By: Tyler Daniels
Originally Published: February 17, 2015
Forbes recently ranked Masters in Physician Assistant Studies the Best Master’s Degree for Jobs. This is good news for women in STEM fields as roughly two out of every three Physician Assistants, or PAs, are women, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
The job of physician assistant has been around for nearly 50 years, however it is still a relatively unknown field. PAs “practice medicine on a team under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are formally educated to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses and provide treatment,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The field of PAs is growing rapidly throughout the country, largely due to gaps in the current healthcare system. PAs fill those gaps typically by seeing patients, often in lieu, but under the supervision of a doctor – in various medical practices ranging from emergency rooms to urgent care facilities. BLS projects that between 2012 and 2022, the field of PAs will increase by 38 percent to 120,000.
Pay for PAs is appealing. In 2012, the median Physician Assistant took home over 90 thousand dollars. While that is not as much as doctors make, PAs also do not have to go through as many years of schooling or residency to practice medicine, which means significantly lower upfront training costs. This can make the PA degree more attractive than the MD to some, as it can offer more flexibility, especially for women.
“Being a PA can be very flexible for women, depending upon your specialty,” says Eileen DeAngelis, President of the Delaware Academy of Physician Assistants. “My current practice is open 24 hours and I have the option of requesting specific shifts. As a woman expecting my first child, this is helpful for childcare.”
Women choosing to become PAs over MDs can benefit finically too, according to a 2012 UCLA study that found that, “The median female (but not male) primary-care physician would have been financially better off becoming a physician assistant.”
But DeAngelis doesn’t see a difference between the way men and women are treated in the profession.
Going to PA school is no walk in the park compared to attending medical school. Most PA schools require good grades several and science courses in an undergraduate school. Additionally, it’s common for a PA school to have a more selective acceptance rate than a medical school. Pupils at the Yale School of Medicine went through an acceptance rate of just 6.5 percent. But that’s more than double the 3.3 percent acceptance rate Yale’s PA school.
For DeAngelis, she’s happy with her decision, “the medical field is interesting and keeps me thinking and learning each shift”, she says. “I enjoy interacting with people, both the patients I see and my colleagues at work. It is also very satisfying work.”