The need for health professionals continues to climb. Missouri State University-West Plains now has a degree that will help you on your way to becoming a physician assistant, radiographer, occupational therapist, physical therapist or another related career.
It’s the Associate of Arts in Health Professions, and it’s designed to give you the classes you need in cell and molecular biology that will prepare you to enter these health profession programs at the Missouri State University campus in Springfield.
“With the physician assistant emphasis, it will be possible for future physician assistants to receive an important part of their undergraduate education here in West Plains and then go to Springfield to complete their degree and begin the first part of their training,” Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences Joyce Jennings-Pineda said about the degree. “In their final year of training, they can return to West Plains to complete their clinical training with local physicians and surgeons. Experience strongly suggests that such students will be very likely to remain in the West Plains area to practice and thereby help alleviate the shortage of practitioners.”
The Associate of Arts in Health Professions was developed in collaboration with Missouri State University-Springfield’s Biomedical Sciences Department. Students who complete the degree can transfer to Springfield having met general education requirements and specific health profession related prerequisites for their health profession emphasis.
Courses on the West Plains campus are selected to complement the first two years of the Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology degree offered at Missouri State in Springfield and can be used to enter the master’s level health professional programs of physician assistant, radiography, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.
The basis of the degree is a 42-hour block of transferable credits. Entry into most health professions is dependent on successful completion of these same prerequisites, so it can benefit students pursuing other four-year programs such as dental hygiene or pharmacology.
Because the AA in Health Professions was designed with transfer to the Springfield campus in mind, students who choose to transfer to other institutions offering similar programs will need to meet the general education requirements at that institution, as well. Furthermore, this degree cannot be used to enter the Associate of Science in Nursing program.
A Student’s Perspective
Student Dakota Wulff is pursuing the AA in Health Professions to achieve his dream of becoming a physician assistant. He intends to use it to set up a transfer to Missouri State-Springfield as a pre-physician assistant major.
“This degree will help me get a better understanding of the healthcare field while exposing me to the information that a healthcare provider has, whether it be a CNA or a physician assistant. It will give me a solid foundation to continue my career in the healthcare field,” Wulff said. “It is an excellent program and will be beneficial to any student who is interested in the healthcare field. The degree itself has a strong emphasis in the sciences, such as chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biomedical sciences and human genetics.”
One of Wulff’s favorite classes was human genetics. “It allowed me to learn about the various concepts in genetic disorders. The course was interactive, and it allowed me to grasp the bigger picture of what causes different disorders in a molecular sense, and it helped expose me to the different trends in the healthcare field,” Wulff said. “Medical terminology was another good course, as well, because it helped tie everything that I was learning together.”
The Career Outlook is Bright
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ national projections shows the health care industry will add many jobs throughout 2018. Employment of health care occupations is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, adding approximately 2.3 million new jobs. That means in Missouri alone, there will be over 3,000 projected openings for physician assistants, physical therapists and other related health professions.