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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

  • $93,600

    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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Physician Assistant Jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Ob/Gyn Physician 5.4 years
Senior Physician 3.4 years
Top Employers Before
Volunteer 7.0%
Internship 4.1%
Paramedic 3.2%
Instructor 2.8%
Ob/Gyn 2.8%
MD 2.7%
Physician 2.5%
Top Employers After
Volunteer 4.9%
Physician 3.7%
MD 2.5%
Instructor 2.4%

Do you work as a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

64.6%

Male

33.0%

Unknown

2.4%
Ethnicity

White

60.1%

Hispanic or Latino

14.5%

Black or African American

11.3%

Asian

9.9%

Unknown

4.2%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

61.6%

French

7.9%

Russian

5.4%

Hindi

4.1%

Chinese

2.5%

Arabic

2.1%

Mandarin

1.9%

Gujarati

1.7%

Urdu

1.6%

Vietnamese

1.2%

Korean

1.2%

Ukrainian

1.2%

Italian

1.2%

Portuguese

1.2%

German

1.2%

Japanese

1.2%

Hebrew

1.0%

Polish

0.8%

Swahili

0.6%

Cantonese

0.6%
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Physician Assistant Education

Schools

University of Nebraska Medical Center

9.9%

Nova Southeastern University

9.0%

Midwestern University

6.3%

Drexel University

6.2%

Emory University

5.8%

Saint Francis University

5.2%

University of Nebraska at Omaha

5.1%

Duke University

5.1%

Northeastern University

4.6%

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

4.5%

Quinnipiac University

4.3%

George Washington University

4.1%

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

4.1%

Touro College

3.9%

Alderson Broaddus University

3.8%

Wake Forest University

3.7%

University of Florida

3.6%

Western University of Health Sciences

3.6%

University of Kentucky

3.6%

University of Utah

3.5%
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Majors

Physician Assistant

57.7%

Medicine

6.3%

Biology

5.7%

Health Sciences And Services

4.8%

Nursing

3.8%

Medical Clinical Sciences

3.6%

Business

2.5%

Health Care Administration

2.1%

Public Health

2.0%

Clinical Psychology

1.8%

Medical Technician

1.4%

Kinesiology

1.4%

Psychology

1.3%

Education

1.1%

Medical Assisting Services

1.0%

Ethnic, Gender And Minority Studies

0.9%

Health/Medical Preparatory Programs

0.8%

Management

0.7%

Health And Wellness

0.7%

Biomedical Sciences

0.6%
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Degrees

Masters

51.6%

Bachelors

22.5%

Other

13.7%

Associate

3.9%

Certificate

3.8%

Doctorate

3.7%

Diploma

0.7%

License

0.2%
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Real Physician Assistant Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Physician-Assistant Prof. of Medicine University of Kentucky Lexington, KY Jul 15, 2015 $275,000
Neurology Physician (Assistant Professor of Medicine) University Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. Huntington, WV Aug 12, 2016 $262,314
Physician/Assistant Prof. of Surgery University of Kentucky Lexington, KY May 25, 2015 $250,000
Physician/Assistant Prof. of Surgery University of Kentucky Lexington, KY May 11, 2015 $250,000
Neurology Physician (Assistant Professor of Medicine) Marshall University (School of Medicine) Huntington, WV Aug 12, 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. Hurricane, WV Jan 11, 2016 $187,830
Endocrinology Physician (Assistant Professor of Medicine) University Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. Gilbert, WV Jan 11, 2016 $187,830
Physician Assistant Beth Israel Medical Center New York, NY Oct 13, 2015 $107,705
Physicians Assistant Apogee Medical Group, Delaware, Inc. Dover, DE Jan 02, 2016 $107,500
Physician Assistant Subburaman Sivakumar, MDPC Southfield, MI Jan 12, 2016 $106,000
Physician Assistant California Em-I Medical Services A Medical Corp Porterville, CA Jan 22, 2015 $105,500 -
$125,500
Physician Assistant California Em-I Medical Services A Medical Corp Porterville, CA Jan 16, 2015 $105,500 -
$125,500
Physician Assistant 1Life Healthcare, Inc. Chicago, IL Dec 09, 2016 $105,040 -
$121,000
Physician's Assistant Occupational Health Centers of The Southwest, P.A. Baltimore, MD Sep 08, 2015 $105,019
Physician Assistant Tulsa Hospitalists Inc. Tulsa, OK Feb 18, 2016 $105,000
Physician Assistant Larry T. Khoo, M.D., Inc. Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2015 $93,485
Physician Assistant Larry T. Khoo, Md, Inc. DBA The Spine Clinic of La Los Angeles, CA Mar 16, 2016 $93,485
Physician Assistant Duke University and Medical Center Durham, NC Oct 01, 2015 $93,311
Physician Assistant Holzer Clinic, LLC Pomeroy, OH Aug 19, 2015 $93,000
Physician Assistant Holzer Clinic, LLC Gallipolis, OH Aug 19, 2015 $93,000
Physician Assistant University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI May 19, 2016 $92,661
Physician Assistant El Portal Radiation Oncology Center, Inc. Merced, CA Jan 09, 2016 $92,350
Physician Assistant Orlando Health, Inc. Orlando, FL Jan 07, 2016 $91,499

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Top Skills for A Physician Assistant

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  1. Surgical Procedures
  2. Medicine
  3. Outpatient Clinic
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • 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.
  • Worked in an outpatient clinic alongside a Neurosurgeon seeing patients for both preoperative and postoperative treatment.
  • Assist in multiple key aspects of care, including patient history, physical examinations, and medication prescription/administration.
  • Provided emergency and routine medical care to displaced families/victims in Louisiana with the Katrina Volunteer Relief Effort.

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