Dermatologist Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A dermatology physician assistant's median annual salary is around $85,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job duties and get the truth about career outlook to find out if becoming a dermatology physician assistant is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Dermatology Physician Assistant

Dermatology physician assistant's practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor or surgeon. Check out the pros and cons of studying to be a physician assistant to decide if this career is for you.

Pros of a Career as a Dermatology Physician Assistant
Excellent job outlook (anticipated 38% increase in positions for physician assistants in general from 2012-2022)*
Salary greater than national average (median wage of about $85,000)**
Can work in all areas of medicine (i.e. family medicine, obstetrics, dermatology, emergency medicine)*****
Dermatology PAs free up dermatologist's time for better patient care******

Cons of a Career as a Dermatology Physician Assistant
PAs can do an estimated 80% of physician procedures, but are paid considerably less****
Physician assistant education programs are competitive***
Must work under the supervision of a physician*
Might work holidays, weekends and nights, as well as being on call*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com, ***Indiana University - Bloomington, ****Le Moyne College, *****Grand Valley State University ******University of Texas-Pan American.

Career Information

Job Description

As a dermatology physician assistant, you'll likely work in a dermatologist office, taking care of patients though education and consultation. You'll be responsible for treating chronic and minor skin conditions and performing cosmetic procedures and skin surgery. You would work under the supervision of a dermatologist, but could treat and diagnosis a variety of medical conditions, in addition to prescribing medications and performing biopsies.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

PayScale.com reported that PAs working in dermatology made a median salary of about $85,000 as of July 2015. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecast that jobs for PAs in general could increase 38% from 2012-2022. The growing and aging population was expected to contribute to this rise in employment opportunities. The BLS reported that PAs could see more employment in rural areas and underserved communities.

What Are the Requirements?

To work as a dermatology physician assistant, you must first study to become a physician assistant. This entails enrolling in a 2-year physician assistant program. Most programs award a master's degree, although bachelor's and associate's physician assistant programs exist. Admission to a master's program requires that you have a bachelor's degree and healthcare experience. Exact requirements depend on the program. You'll take courses and labs and complete supervised clinical training.

Licensure

Every state in the U.S. requires that physician assistants obtain licensure. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) administers the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam. You must pass the certification exam to obtain licensure and to be able to use the Physician Assistant-Certified title. This designation requires recertification every six years and the completion of a certain number of continuing medical education credits every two years.

Skills

To work as a physician assistant, you need a variety of skills or abilities to properly take care of your patients. Needed skills and abilities may include:

  • Motor function abilities to care for your patients
  • Interpersonal skills necessary to form relationships with colleagues and patients
  • Ability to tolerate stress and work in a fast-paced environment
  • Communication, observation, problem-solving and judgment skills
  • Professionalism

Job Postings from Real Employers

To work as a dermatology physician assistant, you must be a certified PA with experience in dermatology as indicated by job postings. Employers also look for PAs with schedule flexibility and the ability to work within a medical team. The following are sample postings of jobs open in June 2012.

  • A dermatology medical instruments company in California advertised for a board-certified physician assistant with dermatology clinical experience. Applicants needed at least five years of experience and knowledge of regulations governing clinical trial processes. This worker would perform laser procedures under the direction of a physician as well as collect patient intake information.
  • A medical group in New York sought a physician assistant in dermatology with a physician assistant New York State license and dermatology experience. This full-time opportunity may require evening and weekend work.
  • A healthcare clinic in Tennessee was looking for a physician assistant to carry out dermatology services, such as taking medical histories, treating skin disorders and performing skin exams. Candidates must have a current physician assistant license for Tennessee, physician assistant certification and ALS (advanced life support) certification.

How to Stand Out

If you're a physician assistant specializing in dermatology, the BLS suggests enrolling in a postgraduate physician assistant program in a specialty area. These programs are available with a dermatology emphasis. To be admitted to such a program, you must be an NCCPA-certified PA. The program consists of classroom and clinical sessions.

Other Career Paths

Dermatology Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

Another profession to consider in the medical field is dermatology advanced registered nurse practitioner. Professionals in this occupation might make more money than dermatology PAs, and the BLS reported that employment of registered nurses could rise 26% from 2010-2020. June 2012 data from PayScale.com found that most dermatology advanced registered nurses made between about $61,000 and $107,000 with bonuses included.

PAs and nurse practitioners both need to earn a master's degree. Nurses must first become an RN (registered nurse) by earning a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and then complete a master's degree and clinical experience. Licensure is required for all registered nurses and advanced practice nurses. Depending on where you work, you might have more independence as an NP than a PA.

Occupational Therapist

If you'd like to stay in the medical field without the supervision of a physician, consider the career of occupational therapy. Like PAs, occupational therapists must have a master's degree from an accredited program. They work with children and adults with disabilities, illnesses or injuries by helping them return to their daily activities. The BLS projected a 33% rise in employment from 2010-2020 for this career. The median salary for occupational therapists was about $74,000 as of 2011, according to the BLS.

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