CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Today, more college students are trying to enter the medical field by becoming Physician Assistants rather than getting a full-blown medical degree data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Don Diemer runs the PA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He believes the key factors in more students going this route are the cheaper cost with less debt, shorter time spent in school, and more career flexibility than seeking a medical doctorate. All this while still having many of the same responsibilities, and, often times, the same patients as doctors.
Diemer says it costs around $80,000 to attend PA school whereas medical school costs more than $200,000 on average according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Not to mention, Diemer says most PA programs last less than 30 months compared to the four-year commitment of medical school. This allows PAs to enter the workforce sooner and start working off their debts.
Jacob Boehm is in the PA program at SIU who says he did have the plan of going to med school before deciding to take the PA route. He says from his experience, he saw that PAs can change the type of medicine they practice much easier than doctors. Something he feels appeals to many of his classmates.
"If you're working in emergency medicine and you decide that that's something you're not interested in there isn't the pressure of having a residency over your head like there is in medical school"
Diemer confirms this level of flexibility in the profession, saying PAs don't have to enter a residency for each field of medicine as doctors and surgeons do. This allows them to explore more fields of medicine before they figure out what they like best.
In the end, Diemer says PA students just want to help sick people, and often, choosing to be a Physician Assistant is more achievable than becoming a doctor.