Field of Study: Physician Assisting
Physician assisting programs prepare people to diagnose and treat patients. Students learn clinical and medical science. They learn skills in various specialty areas of medicine. They learn how to work under the supervision of doctors.
If the medical field excites you, and you enjoy working as part of a dedicated team, physician assisting may be the right program for you. As you might guess from the name, physician assistants (PAs) work alongside physicians. They examine patients, order and analyze lab tests, and make initial diagnoses. In short, PAs are licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician.
PAs can work in hospitals, doctors' offices, nursing homes, prisons, community health clinics, and rehabilitation centers. In a place such as a rural health clinic, PAs sometimes have more responsibilities, because there may not be many physicians on hand, as compared to a fully staffed hospital.
Although the length and depth of schooling for PAs is less than that of physicians, the training still follows a medical model. Students learn basic medical and behavioral sciences. They also participate in clinical rotations in areas such as obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, or family medicine.
There are about 100 physician assisting programs in the U.S. These programs offer bachelor's degrees, certificates, and master's degrees. The bachelor's degree programs typically take four to five years of full-time study after high school. Both the certificate and master's degree programs usually require about two and a half years of full-time study in addition to the time needed to earn a bachelor's degree.