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How to Become a Physician Assistant - Career Advice

Examine your motivations to become a physician assistant.  Is it because you like the profession and the work involved?  Or is it because you don't know what else to do?  Probably no job is easy, but neither is a career as a physician assistant.  Ask yourself truthfully and honestly why you would like to become a physician assistant.  If it is an answer that you are satisfied with, then do consider it as a viable option.  Of course, you may change your mind later, but at least know your current motivations to wanting a career as a physician assistant.

Try to do well in school and get good marks.  Try to make use of the time you have in high school to enjoy classes, and try to find something interesting about the subjects that you learn.  It's really probably your last opportunity to be exposed to such a wide spectrum of knowledge.  Take advantage of it while you can.  Don't rush through school.  Sure, it may be boring and dry sometimes, but just try to make it as interesting for yourself as you can.  You may even learn something useful down the road someday!

You will need to complete a physician assistant program at an accredited institution and obtain a license.  Depending on which school you apply to, you may need to complete a Bachelor's degree before going into physician assistant school.  Try to find all the schools that you think you might have an interest in and thoroughly read through their admission policies including what prerequisite courses or standardized tests are required, curriculum, and the success rates of their graduates obtaining good positions.  Prepare as early as possible for admission.  You do not want to miss deadlines, or not do something that could easily have been done.

Obtain some job experience or do some job shadowing with physician assistants.  This will allow you to find out what being a physician assistant is like.  Maybe you really hate it.  Maybe you love it.  It's a great opportunity to broaden your horizons even if you decide not to become a physician assistant in the future.  Getting job or volunteer experience will also look very favorable to future employers, as they will know that you were capable enough that someone trusted you with their work.  It will also allow you to get reference letters if you need any.  Last, but not least, you will gain practical experience and contacts as a physician assistant that may help you in your future job.

Decide if you want to specialize in the future.  If you do, then you should try to go to a post-secondary institution that specializes in your particular specialty.  It will make you a more attractive and competitive candidate when it comes time to look for a job or apply for further education in your specialty.  Be careful about specializing too early, though, or even specializing at all, as that specialty may become obsolete or not in as much demand when you are ready to go into the workforce.  However, specializing definitely has its advantages, as you will be the recognized expert in your specialty.  You may even be paid more, which is why many people specialize.  So do consider it to be a viable option.

Decide if you would like to open your own practice or to work for someone else's practice. If working for someone,  choose your employer carefully.  If you do not think that you would fit in a particular workplace, you probably should not even apply there.  Of course, you should try not to be picky, but do try to make an effort to think a little about what type of  work environment you desire.  You don't want to be finding another job in two months.

Once you have a career as a physician assistant, try to distinguish yourself a little every day.  The objective is not to get a promotion or a pay raise, although that would be a nice bonus, but just as a duty to yourself.  A pledge to yourself to try to make your job a little bit better for other people.  The extra effort will make yourself feel pleased, as well as really do a service to others.  Also consider upgrading your skills once in a while by taking courses or learning by yourself.  Try not to over-exert yourself, though, when working or when spending extra time to learn skills.  But do put in a good day's work.  Work in a relaxed manner.  Work at a comfortable pace, but just do not slack at your duty.  After all, it's your profession!  

Wish you every success with your job as a physician assistant!


Last reviewed September 2, 2012



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