Physician's Assistant (For Pediatrics): Career Definition, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements of pediatric physician assistants. Get the facts about education requirements, credentials, job duties and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Pediatric Physician Assistant?

Pediatric physician assistants provide medical care for children under the supervision of a physician. They may update the patient's medical history, perform tests, diagnose illnesses or injuries and provide treatment. They perform all the tasks a physician assistant may perform, but exclusively treat children, and may work in a doctor's office or hospital.

Degree Required Bachelor's and master's degrees
Education Field of Study Bachelor's: healthcare related
Master's: physician assistant with clinical rotations in pediatric care
Key Responsibilities Under physician supervision, provide medical exams, diagnosis and treatment for pediatric patients; specifics may vary by state and service area
Licensure Required Licensing and certification required in all states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 30%* (for all physician assistants)
Average Salary (2015) $99,270* (for all physician assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Be a Pediatric Physician Assistant?

To become a physician assistant (PA), your first step is earning a degree from a PA program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). While associate degree programs exist, they are rare, and most students choose to earn a bachelor's or master's degree. Many PA programs require that you have healthcare experience and specific classroom prerequisites completed before being accepted. Prerequisites may include anatomy and physiology, microbiology, physics and chemistry.

As of May 2011, only one PA program focused fully on pediatrics. However, many general PA programs are available and you can take classes and perform various clinical rotations in pediatric care during your studies. Coursework for all degree levels generally includes physical assessment, medical terminology, pharmacology, community health and laboratory testing. Internships or rotations involve specialties such as emergency medicine, pediatrics, surgery and neonatology.

Intensive PA certificate programs are also available and prepare those who have a bachelor's degree in another field to complete the licensing exam. Certificate programs can be found at community and technical colleges and are generally two years in length.

What Certification or Licensing Is Required?

All states require physician assistants to be licensed; licensing requires certification through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). To maintain certification, you must be recertified every 10 years and earn 100 hours of continuing education every two years. In addition, physician assistants need to graduate from a program accredited by the ARC-PA.

What Would My Job Responsibilities Be?

As a physician assistant, you are licensed to perform medical care as long as you are under the supervision of a licensed physician. You could work in a hospital, clinic or pediatrician's office. Unlike medical assistants, your duties as a physician assistant might include performing physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and reading lab tests, and prescribing medications. Your duties may depend on your location and state laws where you practice. If you're a physician assistant in a rural area, you may be the primary care provider for your community.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for physician assistants, including pediatric physician assistants, are expected to increase by 30% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). This growth is much faster than the U.S. average and is in part due to the lower cost of a PA versus a physician. Although the BLS does not present earnings data specific to pediatric physician assistants, it does report that in May 2015, the average annual salary for a PA was $99,270.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Nurses perform tasks that are similar to those a physician assistant performs. They're involved in the assessment, testing, diagnosis and treatment of patients, and nurses can also specialize in pediatric care and focus on working with children. Another similar profession is occupational therapy. Occupational therapists may work with individuals who need to learn or relearn to perform basic tasks or develop gross motor skills after suffering injury in an accident or due to developmental issues. Occupational therapists can also specialize in pediatrics.

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