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Physician Assistant Careers

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.

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.

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 Salary
$126,450
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
31%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
16,621
Job Openings

Physician Assistant Career Paths

Top Careers Before Physician Assistant

Volunteer
10.5 %

Top Careers After Physician Assistant

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Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants in America make an average salary of $126,450 per year or $61 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $197,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $80,000 per year.
Average Salary
$126,450

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
New Rochelle, NY
Salary Range109k - 229k$158k$158,415
Boston, MA
Salary Range105k - 214k$150k$150,217
Rochester, MN
Salary Range102k - 201k$144k$143,938
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range100k - 192k$139k$139,190
Hartford, CT
Salary Range94k - 196k$136k$136,493
Philadelphia, PA
Salary Range93k - 196k$135k$135,147
$69k
$229k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Nurse Practitioner or Physician's Assistant/Urgent Care/NJ Locums
Nurse Practitioner or Physician's Assistant/Urgent Care/NJ Locums
Alumni Healthcare Staffing
Alumni Healthcare Staffing
03/30/2021
03/30/2021
$166,96003/30/2021
$166,960
Physician Assistant
Physician Assistant
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
03/29/2021
03/29/2021
$74,37503/29/2021
$74,375
Physician Assistant-Esep/Mp
Physician Assistant-Esep/Mp
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
03/29/2021
03/29/2021
$73,73303/29/2021
$73,733
Physician Assistant
Physician Assistant
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
03/29/2021
03/29/2021
$73,73303/29/2021
$73,733
Physician Assistant
Physician Assistant
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
03/29/2021
03/29/2021
$73,73303/29/2021
$73,733
See More Recent Salaries

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Physician Assistant Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Physician Assistant. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Physician Assistant Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Physician Assistant resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Physician Assistant Demographics

Gender

female

62.3 %

male

32.8 %

unknown

4.8 %

Ethnicity

White

71.2 %

Asian

10.6 %

Hispanic or Latino

10.6 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

60.0 %

French

8.1 %

Russian

5.0 %
See More Demographics

Physician Assistant Education

Majors

Biology
13.0 %

Degrees

Bachelors

40.3 %

Masters

24.3 %

Certificate

17.9 %

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 • Public

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 • Public

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 • Public

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

10. Tufts University

Medford, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,382
Enrollment
5,597
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

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.

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 New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Maine. Physician assistants make the most in New York with an average salary of $141,574. Whereas in Massachusetts and Minnesota, they would average $138,131 and $136,804, respectively. While physician assistants would only make an average of $133,755 in Maine, 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. New York

Total Physician Assistant Jobs:
1,362
Highest 10% Earn:
$235,000
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

2. Minnesota

Total Physician Assistant Jobs:
583
Highest 10% Earn:
$225,000
Location Quotient:
1.34
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. Maine

Total Physician Assistant Jobs:
105
Highest 10% Earn:
$223,000
Location Quotient:
1.21
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
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Top Physician Assistant Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ physician assistants and discovered their number of physician assistant opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that United States Army was the best, especially with an average salary of $118,290. Overlake Internal Medicine Associates follows up with an average salary of $112,855, and then comes EMA with an average of $141,381. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a physician assistant. The employers include Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, Emory University, and Emory Healthcare

1. United States Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$118,290
Physician Assistants Hired: 
267+
2. Overlake Internal Medicine Associates
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$112,855
Physician Assistants Hired: 
203+
3. EMA
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$141,381
Physician Assistants Hired: 
195+
4. Physician Affiliate Group of New York
3.2
Avg. Salary: 
$142,003
Physician Assistants Hired: 
161+
5. Indian Health Service
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$81,789
Physician Assistants Hired: 
144+
6. BronxCare Health System
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$161,580
Physician Assistants Hired: 
120+
Updated October 2, 2020