The Journey from Medical Assistant to Physician Assistant

While the titles sound similar, a medical and a physician assistant are vastly different in terms of requirements and duties. That said, if you’ve been working as a medical assistant and are looking for your next career step, becoming a physician assistant may be right for you. With additional education and experience, you can continue doing what you love while growing financially and personally.

Here at Montes HealthCare College, we want to do all we can to help our students succeed, even after they’ve completed our medical assistant program. Below is some information on the next steps you can take to become a physician assistant.

How Do Medical Assistant and Physician Assistant Compare?

First and foremost, there are some differences between the two professions that you should take into account. To start with, medical assistant duties are typically more clerical than that of a physician assistant. So, if you prefer scheduling appointments and handling paperwork over clinical tasks, you may be more suited for an administrative role in the future.

As a physician assistant, your primary responsibility will be to attend to patient needs. These involve conducting physical exams, interpreting diagnostic tests, providing treatments, and prescribing medication.

A physician assistant’s job is also more heavily regulated. While you don’t need a license to be a medical assistant, physician assistants must meet requirements for state licensure. Beyond this, other educational requirements must be met as well.

Portrait African American Nurse

Educational Requirements for Becoming a Physician Assistant

To earn admission into a PA program, you must demonstrate professional experience in the medical field. Working as a medical assistant is generally considered a good way of meeting this prerequisite. Along with this, you also need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field.

If you don’t want to commit to earning a bachelor’s degree first, you can apply to a dual-degree program. A PA program is a graduate program that earns you a master’s degree. In a dual-degree program, you will work on earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s at the same time.

While in the PA program, you’re likely to take courses in pathophysiology, radiology, pharmacology, patient care, and medical ethics. Hands-on clinical training in primary care, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and internal medicine is something you will likely experience as well. Finally, you will likely have to participate in a research project.

Once you’ve graduated, you will need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and meet any additional state-specific requirements for licensure to practice.

What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Physician Assistant?

Aside from the benefit of continuing what you enjoy, becoming a PA can give you a major financial benefit. The estimated annual salary of a physician assistant is $115,390 based on 2020 estimates. Additionally, this career is on the rise, boasting a 31% job growth outlook according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Much like working as a medical assistant, a PA can enjoy a comfortable work-life balance. Neither of these jobs requires you to be on call 24/7; therefore, you can enjoy your time away from work comfortably.

Finally, taking the step from medical assistant to PA can open up a realm of new possibilities. As a PA, you can practice in a versatile range of areas, including dermatology, pathology, cardiothoracic surgery, emergency medicine, and family medicine. So, if you’ve been interested in pursuing these fields, becoming a physician assistant after our program may be right for you.

A Medical Career Starts Here at MHCC

The first step to reaching your goals is starting a medical assistant program here at MHCC. Our programs take only 6-8 months to complete and can serve as your first step to a long and promising medical career. To learn more and schedule a tour of our Gardena campus, give us a call by dialing (310) 436-7000 or clicking HERE.


We're happy to answer any questions you may have, feel free to call us at
(310) 436-7000