Physician Assistant Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

Physician assistants (PAs) provide medical care to patients under the supervision of physicians or surgeons. They may take medical histories, perform physical examinations, order diagnostic tests, interpret test results, and develop treatment plans as part of their duties. PAs can be found in hospitals, clinics, and private practices. To ensure comprehensive care for patients, they work closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals. They can also specialize in surgery, emergency medicine, or primary care.

Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are essential for PA success since they will have to work closely with patients, physicians, and other medical professionals. It is imperative that these professionals work effectively under pressure and make rapid, informed decisions. Additionally, their ability to analyze complex medical information and apply critical thinking skills is critical to the success of their treatment plans.

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National Average Salary

Physician assistant salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site

The average U.S. salary for a Physician Assistant is:


Physician Assistant Job Descriptions

The first step when hiring a great physician assistant is a well-crafted job description. Below are real-world examples to help give you the best chance of success on your recruiting journey.

Example 1

We are hiring a physician’s assistant who will be responsible for performing basic medical procedures, diagnosing illnesses and injuries, ordering tests, prescribing medications, and providing patients with information on how they can improve their overall health. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of 2-3 years experience in a similar position, strong written and verbal communication skills, be able to work independently and as a team member, and must hold a bachelor’s degree.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Talk with patients and review their medical history
  • Examine, diagnose and treat patients
  • Order tests and interpret results, such as blood panels and X-rays
  • Prescribe medicine
  • Counsel patients and their families about diagnosis and treatment
  • Monitor patients’ progress and adjust treatment as needed
  • Perform community outreach and education

Education and experience

Physician assistants must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, along with a bachelor’s degree. They also need to earn a master’s degree from an accredited program, which typically takes at least two years. These programs include rigorous science classes and supervised clinical work. All states require PAs to be licensed, pass an exam, and earn certification. 

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills for dealing with patients, doctors, and staff
  • Discretion and the ability to handle confidential information
  • Ability to multitask and prioritize workload
  • Compassion and a calm, caring demeanor
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Keen attention to detail

Preferred qualifications

  • Passionate about working in the medical field and helping patients achieve optimal health
  • Good communication skills since they will provide detailed information on patients’ health to the medical staff
  • Organized 
  • Have good time management skills

Example 2

ABC Company, Virginia’s largest provider of expert orthopedic and therapy care, is currently seeking a full-time, licensed Physician Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) to join our team! Along with a collaborative, team-oriented work environment, our outstanding employment package includes: competitive salaries, excellent medical, dental, and vision benefits, paid time off (PTO), a generous 401k incentive plan, short-term and long-term disability insurance, life insurance, and a company-wide wellness program.

The APP will support our growing Pain Management service line. The primary work location with be in Alexandria, VA in a brand-new pain management suite with state-of-the-art imaging and technology. You will work closely and collaboratively with the physician delivering comprehensive interventional pain management using various modalities.

Responsibilities and duties

  • Performs physical examination, compiles medical data and records medical history, and implements a treatment plan on new and established patients
  • Orders appropriate diagnostic studies when indicated
  • Instructs patients and families regarding treatment plan and medications
  • Consults with physician when warranted to assess patient condition and treatment
  • Ensures that medical charts and administrative paperwork is completed in a timely manner
  • Provides monitoring and continuity of care between physician visits
  • Provides follow-up care to patients according to practice guidelines
  • Notifies Medical Director or attending physician if patient does not meet criteria or is not suitable for treatment in the outpatient setting
  • Supports the patient and family by explaining the procedure experience with specific instructions to the patient and family regarding their responsibility in the outpatient process
  • Performs within guidelines of specific privileges approved by the governing body and delegated by the Medical Director
  • Monitors patients and administers medications according to Facility policy
  • Provides support to medical and office staff

Knowledge, skills, and abilities

  • Ability to assess situations, resolve within scope of ability, or escalate as appropriate
  • Ability to respond effectively to emergencies, actual events, or drills
  • Ability to follow instructions with little supervision
  • Ability to maintain professional demeanor in all aspects of role
  • Demonstrates initiative and is a motivated learner
  • Assists in completing paperwork for patients as indicated
  • Travels between facilities when indicated, rarely
  • Strong customer service skills and excellent communication skills

Requirements and qualifications

  • Completion of an accredited Physician Assistant Program or Nurse Practitioner Program is required
  • Must maintain CEU’s in pertinent clinical practice according to licensure requirements
  • BLS Certification must be maintained
  • Pain Management or Orthopedic experience highly desired. However, new graduates are encouraged to apply
  • (State) license

Example 3

The Physician Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) will provide a wide range of pre, peri, and post-operative care to surgical patients. The PA/NP will participate under the supervising surgeon’s direct, general, or personal supervision in the office and hospital settings.

Essential functions:

  • Obtain a detailed history and physical examination of the presenting surgical problem
  • Prescribe medical, therapeutic, or corrective measures
  • Recognize and evaluate clinical situations that call for the immediate attention of the supervising surgeon
  • Prescribe medications as allowable under state law and Federal DEA regulations
  • Order and interpret laboratory tests and diagnostic studies
  • Address and resolve clinical inquiries from patients, office, and hospital staff related to surgeons and PA/NP patient volume
  • Perform detailed and accurate documentation of patient encounters in a timely manner
  • Perform and/or assist in consultation of hospital in-patients and emergency room patients
  • Provide support to the surgeon on daily and weekend call schedule as agreed upon by PA/NP and surgeon
  • Provide clinical support to the surgeon in the operating room, emergency department, and hospital setting
  • Provide First Assist support in the operating room
  • Perform and/or assist with rounding in hospital as needed
  • Assist with returning pages from the hospital
  • Prepare consult cases with review of studies, document history, and physical examination
  • Ordering of appropriate medications, testing, consultations, as well as other pre-and post-operative care per surgeon’s protocol
  • Perform procedures at various hospital settings under physician supervision (direct/indirect) commensurate with training, experience, and/or credentialing
  • Other duties as assigned and requested by surgical team members


  • Must have high level of interpersonal skills to handle sensitive and confidential situations
  • Working knowledge of medical terminology
  • Good phone skills; Excellent Customer Service
  • Organized; sets priorities, and able to multitask
  • Baccalaureate Degree or higher in Physician Assistant Sciences, Nurse Practitioner, or related degree
  • Completion of an APAP or NP approved program with 60 hours of didactical training in pharmacology
  • Current PA/NP licensure and certification
  • 1-3 years of surgery experience or completion of a PA/NP surgical residency program

Example 4

Job summary

We are a well-established clinic looking for someone who is comfortable working in a fast-paced occupational medicine clinic that specializes in acute care and work-related injuries. Tasks would include providing direct patient care, timely documentation of patient encounters in the EMR, pre-employment physicals, worker’s compensation injuries and typical urgent care complaints with proper referrals to specialists or Emergency Room when needed. Excellent work life balance. No nights or weekends!

Responsibilities and duties

  • Provide and manage direct patient care, including physical examinations, evaluations, assessments, diagnoses, and treatment
  • Treat injuries and illnesses following Evidence Based Medicine standards
  • Manage patients thoroughly and efficiently, maintaining a continuous patient flow and avoiding long wait times
  • Order diagnostic tests, such as x-ray, electrocardiogram, and laboratory tests, as well as interpret test results
  • Perform minor outpatient surgical procedures such as wound closure and management, incision and drainage, and foreign body removal
  • Instructs and counsels patients regarding compliance with prescribed therapeutic regimens. Communicates with patients regarding testing results, follow-up care, and additional information
  • Communicate patient needs, diagnosis, and course of treatment to the patient, company, as well as other clinical staff and instruct and educate patients about discharge instructions if applicable
  • Review and manage daily tasks, patient callbacks, lab results while on shift
  • Works with Clinic Medical Director to ensure operations and quality of care are consistent with medical and professional standards of care
  • Support. You will be a part of a team of a physician assistant/nurse practitioner, on-site clinic medical director and with ongoing support from operations, IT, and clinical staff

Qualifications and skills

  • Must be board certified.
  • Must have and maintain a valid unrestricted medical license to practice in the (State)
  • Have current DEA & BLS certifications
  • Have a positive and outgoing personality and be a collaborative team player
  • Must have and maintain a controlled substance license along with a DEA license with no restrictions
  • 1 year of urgent care or emergency medicine experience desired but not required
  • Occupational Medicine experience preferred, but training with medical director is available

Candidate Certifications to Look For

  • Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination® (PANCE). If candidates graduate from a PA program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) or its predecessors, they can take this exam for certification. The multiple-choice exam assesses basic medical and surgical knowledge. Candidates will need to submit an application and payment in advance and can choose from over 200 testing sites.
  • Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (CVTS). Candidates will earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (CVTS) to show advanced expertise in their specialty.

Sample Interview Questions

  • What steps do you take to obtain a patient’s medical history, perform a physical examination, and order diagnostic tests?
  • What is your experience interpreting test results and collaborating with physicians on treatment plans?
  • In what specialized area have you worked, such as surgery, emergency medicine, or primary care? How did you adapt to the unique demands of the field?
  • In order to ensure that everyone regarding a patient’s care is on the same page, how do you effectively communicate with patients, physicians, and other healthcare professionals?
  • What is your experience with electronic health record systems, and how do you use them to track patient progress and update treatment plans?
  • In what ways do you ensure cultural competency when caring for patients from diverse backgrounds, and how do you address potential barriers to care?
  • In the course of caring for a patient, when did you have to make a quick and effective decision under pressure?
  • While working under the supervision of a physician, how do you ensure that patients receive quality care?

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