Training for physician assistants typically cover topics such as medical terminology, biology, pharmacology, clinical studies and medical law. These courses are part of programs leading to both bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as special training programs.
Training covers the basic concepts behind practicing medicine on humans, including learning about the body and its systems and common methods for treating various ailments and diseases. Topics for higher-level courses cover specific diagnostic techniques, methods for treating a variety of symptoms, and the ethics and laws behind the medical system.
In order to become a physician assistant, a candidate must take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam after participating in a training program approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.
Physician assistants with the proper certification are able to conduct a wide range of medical procedures, including diagnosing patients, conducting outpatient surgical procedures, issuing prescriptions and performing various types of therapeutic activities. The primary distinction between a physician assistant and a medical doctor is that physician assistant certification does not require attendance in a medical school program. As such, physician assistants are only able to practice medicine under the supervision or instruction of a licensed medical doctor.