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Deciding on a career path can be an exciting yet challenging endeavor. If you have a passion for healthcare and want a profession that combines patient care, medical knowledge, and a sense of fulfillment, becoming a physician assistant (PA) is worth exploring. In this blog, we'll guide you through some considerations to help you determine if a physician assistant career is the right fit for you.

1. Learn about the Role

The first step in evaluating a PA career is to learn about the profession. Physician assistants are healthcare professionals who work alongside physicians to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services. They collaborate closely with physicians, examine, monitor, and evaluate patients, order tests, diagnose illnesses, and develop treatment plans. They also counsel and educate patients about their conditions. (As a heads up, the scope of practice for PAs can vary according to state laws, the medical setting, and the training of the PA.)

2. Assess Your Interests and Skills

Once you understand the responsibilities and day-to-day tasks of a PA, reflect on your interests and skills to see if they align. Are you naturally inclined towards science, medicine, and helping others? Do you enjoy problem-solving, critical thinking, and working in a fast-paced environment? A career as a physician assistant demands a strong foundation in the sciences, excellent communication skills, empathy, and the ability to multitask. Assessing your strengths and comparing them with these demands will give you a better idea of your suitability for this career choice.

3. Research Education and Training Requirements

To become a PA, you must commit to a rigorous academic curriculum and clinical training. To decide if this is feasible, research the coursework and requirements for programmatically accredited PA programs. Evaluate your academic aptitude, dedication, and readiness for the journey ahead. Typically, aspiring physician assistants complete a bachelor's degree program followed by a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Often the bachelor’s degree is in a related field. If not, you may have to take prerequisite courses in the sciences. In addition to classes, a Physician Assistant master’s degree program also includes clinical experiences. After completing your master’s degree, you’ll then need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).*

4. Consider Shadowing or Volunteering in a Clinical Setting

One of the best ways to gain insight into the PA profession is to shadow a physician assistant or volunteer in a healthcare setting. This firsthand experience will allow you to observe their daily work and interact with patients yourself. By doing so, you can gain a realistic understanding of the challenges and rewards of being a PA. Contact local healthcare facilities, clinics, or PA organizations to ask about shadowing or volunteering opportunities. This hands-on experience will help you gauge your comfort level and affinity for the PA role. As a bonus, PA school admissions teams also often look for applicants with experience!


5. Evaluate the Career Growth and Outlook for PAs

Before selecting any career, you should research job outlook, salary potential, and opportunities for advancement. The BLS predicts that jobs are steadily increasing and the profession is expected to keep growing in the coming years. You should also learn about the settings and specialties where you could pursue job opportunities. Considering your possibilities for starting and growing in this career will help you envision your future as a PA.

Making a Decision—And Taking the Next Step

Deciding if a physician assistant career is right for you requires careful consideration of your interests, skills, and aspirations. By learning about the job responsibilities, exploring educational requirements, gaining first-hand experience, and researching career outlook, you can make a more informed decision.

If you decide to pursue a PA career*, consider the South University Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program. This program is offered at our Savannah, Tampa, Austin, West Palm Beach, and Richmond campuses. You can learn more about our program admissions, curriculum, faculty, and more on our program pages. Or, request more information online to request a conversation with a member of our admissions team.

It is up to each student to review the national and state licensure requirements for licensure, as well as the eligibility criteria to sit for licensure exams.  South University cannot guarantee each graduate will pass the required licensure examinations.  Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

*Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program permits students to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, Inc. (NCCPA). The PANCE is designed to assess essential medical and surgical knowledge of graduate Physician Assistants in conducting a variety of healthcare functions normally encountered in practice.

*South University does not promise or guarantee employment.