Pediatrician Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A pediatrician assistant's mean annual salary is over $97,000, but is it worth the education requirements and debt? Get the truth about the job descriptions and career outlook to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pediatrician Assistant Career: Pros and Cons

Pediatrician assistants, who are physician assistants working in pediatrics, help physicians with patient intake and care. Employment growth is predicted to be good over the next decade, and it's possible to make a high salary. At the same time, postsecondary education is necessary and can be expensive. Read more about the pros and cons of a pediatrician assistant career to see if it's the right job for you.

Pros of Being a Pediatrician Assistant
High annual salary (mean annual salary of over $97,000 in May 2014)*
Strong job growth (predicted 38% increase for physician assistants from 2012-2022)*
Many options for specialization (14 pediatric sub-specialties recognized by the American Academy of Physician Assistants)**
Profession involves providing essential care to other people*

Cons of Being a Pediatrician Assistant
Postsecondary education necessary*
Education can be costly (the average physician assistant graduates with $100,000 in debt)**
Need to be on your feet a lot*
Even with advancement, physician assistants always work under a supervising physician*

Sources: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **The American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Physician assistants examine patients, diagnose issues and give treatment and advice, all under the supervision of a physician. The extent of physician assistant duties varies by state, but tasks commonly include reviewing medical histories, conferring with families, prescribing medicine and filling out insurance paperwork. To pursue a career working in pediatrics, a physician assistant works under a pediatrician and has duties that pertain to working with children. For instance, you might examine children and give routine vaccinations.

If you work at a busy clinic, you could actually be a patient's primary caregiver if a physician is not present, but the extent to which you can treat the patient are often dictated by state regulations. You might visit patients at home or in a medical center, and you might supervise medical assistants and other employees. As a physician assistant, you will likely work full time, and you might need to be on call to work nights, weekends or holidays. When working, you need to be able to stand and walk around for long periods of time. While you can work in a variety of places, such as hospitals and clinics, you are most likely to work in a physician's office. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 58% of physician assistants worked at a physician's office in 2012.

Salary Info and Career Growth

Physician assistants made an average annual salary of over $97,000 in May 2014, according to the BLS. The top-paying state for the field was Nevada, with an average salary of $113,000.

According to BLS statistics, employment of physician assistants was predicted to grow 38% from 2012-2022 (meaning about 33,000 new jobs). The position should have an increasingly larger role in primary care, since the population is growing and aging, leading to a need for more healthcare specialists overall. In addition, physician assistants are seen as a cost-effective stand-in for a physician, since they can complete many tasks that a physician would have to do if working alone.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a pediatrician assistant, you'll need to complete a training program that could take around 2 years of study, usually after you have completed a bachelor's degree. In 2011, there were 165 education programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA). Programs usually combine clinical training and classroom lectures. Most physician assistant programs award master's degrees, though some award bachelor's degrees, associate's degrees or graduate certificates. Most students in a physician assistant program are already RNs, EMTs or are otherwise involved in the health care industry.

All states require physician assistants to be licensed. For licensure, you must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). To maintain licensure, you need to take continuing education classes and renew your certification every 6 years. In general, all physician assistants should have the following essential skills:

  • Compassion for other people
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to manage stress and handle emotional situations

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers commonly require a series of certifications and any relevant licensure for the state. A few years of work experience as a physician assistant or in a similar role might be necessary, including experience working in a particular type of medicine or care. See below for a selection of job postings available on Careerbuilder.com in April 2012:

  • A pediatric health care system in Delaware advertised for a physician assistant to work in a cardiac center. Candidates should hold either a bachelor's or master's degree from a general physician assistant program. They also need to have passed the national qualifying exam for physician assistants and be able to get a license in Delaware.
  • A Philadelphia children's hospital is looking for a physician assistant to work in neurosurgery. Applicants should have a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration certificate, a Pennsylvania medical physician assistant certification license and should be certified in CPR. They should also be certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
  • A children's hospital in Connecticut advertised for a physician assistant for their nephrology department. Applicants should have at least two years of experience as a physician assistant and should be certified in Basic Life Support (BLS). They should be able to work closely with patient families and maintain a flexible schedule.
  • A children's research hospital in Memphis is looking for a nurse practitioner/physician assistant. Duties include caring for patients, documenting patient data and orienting new staff. A master's degree in clinical nursing is required, and previous pediatric and hematology experience is a plus.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Job prospects for physician assistants should be best for those who are willing to work in rural areas and in places with little available medical care. As state laws evolve, states might allow physician assistants to perform more procedures, so experience in treatments and work environments where there is a need for health care professionals can be beneficial.

Get Specialized and Certified

Certified and licensed physician assistants with 1-2 years of experience can attain specialty certifications through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Examples of specialties include emergency medicine, psychiatry, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. You can earn certification through taking an exam, and it is valid for 6 years. Other certifications that can help you prepare for your career include CPR, first aid and Basic Life Support (BLS).

Alternative Career Paths

Registered Nurse

If you know you want to work in medicine but becoming a pediatrician assistant doesn't sound like the right choice for you, you might want to consider becoming a registered nurse (RN). As an RN, you'll still work in a medical setting with patients. There are a few different paths you can take to getting educated and licensed (a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree or a diploma are all possibilities). According to the BLS, employment opportunities for this profession were expected to grow 26% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average, and nurses made a mean income of around $69,000 per year.

Physician

If you want to take on more years of education and more medical responsibility, you could go to school to become a licensed physician. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to enter medical school, which lasts at least 4 years and can be costly. The BLS predicted job growth for physicians to be faster than other professions, at 24% from 2010-2020. Physicians made a mean annual salary of around $185,000 in May 2011.

EMT

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) respond to emergency calls and care for sick and injured people onsite and during transport to a medical facility. A postsecondary degree is not required. Instead, you'll undergo EMT training that teaches you everything you need to know. Job growth for EMTs was expected to be much faster than average (at 33% from 2010-2020), and EMTs made an average of around $34,000 per year in May 2011, according to the BLS.

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