Becoming a PA as a second career

Physician Assistant as a 2nd Career [Becoming a PA Later in Life]

Some people consider becoming a physician assistant as a second career.

While this can be beneficial, and a good idea for some, it also comes with a variety of challenges.

In this post, I’ll explore what it takes to become a PA as a second career, and the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.

Let’s dive in.

What Does it Take to Become a Physician Assistant?

Let’s do a quick refresher of how to become a PA.

First, you typically need to have some type of healthcare experience. This can range from working in another medical career to doing volunteer work. But the requirements depend on the school, so you’ll have to check with each school that you plan to apply to.

Second, you typically need a bachelor’s degree, with a variety of science classes as prerequisites. Such as biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy / physiology. And perhaps other classes like English or psychology. It varies from school to school.

Some schools also require taking a test, such as the GRE or MCAT. Other schools don’t.  

PA school students attending a group interview

So naturally, make sure you check the specific admission requirements of each school you’re thinking of applying to, so you don’t waste your time with unnecessary steps.

Once you have all the above pieces in place, you can submit your applications through the centralized CASPA system, and hope for the best. If all goes well, you then attend interviews with each school that invites you.

And don’t forget:

PA school is also quite expensive. So you’ll either need to take out student loans, or have some money saved up to pay for tuition, books, etc.

Who Should Consider Becoming a PA as a Second Career?

Naturally, when people think about becoming a physician assistant later in life, it often has to do with income, or flexibility.

For example, if you’re currently working as a nurse and you switch and become a PA, you’ll probably have a fairly substantial salary bump. And depending on where you’re working now, you may also have more schedule flexibility, or other benefits.

nurses and physician assistants

So naturally, it’s those people who are seeking either an increased income or some other type of schedule flexibility that may want to consider becoming a PA later in life.

Related Post: PA vs NP [Which Differences Matter?]

There is also job fulfillment to consider. For example, an occupational therapist I know decided that his job felt too repetitive. So he decided to become a physician assistant instead, since he liked the idea of having more interesting patient interactions and solving more complex problems. 

Overall, do a careful assessment of the pros and cons of your current career versus that of being a PA, before you make any final decisions.

Speaking of which…

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Physician Assistant

There are a lot of benefits to being in a PA. But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. 🙂

We make pretty good money, and depending on your specialty you may have a pretty flexible schedule. But it can also be stressful and demanding.

To illustrate both sides, let me mention a couple things about my current job in the emergency room. 

In the ER, it’s fast-paced, exciting, and every day brings a variety of mental stimulating “puzzles” to solve. And I work with a lot of different people, which makes it fun.

At the same time, it’s also very demanding, as there are often many patients to see in a short amount of time. It can be quite stressful juggling all of the different tasks that go along with the job. As a result, it often takes a while to wind down after a stressful ER shift

Depending on what specialty you go into, you may have a similar variety of advantages and disadvantages.

I wrote a more detailed post about various PA specialties if you want to learn more.

(I also wrote a post about the advantages of being a PA vs a doctor, if you’re curious.)

Summary: Becoming a PA as a Second Career

Depending on your current career situation, or other life circumstances, it may make sense for you to consider becoming a physician assistant as a second career.

But the process of becoming a PA is not particularly easy — it requires several years of education and other preparations before you can even apply to school.

It also makes sense to consider the various pros and cons of the career itself. And those can vary a lot by specialty.

Overall, I’d recommend you talk to some actual PA’s about their current experiences, and try to shadow a PA if you can. That will give you an opportunity to see what it’s really like in everyday life, and pick the brain of whatever PA you’re shadowing / working with.

Thanks for reading!