How to Become a PA

I get asked lots of questions about being a PA, one of which is often, “So when are you going to become a real doctor?” Well, the quick answer is: Never. I am so happy being a Physician Assistant. I practice medicine and I don’t have insane malpractice insurance. I have lot of ability to practice independently but always have someone I can run questions by. I’m respected by peers and patients. It’s the best.

I thought I might review what it takes to be a PA. Basically it’s a Master’s Program. That means you need a 4 year degree (a Bachelor’s, in any subject) and then 2-3 additional years. Its grueling to get in, and its just as hard to graduate and get out of PA School. But so far I have found that it was so worth it!

PA School requires lots of specific science classes, some psychology classes, an overall high GPA and high test scores on the GRE (Grad School Standardized tests). PA school entrance is very competitive! I can’t stress this enough. Over 1000 people applied for the 40 spots in my class! Luckily out of the 6 schools I applied to I got selected for an interview and was offered a spot.

My PA School was 18 months of classes and then one solid year of clinicals. Classes were 8-5 Monday through Friday; they were a full time job. We had minimum test scores and minimum GPAs, we dressed formally daily and we took classes seriously! We had anatomy lab with cadavers, pharmacology class with pharmacists and learned how the human body moved with Physical Therapy Students. We learned disease states, treatments and therapies all before clinicals.

Clinicals were 8-5, 5 or 6 days a week for basically a whole year. There were 5-week blocks spent in family medicine, surgery, emergency room, women’s health and multiple other specialties. We ended with one longer rotation, an 8-week rotation in primary care. For the most part I had amazing rotations where my professors were practicing professionals with so much knowledge to give.

Then after graduation (where we get our prestigious long white coats…) you begin studying for boards, a 4 hour exam that tests hair loss to toe fungus and literally everything in between. Without this test you can’t work, so its basically crucial to study and do well. Looking back there were so many steps in my long road to becoming a PA. I’m so happy I was able to accomplish all of them and now I’m practicing medicine.  Even on tough days it is not lost on me that I have my dream job. Please let me know if you have any questions about the PA School process or if I can answer any more questions for you!

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