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Exploring Physician Assistant Schools

physician's assistant

Becoming a physician’s assistant can be an excellent choice for those who want to be involved in the medical world and provide vital healthcare and help for patients. However, for those interested in this possible career path, education is the most important thing. You’ll need to explore many physician assistant schools to determine where you'll receive the education that you need. However, not all schools are the same, and some are better than others. How do you ensure that you choose the best one for your needs?

Physician assistant schools typically require two years to complete for full-time students. You'll find programs at medical schools and four-year colleges, as well as at schools of allied health and academic health centers. Many accredited physician assistant programs offer clinical learning through relationships with medical schools.

There are more than 100 physician assistant programs to choose from that bear accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Most provide a master's degree in physician assisting, while a small number offer a bachelor's degree. Make sure the degree program you're joining offers what you want for your professional life.

What to expect in physician assistant schools

Physician assistant schools generally cover the following curriculum:

  • Human anatomy
  • Clinical medicine
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Physical diagnosis
  • Biochemistry
  • Pathology
  • Physiology
  • Medical ethics

You can expect to undergo supervised clinical training as well. Most physician assistant schools provide clinical work in internal medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, OB-GYN, surgery, and emergency medicine. And while these rotations allow for tremendous hands-on experience and learning, they also can lead to full-time work as students train under supervising MDs who sometimes take on talented trainees.

Admission to physician assistant schools vary by program. Most students who apply have a bachelor's degree in health sciences and prior hands-on work experience in a healthcare field. Often other courses are required for admission, including anatomy, physiology, biology, microbiology, math, and English. Be sure to speak with an admissions counselor to the program of your choice.

Keep an eye on your state’s licensing requirements

It’s important that you choose physician assistant schools that tailor classroom work and curriculum to your specific state’s licensing requirements. This is the only way that you can ensure you’ll have the education, training, and knowledge needed to pass your state’s exam once you graduate from school. A good question to ask admissions counselors is just how many graduates go on to pass the state exam. This will let you know if you've found the right place.

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