Physician Assistants serve a critical role in the health-care industry. They practice alongside doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel in hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices. Physician Assistants — also known as PAs — examine, diagnose, and treat patients. In some cases, they serve as primary-care providers when a licensed physician is not available.
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 Background
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.
Skills and Competencies
- 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
According to Payscale the median annual salary of a Physician Assistant with
1 year of experience:
- Orlando, Florida: $42,000
- Tampa, Florida: $51,000
- Jacksonville, Florida: $52,000
- Miami, Florida: $50,000
- Atlanta, Georgia: $50,000
- Chicago, Illinois: $59,000
- Houston, Texas: $47,000
- Los Angeles, California: $55,000
- New York, New York: $62,000
- Seattle, Washington: $47,000
- Overall: $53,000
5 years of experience:
- Orlando, Florida: $50,000
- Tampa, Florida: $60,000
- Jacksonville, Florida: $65,000
- Miami, Florida: $70,000
- Atlanta, Georgia: $60,000
- Chicago, Illinois: $62,000
- Houston, Texas: $61,000
- Los Angeles, California: $75,000
- New York, New York: $74,000
- Seattle, Washington: $70,000
- Overall: $68,000
Similar Job Titles
- Nurse Practitioner
- Registered Nurse
- Physical Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
The first step to becoming a Physician Assistant is to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent, followed by a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on science, ideally along with some patient-care experience. Physician Assistants then go on to earn a master’s degree from a program accredited by ARC-PA. These programs include classes such as anatomy, physiology, and ethics plus hands-on, supervised clinical training. PAs often work as paramedics or nursing assistants to fulfill the requirements for experience in inpatient care. They also must pass an exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants to earn their license. States require this certification, along with an agreement with a supervising physician.
Demand for health care will continue to grow as the population ages, and Physician Assistants will be in exceptionally high demand compared with other professions. PAs are allowed to provide many of the same services as physicians but with less training.
Team-based health-care models are becoming more common, and insurance companies are expanding their coverage of Physician Assistant services.
According to the American Academy of PAs, volunteering can be a key path to career growth for this occupation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for Physician Assistants is expected to grow by 31 percent for the next several years, which is much faster than average. The aging baby-boom population will increase demand for medical services, and PAs in particular.
Physician Assistants work a variety of schedules because some health-care facilities are open early in the morning, late at night, or 24 hours a day. As a result, Physician Assistants might need to work evenings, weekends, or holidays. PAs frequently log more than 40 hours a week and often are on call, meaning they must be available to work on short notice.
Where You Can Find Jobs
- 4 Corner Resources
- Career Builder
- Zip Recruiter
- Explore Health Careers
- Health eCareers
Are You Interested in Becoming a Physician Assistant?
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