Top job for master’s degree missing from school’s curriculum


Photo via Association of Pre-Physician Assistant Owl Central.

Joseph Kennedy , Contributing Writer

 Physician’s assistants make just under six figures a year starting out, but most schools don’t have the program — including ours.

Forbes magazine released its list for the top jobs for master’s degrees, and among others, physician’s assistant was ranked first.

In the state of Florida, there are 11 universities with accredited PA programs, however FAU is not one of them.

There are enough students at FAU so interested in becoming PAs that they’ve set up a club dedicated for pre-physician’s assistants.

Cedrick Ade, the club’s vice president said, “Last semester we had around 65 members. It is still too early get a count for the fall.”

However, little attention has been given to a PA program on campus.

In a recent live Twitter chat, FAU president John Kelly was asked if with the expansion of the medical school, he saw FAU having a PA program.

The president tweeted back, “We have no plans at this time.”

FAU’s stance goes against some strong projections for the future of the profession though, like that of the online company review site Glassdoor, who expected it to be the No. 1 job in 2015.

These expectations are being supported by data showing the growing need for health care workers required to handle the aging baby boomers, as well as the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants says, “PAs practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers.”

It lists their duties as diagnosing illnesses, developing treatment plans and assisting in surgeries, as well as a multitude of other tasks.

Physician’s assistants earn an average of $70,000-$118,000 a year. This is less than most M.D.s, but certifications for PAs only require a master’s degree along with supervised clinical experience.

PAs need about one year of clinicals experience. M.D.s are required to have three to five years of residency in order to gain hands-on training. This amount of time depends on the depth of their specialized field.  

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There are 196 accredited programs in the United States, according to the Physician’s Assistant Accreditation and Review Commission’s website.

The ones accredited in Florida include those at the University of Florida, Barry University and five of the Nova Southeastern campuses.

FAU has both a School of Medicine and its own School of Nursing. In the past it has considered the idea of bringing on a PA program.

In 2013 after FAU’s former President Mary Jane Saunders resigned, the school released a statement.

President Saunders will be returning to a faculty position and be assigned a special research project – to assess the feasibility of developing a physician’s assistant program at FAU,” the statement said.

But the university made no public statements regarding what her findings concluded.

This spring, the FAU nursing program placed 72nd on the U.S. News list of 100 top Nursing schools, rising 121 spots above the previous year. But that does little for the members of the PA club on campus.

Ade said,“Through the club we find PAs for students to shadow so that they have the experience required for graduate school. We also run mock interviews with former FAU students that have been through the application process.”  

Attempts were made to reach out to President Kelly for comment, but there was no response.

For current students at FAU that are interested in becoming a PA, Ade suggests, “Be serious about it and learn as much as you can. Come and check out the club and we can help.”

You can find the website of the Association for Pre-Physician’s Assistants of FAU here.

Joseph Kennedy is a contributing writer for the University Press. If you would like to contact him, his email is [email protected]