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Become A Physician Assistant

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Working As A Physician Assistant

  • Getting Information
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Make Decisions

  • $104,000

    Average Salary

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.

Duties

Physician assistants typically do the following:

  • Take or review patients’ medical histories
  • Examine patients
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as x rays or blood tests
  • Diagnose a patient’s injury or illness
  • Give treatment, such as setting broken bones and immunizing patients
  • Educate and counsel patients and their families—for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma
  • Prescribe medicine
  • Assess and record a patient’s progress
  • Research the latest treatments to ensure the quality of patient care
  • Conduct or participate in outreach programs; talking to groups about managing diseases and promoting wellness

Physician assistants work on teams with physicians or surgeons and other healthcare workers. Their specific duties and the extent to which they must be supervised by physicians or surgeons differ from state to state.

Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. The work of physician assistants depends in large part on their specialty or the type of medical practice where they work. For example, a physician assistant working in surgery may close incisions and provide care before, during, and after the operation. A physician assistant working in pediatrics may examine a child and give routine vaccinations.

In some areas, especially rural and medically underserved communities, physician assistants may be the primary care providers at clinics where a physician is present only 1 or 2 days per week. In these locations, physician assistants collaborate with the physician as needed and as required by law.

Some physician assistants make house calls or visit nursing homes to treat patients.

Physician assistants are different from medical assistants. Medical assistants do routine clinical and clerical tasks and they do not practice medicine.

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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.

Education

Most applicants to physician assistant education programs already have a bachelor’s degree and some healthcare-related work experience. Although admissions requirements vary from program to program, most programs require 2 to 4 years of undergraduate coursework with a focus in science. Many applicants already have experience as registered nurses or as EMTs and paramedics before they apply to a physician assistant program.

Physician assistant education programs usually take at least 2 years of full-time study. About 200 education programs were accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) in 2014. Almost all of these accredited programs offer a master’s degree.

Physician assistant education includes classroom and laboratory instruction in subjects such as pathology, human anatomy, physiology, clinical medicine, pharmacology, physical diagnosis, and medical ethics. The programs also include supervised clinical training in several areas, including family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and pediatrics.

Sometimes students serve in one or more clinical rotations in these areas under the supervision of a physician who is looking to hire a physician assistant. In this way, clinical rotations may lead to permanent employment.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states and the District of Columbia require physician assistants to be licensed. To become licensed, candidates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). A physician assistant who passes the exam may use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).”

To keep their certification, physician assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years. The recertification exam is required every 10 years.

In addition, state licensure laws require physician assistants to hold an agreement with a supervising physician. Although the physician does not need to be onsite at all times, collaboration between physicians and physician assistants is required for practice.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Physician assistants must explain complex medical issues in a way that patients can understand. They must also effectively communicate with doctors and other healthcare workers to ensure that they provide the best possible patient care.

Compassion. Physician assistants deal with patients who are sick or injured and may be in extreme pain or distress. They must be able to treat patients and their families with compassion and understanding.

Detail oriented. Physician assistants should be observant and have a strong ability to focus when evaluating and treating patients.

Emotional stability. Physician assistants, particularly those working in surgery or emergency medicine, should be able to work well under pressure. They must remain calm in stressful situations in order to provide quality care.

Problem-solving skills. Physician assistants need to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments. They must be diligent when investigating complicated medical issues so that they can determine the best course of treatment for each patient.

Advancement

Some physician assistants pursue additional education in a specialty. Postgraduate educational programs are available in areas such as emergency medicine and psychiatry. To enter one of these programs, a physician assistant must be a graduate of an accredited program and be certified by the NCCPA.

As they gain greater clinical knowledge and experience, physician assistants can earn new responsibilities and higher wages. For example, experienced physician assistants may supervise other staff and physician assistant students or they may become an executive leader of a healthcare organization.

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Average Length of Employment
Nurse Practitioner 4.8 years
Senior Physician 3.8 years
Physician Extender 3.1 years
Top Careers Before Physician Assistant
Volunteer 8.1%
Internship 5.7%
Physician 4.0%
Assistant 3.0%
Ob/Gyn 2.9%
Paramedic 2.7%
Instructor 2.7%
MD 2.5%
Top Careers After Physician Assistant
Physician 7.1%
Volunteer 5.7%
Assistant 3.1%
Internship 2.8%
Consultant 2.6%

Do you work as a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

59.6%

Male

30.2%

Unknown

10.2%
Ethnicity

White

58.4%

Hispanic or Latino

15.4%

Black or African American

11.6%

Asian

10.2%

Unknown

4.4%
Show More
Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

60.0%

French

8.1%

Russian

5.0%

Hindi

3.2%

Chinese

3.2%

Arabic

2.5%

Portuguese

2.2%

Mandarin

2.1%

German

1.6%

Italian

1.5%

Vietnamese

1.4%

Gujarati

1.4%

Urdu

1.3%

Korean

1.1%

Ukrainian

1.0%

Cantonese

1.0%

Polish

0.9%

Japanese

0.8%

Hebrew

0.7%

Armenian

0.6%
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Physician Assistant Education

Schools

Nova Southeastern University

10.9%

University of Nebraska Medical Center

10.1%

Midwestern University

6.9%

Touro College

6.6%

Saint Francis University

5.8%

Drexel University

5.2%

University of Florida

4.6%

University of Nebraska at Omaha

4.6%

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

4.4%

Western University of Health Sciences

4.4%

George Washington University

4.3%

Duke University

4.1%

Emory University

4.1%

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

3.6%

University of Washington

3.6%

LIU Brooklyn

3.5%

Barry University

3.3%

Alderson Broaddus University

3.3%

University of Phoenix

3.2%

South University

3.2%
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Majors

Physician Assistant

47.6%

Medicine

8.3%

Biology

6.7%

Nursing

6.5%

Health Sciences And Services

4.2%

Medical Assisting Services

3.7%

Business

3.2%

Health Care Administration

3.0%

Medical Clinical Sciences

2.9%

Public Health

1.9%

Psychology

1.9%

Medical Technician

1.8%

Clinical Psychology

1.7%

Education

1.4%

Kinesiology

1.2%

Health/Medical Preparatory Programs

1.1%

Management

0.7%

Physiology And Anatomy

0.7%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

0.7%

Veterinary Science

0.7%
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Degrees

Masters

42.2%

Bachelors

24.8%

Other

16.6%

Associate

5.5%

Doctorate

5.1%

Certificate

3.9%

Diploma

1.5%

License

0.3%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$104,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$61,000
Min 10%
$104,000
Median 50%
$104,000
Median 50%
$104,000
Median 50%
$104,000
Median 50%
$104,000
Median 50%
$104,000
Median 50%
$104,000
Median 50%
$178,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Southcoast Health
Highest Paying City
Las Vegas, NV
Highest Paying State
Nevada
Avg Experience Level
5.1 years
How much does a Physician Assistant make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Physician Assistant in the United States is $104,643 per year or $50 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $61,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $178,000.

Real Physician Assistant Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Attending Physician North Arkansas Pain Management Batesville, AR Feb 11, 2016 $350,000
Attending Physician-Surgeon (Foot/Ankle; Trauma; & Spine) Faculty Physicians & Surgeons of Llusm Loma Linda, CA Jun 30, 2016 $350,000
Attending Physician North Arkansas Pain Management, P.A. Cherokee Village, AR Jul 01, 2015 $350,000
Attending Physician, Surgeon Faculty Physicians & Surgeons of Llusm D/B/A Loma Linda University FAC Loma Linda, CA Jan 02, 2016 $350,000
Attending Physician Interfaith Medical Center New York, NY Apr 03, 2015 $333,920
Attending Physician CHMC Surgical Foundation Boston, MA Jun 20, 2016 $330,000
Attending Physician Children's Surgical Associates, Corp at Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus, OH Oct 11, 2015 $306,844 -
$400,000
Attending Physician New York University School of Medicine New York, NY Nov 28, 2016 $300,000
Attending Physician Mount Sinai Medical Center New York, NY Mar 01, 2015 $300,000
Attending Physician St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center New York, NY Mar 01, 2015 $300,000
Attending Physician (Endoscopy) University Hospitals Medical Group, Inc. Cleveland, OH Jul 01, 2015 $275,000
Endocrinology Physician (Assistant Professor of Medicine) University Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. Hurricane, WV Jan 11, 2016 $187,830
Endocrinology Physician (Assistant Professor of Medicine) University Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. Huntington, WV Jan 11, 2016 $187,830
Endocrinology Physician (Assistant Professor of Medicine) University Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. Gilbert, WV Jan 11, 2016 $187,830
Neurology Physician (Assistant Professor of Medicine) Marshall University (School of Medicine) Huntington, WV Aug 12, 2016 $187,830
Attending Physician Physician Affiliate Group of New York, P.C. (Pagny) New York, NY Jan 30, 2015 $150,000
Attending Physician Physician Affiliate Group of New York New York, NY Apr 04, 2016 $150,000
Attending Physician Newyork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital New York, NY Dec 12, 2016 $150,000
Attending Physician New York Methodist Hospital New York, NY Nov 30, 2016 $150,000
Attending Physician St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital New York, NY Feb 15, 2016 $150,000
Attending Physician Physician Affiliate Group of New York, P.C. New York, NY Sep 15, 2016 $150,000
Attending Physician Children's Hospital Corporation Boston, MA Nov 15, 2015 $150,000
Attending Physician Mount Sinai Medical Center New York, NY Sep 18, 2015 $150,000

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Top Skills for A Physician Assistant

  1. Patient Care
  2. Surgical Procedures
  3. Internal Medicine
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provide direct patient care including minor surgical, orthopedic, gynecological and general medical conditions.
  • Performed minor surgical procedures, sutured lacerations and treated injuries including sprains, dislocations and non displaced fractures.
  • General Internal Medicine practice with primary focus on chronic diabetes management primarily in Hispanic adults.
  • Delegate duties to clinical and non-clinical staff ensuring organizational goals are met.
  • Worked both independently and under supervision of Emergency Room Physician team member.

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Top 10 Best States for Physician Assistants

  1. Connecticut
  2. Alaska
  3. Washington
  4. Nevada
  5. Wyoming
  6. West Virginia
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Kentucky
  9. Maine
  10. New Mexico
  • (167 jobs)
  • (32 jobs)
  • (423 jobs)
  • (76 jobs)
  • (15 jobs)
  • (17 jobs)
  • (329 jobs)
  • (23 jobs)
  • (57 jobs)
  • (57 jobs)

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