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How Do You Become a Physician Assistant?

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To be a physician assistant, you typically need a master's degree and a license for the state in which you intend to practice. As well as required education courses, state licensing programs also normally require a candidate to pass a national certification exam. Success in this profession also requires continuous professional development of key skills.

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  1. Complete the educational requirements

    Prior to applying to graduate school, a physician assistant must complete two to four years of undergraduate study. Many applicants earn a bachelor's degree, and some advanced programs actually require a bachelor's as a condition of admission. A master's degree in an accredited physician assistant education program normally takes two years to complete.

  2. Pass the exam and get licensed

    The standard certification exam for a physician assistant is the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, which is offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. After passing the exam, the assistant is designated as a Physician Assistant-Certified.

  3. Develop critical skills

    Many aspiring assistants gain hands-on experience while in college. Through education and hands-on learning, successful assistants develop professional and soft skills vital to the job. Compassion for, and excellent communication with, patients are important qualities for an assistant. Detail orientation and problem-solving skills contribute to precise care for patients. Emotional stability prepares an assistant for the ups and downs of health care.

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