Hiatt Career Center

Is Becoming a PA Right for You?

 A physician assistant completes a patient checkup in a medical office.

You want to go into medicine, but 8-12 additional years of school and student loan debt aren’t appealing? Don’t abandon your passion just yet! There is a similar career path that takes a quarter of the time, is less expensive, and has relatively little difference in the day-to-day job becoming a PA.

What is a PA?

In a health context, PA stands for Physician Assistant. However—unlike the name implies—PAs are individual healthcare providers. PAs see patients, perform exams, and prescribe medication. From the patient perspective, it looks very similar to being a Doctor of Medicine (MD).

PAs are still relatively new to the field of medicine, so responsibilities may vary from state to state. In some states PAs can assist in surgeries, other states PAs can’t prescribe certain types of medication.

No matter where they are though, PAs are always under the supervisory oversight of an MD. This brings with it some negatives, but also positives.

For example, PAs don’t have as much autonomy as a physician, but not as much liability either. PAs also don’t carry the high overhead expenses, managerial responsibilities, and paperwork that may entail.

What Does it Take to Become a PA?

To become a PA, you need to complete a master’s degree program (anywhere between two and three years) which includes clinical rotations. This means they don’t earn as much as MDs but instead of being in school for 8-12 years, they’re out a lot faster and carry less debt.

PAs also have the ability to move to different specialties without needing other training. They can go from family practice to dermatology to emergency medicine without needing additional years of training or certification.

Oftentimes—in comparison to their physician counterparts—PAs work a more set schedule and routinely report higher job satisfaction.

So, is Becoming a PA Right for You?

Depending on what you are looking for in a healthcare career, being a PA could be a really good fit! Keep in mind though, PA school is competitive and requires a lot more clinical hours prior to the start than medical schools require.

If this article piqued your interest in pursuing a career as a PA, come chat with one of Hiatt’s Career Counselors by scheduling an appointment via Handshake.