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Physician assistants named No. 1 master's degree for jobs - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Physician assistants named No. 1 master's degree for jobs

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SHREVEPORT, La. -  Forbes has ranked physician assistant studies as the No. 1 master's degree in the country for jobs.

Demand for jobs that use PA degrees is expected to grow by one-third in the next few years. 

It takes 27 months to get through the physician assistant program at LSU Health Shreveport.

With a median mid-career salary of $90,000, you can bet programs like this one are bursting at the seams. 

"The demand is definitely going up. As the physician shortage gets worse, the demand for PA's goes up and I think the outlook is 38 percent in the next eight years, which is tremendous," said PA program director Dr. Kim Meyer.

100 percent of PA grads land jobs within six months of graduation and applications to enroll keep coming in to the point where there's a waiting list.

"Our graduates generally have about two job offers each when they walk across the stage, which is great because a lot of graduates these days can't find a job and our can't pick which ones they want," said Meyer.

Students are trained to conduct exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, prescribe medications, counsel on preventive health care and may assist in surgery.

PA's are licensed to practice medicine as a team of physicians or with surgeons.

That's why Brian Fontenot, a former pediatric clinical pharmacist, made the choice to go back to school after establishing a career. 

"I was consulted and I would manage certain aspects of patient care, but I was looking for total patient care and the PA program allows me to do that," said Fontenot.

After 11 years as a pharmacist, he has no regrets with his new career path.

"I absolutely love it. I loved my career as a pharmacist, but I love being back in school and I love what the PA profession has to offer," said Fontenot.

Sonya Coleman just started her second year in the PA program. She took an interest in the program after working in a hospital lab for years.

"Being there I was intrigued to see what's happening on the other side. I could see this was happening with a patient and I would ask, 'How are they treated? How do they come in?'. I was intrigued to know more and wanted to have face-to-face contact and see patients get better. That's led me to being a physician's assistant," said Coleman.

Coleman wants to work in a rural community like her hometown of Cleveland, Mississippi.

"It's been great. It's been a challenge. It's been every day learning, picking up a book and trying to dig in and learn as much as you can so you can help patients," said Coleman.

The physician's assistant program at LSU Health accepts 38 students per year in the Fall. It started in 1994 and is the oldest program of its kind in the state.

There are more than 900 PA's in Louisiana.

Roughly 36 percent of these work in surgical specialities, 20 percent do primary care, another 20 percent do other specialties, ten percent are in emergency medicine, 12 percent choose internal medicine and three percent work in pediatrics.
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