Physician Assistant

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of physician assistants practicing in the United States will grow by 31% in the next ten years.

What Physician Assistants Do

The scope of a physician assistant’s duties varies by local laws, experience, education, and specialty. They can diagnose medical issues, form treatment plans, prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventative care. Some physician assistants can perform procedures and assist in surgery.

Most states require physician assistants to have an agreement with a physician to practice. The physician does not always need to be onsite, but close collaboration is a consistent requirement.

Where Do Physician Assistants Work?

Where a physician assistant works depends on their experience and specialty. Many work in hospitals, clinics, urgent care facilities, nursing homes, community health centers, correctional institutions, and serve in the armed forces.

Salary Range

The national average for a physician assistant salary is $113,000, and according to the AAPA, three-quarters of graduates receive multiple job offers.

Why Are Physician Assistants in High Demand?

Overall, the demand for healthcare services is projected to continue climbing as the average age of the United States population rises. Doctors are in low supply, and physician assistants can perform many of their duties with less training requirements.

How to Become a Physician Assistant

Requirements for Becoming a Physician Assistant

More than 200 programs are accredited by the ARC-PA and the vast majority are master’s degree programs. Most programs are 27 months long and require 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.

These programs are very competitive and often require an undergraduate degree in the sciences. Previous patient care experience gives students a competitive advantage, so many program applicants are EMTs, registered nurses, or nursing assistants.

To become certified, the candidate must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. The certification requires 100 hours of continuing education every two years, with a recertification exam every ten years.

Where Do I Obtain an Education?

For a list of accredited programs, visit ARC-PA.

For more information on scholarships, visit the Physician Assistant Foundation, the Health Resources & Services Administration, Indian Health Services, and Americorps.