Physicians Assistant Studies

9 Reasons to Get a Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies

9 Reasons to Get a Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies
Given the potential for a massive shortage of physicians in the U.S., there is also demand for those who support them. Image from Death to the Stock Photo
Katherine Gustafson profile
Katherine Gustafson June 24, 2019

PAs make up the fifth fastest-growing profession in the United States, and the top 10% of earners pull in more than $146,000 per year.

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What is a physician’s assistant?

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States could face a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030. This is partly due to the increased demand America’s aging population places upon the healthcare system, which is estimated to grow an additional 11% in the next decade. AAMC’s research also accounts for underserved populations across the country, predicting the potential number of physicians needed if uninsured or rural-dwelling individuals had greater access to care.

Given the potential for a massive shortage of physicians in the U.S., there is also demand for the roles of those who support them. A physician’s assistant (PA) one such position, responsible for helping manage a physician’s caseload by:

  • Obtaining patient histories
  • Performing physical exams
  • Ordering and interpreting lab tests
  • Assisting in surgical operations
  • Offering guidance on preventative health

What is a Master of Physician Assistant Studies?

Those pursuing physician assistant jobs opt for graduate programs that are usually called Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) but may have other titles such as Master of Clinical Health Services (MCHS). Regardless of title specifics, it’s most important that the PA program you choose is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

A Master of Physician Assistant Studies program provides comprehensive primary care training. Students can expect courses in topics such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathology and clinical medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical diagnosis
  • Medical ethics

To earn their degree, students are also required to complete supervised clinical training in areas like pediatrics or emergency medicine, as well as an accredited PA training program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). A physician assistant who has passed the exam is called a Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).

Top 9 reasons to get a Master of Physician Assistant Studies

9. Thrive in a role that helps others. PAs care for patients in a direct and personal way. If you find satisfaction assisting people in an intimate one-on-one setting, an MPAS degree is an accessible way to launch a career that may be a good match for your your personality and professional goals.

8. Training can lead directly to job prospects. Clinical rotations within an MPA program take place under the supervision of working physicians. Sometimes those doctors are looking to hire PAs, which could make for the possibility of lucking into your next job before you’ve even finished your studies—of course, only after certification exams have been passed. If that doesn’t happen, the network you develop through your program could still offer mentorship or professional development opportunities later on.

7. Potential to leverage your nursing or EMT career. Most of those pursuing PA degrees already have some medical work experience, such as working as registered nurses, EMTs, or paramedics. Coming into a PA program with a strong footing in any of these roles will set you up to excel in both your coursework and clinical rotations.

6. Very comfortable earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), PAs make up the fifth fastest growing profession in the United States. As far as careers go, it’s also one that comes with an incredibly promising paycheck. PAs can expect a median annual pay just over $108,000, with the highest-earning 10 percent in the profession pulling in more than $146,000.

5. Job stability. When you’re working in one of the fastest-growing career tracks in the nation, you can rest easy knowing you’ll never be unemployed for long. The industry’s healthy job growth is due in part to the rapid growth of healthcare overall. BLS data indicates that employment in healthcare is expected to grow 18 percent by 2026, more than twice as fast as average U.S. occupations.

4. A variety of work settings. PAs work in any medical setting where doctors are found: private practices, clinics, hospitals, and mental health facilities. You’ll be able to direct your career into an avenue that works best for you, whether you like quiet doctors’ offices or bustling emergency departments.

3. You can specialize. The clinical training incorporated in the PA programs includes many areas of medicine. You’ll be able to target your clinical study and your job search in the specialty that most captivates you, such as:

  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Emergency medicine
  • Pediatrics

2. Work with physicians. It’s not through happenstance that PAs work in close quarters with highly trained physicians on a daily basis. In fact, state licensure laws require PAs to be in a formal relationship with a supervising physician. This relationship includes day-to-day teamwork that will teach you new things and help develop your patient care skills.

1. Position your career for advancement. PA-C are eligible to pursue additional education in specialties such as emergency medicine and psychiatry. Specializing through further professional development and education will allow you to gain greater responsibilities and higher pay, and may even offer roles like staff supervisor or healthcare administrator.

An MS in PA Studies degree is a valued credential that will guarantee you a stable, high-income career in clinical care. That, and the satisfaction of helping people daily and working together with some of the most highly trained professionals in the medical field.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Categorized as: Physicians Assistant StudiesNursing & Healthcare