The Road to Wellness: Five Steps in Becoming a Physician Assistant

The recent global pandemic has wreaked havoc in the way we deal with our everyday lives. In every country, the government and the people are deeply concerned with the population’s overall health and welfare. Keeping the virus at bay is a constant everyday struggle. Given the current situation, the world is in dire need of Physician Assistants.

But what exactly is a physician assistant? What does a physician assistant do, and how can I become one? Keep reading the article, and you will find the answers to these questions. As the name suggests, physician assistants aid doctors by reviewing patient information, performing basic diagnostics and procedures, and initiating treatment plans for patients.

With all these tasks, one might think and ask, “What is the difference between a doctor and a physician assistant?” Well, the answer is quite simple. All the tasks that are done by a physician assistant require supervision by a medically licensed doctor. Are you now to embark on the road to becoming a physician assistant? If the answer is yes, then let us begin!

Step 1: Complete Your Four-Year Medical or Science Bachelor’s Degree

The idea of becoming a physician assistant has been gaining popularity throughout the past decade. High School and college graduates are now thinking about becoming a physician assistant. According to My PA Resource’s post, The average annual salary of a PA is $108,000, and an unemployment rate of 1.1%. These numbers are the reason why the job is popular.

But like any specialization, becoming a physician assistant has prerequisites. One of them is to get a bachelor’s degree. Technically, an aspirant can have a bachelor’s degree in any field, but it would be better if your course was related to medicine or the sciences. Before enrolling in any medical degree course in Australia, you must have the UCAT exam cleared and for better preparation, you should opt for UCAT preparation courses. Bachelor’s degrees in nursing and biology will be beneficial in the long run.

Step 2: Acquire the Necessary Healthcare Work Experience

Before you can apply to a physician assistant school, an aspirant must meet the standard requirement for clinical hours. This is one of the requisites for you to be admitted to an accredited physician assistant program. Work experience can be both healthcare experience (HCE) or patient care experience (PCE).

Healthcare experience or HCE can be both paid or unpaid work experience in a health-related field wherein you are not directly responsible for a specific patient’s care. This type of experience may still have patient interaction. In comparison, patient care experience (PCE) is where you are directly responsible for the patient’s care. Working as a nurse is an example of PCE.

Some physician assistant schools or programs will require students to have at least 1000 hours of healthcare experience or patient care experience. Programs differ from time to time, so it will not be unusual if they require a combination of both. Many students take a whole year to complete the required hours. So it would be best to get the experience as soon as possible.

Step 3: Apply and Study

Once you obtain a bachelor’s degree, meet the required number of healthcare experience and patient care experience, and complete other requisites, you are now ready to apply to your chosen ARC-PA accredited physician assistant program. When applying, you will use the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).

CAPSA is a state-of-the-art application system that gives students an efficient application in multiple programs with just a single application. After the application process, a candidate interview will be done by the physician assistant school. Once you pass, it will take approximately three academic years to complete the physician assistant course.

In a perfect setting, it takes three years to complete the physician assistant program and graduate. That is a total of 26 months, to be exact. To set proper expectations, those 26 months will be the most challenging months of your academic life. It is important to study well and study hard. Keep reading and ask for help if needed. Do not let stress get to you.

Step 4: Passing the PANCE or the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam

After getting your master’s degree, you are now qualified to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). This specific exam consists of 300 questions that will be broken down into five sections. Each section will have sixty questions. The exam will cover anything from the type of disorders, identification of organ systems, and assessment.

Each examinee is given six attempts in six years to pass the exam. If an examinee fails, he/she will be given 90 days or three times in a calendar year before he/she can retake the exam. That is ample time to get your mind straight and get ready to retake the exam. Though the exam boasts a 90% national pass rate, it is essential to be prepared and to focus on the goal. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Step 5: Maintain Your Certification and Acquire Additional Skills

Passing the PANCE exam is not the end of your physician assistant journey. In fact, it is just the beginning. After passing the exam and getting your license, a licensed physician assistant must earn additional board and specialty certificates to improve their skills, knowledge, and expertise. An added specialization will also mean a better salary for the physician assistant.

Physician assistants must also maintain their certification. For this, physician assistants must obtain a minimum of 100 continuing education credits every in a span of two (2) years. On their tenth recertification cycle, physician assistants will retake the PANCE. Those who fail this recertification will be given three attempts to pass.


During this global pandemic, physician assistants are an integral part of the healthcare team. They decrease the doctor’s workload since they are able to provide immediate care to patients like giving medications and performing diagnostic procedures. As physician assistants decrease the workload, doctors are now able to see and help more patients.