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Return on Educational Investment: 5 Key Reasons to Consider Being a Physician Assistant

By Lauren Whetzel Siburkis

USciences PA ProgramWith hospitals and clinics scrambling to find enough primary care doctors to meet the demand of patient care from the Affordable Care Act, they are increasingly turning to an already short supply of physician assistants. As a result, the graduate physician assistant program at University of the Sciences more than doubled in size this year, as students realize this demand will translate into high-quality jobs after graduation.

“The physician assistant profession is booming, and students of all ages and healthcare backgrounds are returning to school to become physician assistants,” said Joan Ward, MS, PA-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies. “The flexibility to move into different areas of medicine without additional training also adds to the appeal of this profession.”

With that said, it comes to no surprise that one of the fastest growing medical positions is the physician assistant. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor is forecasting a 38 percent increase in the employment of physician assistants by 2022.

“We have a great mix of students in our graduate program because many of them came to us directly out of their undergraduate studies, while another large portion are here because they are changing their careers,” said Ward. “Some of these students were in healthcare-related fields and wanted to take their careers a step further, but a few others did not even start their careers in healthcare.”

Beyond filling in the gaps that exist today in providing primary medical care, physician assistants are also needed to keep patients healthy and out of the more expensive hospital setting, she said.

While the list can be long and vary from person-to-person, below are five key benefits of working as a physician assistant:

1) High Compensation: According to the Department of Labor, the median annual income for a physician assistant is $90,930 – this is nearly a 6 percent increase from 2010, and one of the highest earning positions in the healthcare sector.  When you factor in the personally fulfilling options of having a choice of locations and specialties, it becomes a more promising option.

2) Receive a Return on Your Education: As stated above, there is a substantial salary that accompanies this position. This is a direct response that corresponds to the education required to become a certified physician assistant. The average 27 months of education that go into your master’s degree yields a much higher compensation package than most master’s program graduates. In 2013, a master degree in physician assistant studies was named the most valuable degree for the fourth consecutive year by Forbes. The knowledge gained within these programs equips graduates with the ability to transition between specialties as well as other healthcare options.

3) Bright Employment Projection: A 38 percent increase in the demand for physician assistants is expected between the years 2012 to 2022. And although a healthy job sector will boast a 14 percent growth expectation; the physician assistant field is 171 percent greater than that.

4) You Will Be in a Substantial Position:  The growing demand for healthcare caused by our nation’s aging population and the Affordable Care Act has required more and more capable and skilled physicians. Physician assistants have played a key role in healthcare delivery.

5) Experience a Fulfilling Career: Working as a physician assistant provides the opportunity to do a lot of special things. For instance, not only are you helping and healing people, but you get to work directly with skilled physicians who are like-minded toward patients. After passing the licensing exam and for the cost of an advanced degree, you are able to enjoy many of the benefits that come with practicing medicine.  

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies at USciences is housed in the new Integrated Professional Education Complex (IPEX), to provide students with a real-life approach to learning their field. This 57,000-square-foot, three-story building combines innovative learning spaces and student lounge space with simulation labs, a clinical lab, mock patient exam rooms, and conference rooms. 

Categories: News, Faculty, Students, Academics, Samson College, Department of Physician Assistant Studies, Physician Assistant Studies