Career Detail


Physician Assistant
Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They should not be confused with Medical assistants, who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks.
The Job
Physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician. However, PAs may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics where a physician is present for only one or two days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law.
Work Environment
Although PAs usually work in a comfortable, well-lighted environment, those in surgery often stand for long periods.
College Majors
4-year colleges
Minimum Qualifications
Physician assistant programs usually last at least 2 years. Admission requirements vary by program, but many require at least 2 years of college and some health care experience.
Personality traits helpful for this career
PAs also must have a good bedside manner, emotional stability, and the ability to make decisions in emergencies.
Quick Facts
  • Physician assistant programs usually last at least 2 years; admission requirements vary by program, but many require at least 2 years of college and some health care experience.
  • All States require physician assistants to complete an accredited education program and to pass a national exam in order to obtain a license.
  • Employment is projected to grow much faster than average as health care establishments increasingly use physician assistants to contain costs.
  • Job opportunities should be good, particularly in rural and inner-city clinics.
Compensation and Outlook
The median annual wage of physician assistants was $81,230 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent of physician assistants earned between $68,210 and $97,070. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $110,240.
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