Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join WAPA
Become A PA
Do you have an interest in the practice of medicine? Do you desire to make a daily difference in people’s lives? Are you in need of continual intellectual stimulation? If the answer is yes to these questions, you’ve come to the right place to explore a career as a physician assistant.

In 2010, CNN Money ranked the position of physician assistant as the second best job in America. CNN cited many reasons for their pick, including no expensive medical school or stressful internship, freedom to move within the field, and a great deal of autonomy when it comes to patient care.

PAs enjoy freedom in their work, a great deal of responsibility, strong earning potential and a rewarding career, not to mention a high probability of employment.

PAs, who are trained to care for approximately 80% of the conditions for which most patients seek primary care and are economically imperative to the healthcare team. PAs are well positioned to help fill the need for the projected shortage of physicians, and to provide much needed medical services in small towns and rural areas.

A strong increase in demand for PAs is predicted, and as practicing physician assistants continue to accept new colleagues into the workforce, the profession continues to solidify its role in the healthcare system.

PA Education & Training

Physician assistants receive a broad medical education. Because of the close working relationship the PAs have with physicians, PA education is designed to complement medical training. Criteria for admission to a PA program include previous health care experience and completion of a variety of basic science as well as other general courses.

More than 100 PA educational programs exist nationwide. They are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and sponsored by schools of allopathic or osteopathic medicine, colleges and universities affiliated with appropriate clinical teaching facilities and medical education facilities of the federal government.

Basic admission requirements for PA programs include at least two years of college and prior clinical health care experience. The typical applicant has previously received a bachelor’s degree and over four years of health care experience.

The first year of a two-year PA program includes classroom study in behavioral/social sciences, anatomy, biochemistry, clinical laboratory medicine, clinical medicine, health promotion, medical ethics, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, and psychology. The second year encompasses over 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in family practice and other medical and surgical specialties such as emergency medicine, family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics, and surgery. The average PA program curriculum is 111 weeks in length, compared to 155 weeks for medical school.

PA Credentials

Upon graduation from an accredited PA program, candidates for the profession must sit for the certifying examination developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners, and administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Wisconsin requires candidates to pass this examination prior to licensure as a PA.

Physician assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years, and pass a re-certification exam every six years to maintain national certification. PA education continues throughout a provider’s career with mandatory continuing medical education as well as the ongoing professional interactions between health care providers.