Being a physician's assistant can be a worthwhile career. From still being able to practice medicine to being paid quite a bit, this is a great alternative to actually being a physician.

Physician assistants usually make, on average, $112,260 a year. Plus they only need a Master's degree. So if you want to skip out on all the internships and residency programs, this may be the way to go.

What Does a Physician Assistant Do

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients.

Learn more about what a Physician Assistant does

How To Become a Physician Assistant

Physician assistants typically need a master’s degree from an accredited educational program. Earning that degree usually takes at least 2 years of full-time postgraduate study. All states require physician assistants to be licensed.

Learn More About How To Become a Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant Career Paths

Average Salary for a Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants in America make an average salary of $118,812 per year or $57 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $201,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $70,000 per year.
Average Physician Assistant Salary
$118,812 Yearly
$57.12 hourly
$70,000
10 %
$118,000
Median
$201,000
90 %

What Am I Worth?

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Physician Assistant Education

Physician Assistant Majors

14.3 %

Physician Assistant Degrees

Bachelors

46.3 %

Masters

28.0 %

Associate

9.2 %

Top Colleges for Physician Assistants

1. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

2. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Private

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

3. Yale University

New Haven, CT • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,430
Enrollment
5,963

4. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

6. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

7. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,104
Enrollment
7,089

8. Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN • Private

In-State Tuition
$49,816
Enrollment
6,840

9. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

10. Tufts University

Medford, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,382
Enrollment
5,597

Top Skills For a Physician Assistant

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 14.3% of physician assistants listed patient care on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and compassion are important as well.

Choose From 10+ Customizable Physician Assistant Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Physician Assistant templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Physician Assistant resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Physician Assistant Resume
Physician Assistant Resume
Physician Assistant Resume
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Physician Assistant Demographics

Physician Assistant Gender Distribution

Female
Female
66%
Male
Male
34%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among physician assistants, 66.4% of them are women, while 33.6% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among physician assistants is White, which makes up 70.7% of all physician assistants.

  • The most common foreign language among physician assistants is Spanish at 60.0%.

Online Courses For Physician Assistant That You May Like

Advertising Disclosure  The courses listed below are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the course, we may receive a commission.
Trauma Emergencies and Care
coursera

Welcome to Trauma Emergencies and Care. In this course, you will learn about some of the mechanics and physics of trauma on the human body, and how this can cause injury. You will continue to expand your new vocabulary with medical terminology, and learn how to describe the different injuries you may see. You will also learn about the trauma system itself- and when it is important to transport patients to a trauma center. Then we will dive into specific injuries based on what part of the body ma...

Health After Cancer: Cancer Survivorship for Primary Care
coursera

This course presents basic principles of cancer survivorship to primary-care physicians. Developed by a team of experts in caring for cancer survivors, and narrated by a primary-care physician, this course provides practical tips and tools that can be easily integrated into medical practice. You will learn about the complex physical and psychosocial needs and concerns of the growing number of cancer survivors, along with the key role that primary care physicians have in guiding these patients ba...

Transgender Medicine for General Medical Providers
coursera

The course is a comprehensive set of didactic lectures surveying fundamentals of transgender medical and surgical treatment. The material is meant to provide the student with core knowledge that is essential for current primary care providers caring for transgender patients. There are 10 modules led by the expert clinical faculty from the pioneering Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, located within the Mount Sinai Health System and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New Yor...

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Best States For a Physician Assistant

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a physician assistant. The best states for people in this position are Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Physician assistants make the most in Vermont with an average salary of $162,792. Whereas in Massachusetts and Connecticut, they would average $162,367 and $151,153, respectively. While physician assistants would only make an average of $149,785 in New York, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Vermont

Total Physician Assistant Jobs:
71
Highest 10% Earn:
$245,000
Location Quotient:
1.41 Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. New York

Total Physician Assistant Jobs:
1,362
Highest 10% Earn:
$229,000
Location Quotient:
1.62 Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Connecticut

Total Physician Assistant Jobs:
273
Highest 10% Earn:
$231,000
Location Quotient:
1.26 Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Physician Assistants

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Becoming a Physician Assistant FAQs

How long is PA school?

PA school is 26 months. A physician assistant accredited program takes approximately three years to complete, including coursework and clinical experience.

Oftentimes, students assume that PA school will be simply an extension of their time spent in undergraduate studies, only to discover that the reality is that PA school is much more intense and challenging.

As a PA student, you'll receive classroom instruction in:

  • Anatomy

  • Physiology

  • Biochemistry

  • Pharmacology

  • Physical diagnosis

  • Pathophysiology

  • Microbiology

  • Clinical laboratory science

  • Behavioral science

  • Medical ethics

In addition to coursework, a PA program usually requires more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations, with an emphasis on primary care in ambulatory clinics, physician offices and acute or long-term care facilities.

After you complete the program and pass the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), you will then need to obtain a state license that will have to be continually renewed over the course of your career.

As a PA, there are many options for specialization in practice, which impact a PAs earning potential. To become an emergency room PA, for example, also requires an additional Emergency Medicine CAQ certification, which requires an additional 150 credit hours and a passing grade on the exam.

The additional effort in spending more time specializing can definitely pay off. An emergency room PA earns an average of $205,040 a year compared to a regular PA who earns an average of $112,000 a year.

How many years does it take to be a PA?

It takes three years to become a PA after you have completed your bachelor's degree. After earning your bachelor's degree, you can then enroll in an accredited PA program, which takes three years to complete. In total, that is seven years of undergraduate and graduate programs.

You'll typically need to complete at least two years of college coursework in basic and behavioral sciences before applying to a PA program, which is very similar to premedical studies.

The majority of PA programs require having taken courses such as chemistry, physiology, anatomy, microbiology, and biology. In addition, any PA programs also require prior health care experience with hands-on patient care.

Once you're in a PA accredited program, it will take approximately 26 months (three academic years) to complete. For the additional graduate work-time, you will be awarded a master's degree. Program requirements include classroom instruction and clinical rotations.

In addition to coursework, a PA program usually requires more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations, with an emphasis on primary care in ambulatory clinics, physician offices, and acute or long-term care facilities.

After you complete the program and pass the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), you will need to obtain a state license that will have to be continually renewed over the course of your career.

As a PA, there are many options to specialize which increases your earning potential. To become an emergency room PA, for example, also requires an additional Emergency Medicine CAQ certification, which requires an additional 150 credit hours and a passing grade on the exam.

The additional effort to spend more time specializing can definitely pay off. An emergency room PA earns an average of $205,040 a year compared to a regular PA who earns an average of $112,000 a year.

Is it hard to become a physician assistant?

Yes, it is hard to become a physician assistant. First, you must meet the prerequisites for PA school. Once you are accepted to a PA program, it takes another three years of course work and clinical experience.

Then to become certified, you must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Next, you must apply for a state license, and finally, after that, you can begin working as a physician assistant.

Application to PA school is highly competitive, so completing all of your prerequisites before applying to a program is critical. The majority of PA programs have the following prerequisites -- Chemistry, Physiology, Anatomy, Microbiology, Biology, and some PA programs may also require prior health care experience with hands-on patient care.

Most programs are approximately 26 months (three academic years) and award master's degrees. They include classroom instruction and clinical rotations.

A PA student will take courses such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, physical diagnosis, pathophysiology, microbiology, clinical laboratory science, behavioral science, and medical ethics.

In addition to the course work, PA students are expected to have more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations, with an emphasis on primary care in ambulatory clinics, physician offices, and acute or long-term care facilities.

Once you've graduated from an accredited PA program, you're eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

If you pass the PANCE and maintain your certification, you may use the title Physician Assistant-Certified or PA-C.

What are the requirements to become a physician's assistant?

The requirements to become a physician assistant include graduating from a PA accredited program and passing a national certification, as well as any state certifications.

Once you've graduated from an accredited PA program, you're eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

If you pass the PANCE and maintain your certification, you may use the title Physician Assistant-Certified or PA-C.

Next, before you can practice, you need to get licensed in your state. Keep in mind that all states require candidates to have graduated from an accredited PA program and passed the PANCE.

Over the course of your career as a PA, you will need to maintain national certification. You need to complete 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) credits every two years and take a recertification exam (the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam, or PANRE) every ten years.

What can I do as a physician assistant?

As a physician assistant, you can perform physical examinations, diagnose illness and develop treatment strategies, order and interpret lab tests, counsel patients on preventative health, perform various medical procedures, assist in surgical operations, and in most states can write prescriptions.

Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, and psychiatry. Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients.

What degree do you need to be a physician assistant?

You need a specialized master's degree to be a physician assistant. Physician assistants need a master's degree and patient care experience. After graduating with a master's degree, aspiring physician assistants must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and meet any additional state-specific requirements for licensure to practice.

What is the difference between a doctor and a physician's assistant?

The difference between a doctor and a physician assistant is that a PA works under the supervision of a doctor, whereas a doctor has full responsibility for a clinical situation. Both are qualified medical professionals and very much work in collaboration with one another.

To become a doctor requires obtaining a bachelor's degree and passing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Next, you can apply for medical school, which is very competitive to get into. Medical school requires at least an additional four years of schooling.

To become a doctor, you must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Newly-minted doctors transition from graduate school residency programs. These programs generally require at least three years to complete and provide in-depth training in students' chosen specialties.

The final step of the residency process is to complete Part III of USMLE. This examination covers clinical management and assesses the doctor's ability to practice medicine safely and effectively.

To become a physician assistant only requires a bachelor's degree and graduation from an accredited PA program (three years). A recent PA graduate is now eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Once you pass the exam, you need to apply for a state license. Although, there are various requirements state to state.

Why do you want to be a PA?

To answer, "why do you want to be a PA?", focus on having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of your patients. As a PA, you will be able to assess and treat patients, but your career will be different from that of an MD, DO, NP, or RN.

Physician Associate vs Physician Assistant

A physician associate is a mid-level health care provider, while a physician assistant is just another name for a physician associate.

A physician associate or physician assistant performs a number of different tasks in the medical field. Some of these include taking medical histories, performing examinations, diagnosing illnesses, analyzing test results, and developing management plans for the care of patients.

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