughly enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures. Being a sucker for mysteries, she spends most of her free time watching documentaries on unsolved crimes.

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