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.
Sample job description
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
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
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
Have good time management skills
Average salary and compensation
The average salary for a physician assistant is $104,250 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.
Los Angeles, California
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
New York City, New York
Typical work environment
This is a full-time position that usually requires working at least 8 hours per day. However, the physician assistant may have to work more depending on the needs of their assigned clinic/hospital/practice. The physician assistant may need to occasionally lift or move patients who are disabled or have limited mobility. They must also be able to stand for long periods of time. They will be working in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, and more.
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.
There are many certifications that can set you apart from the crowd when applying as a physician assistant. Some of the most common ones are:
Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination® (PANCE). If you graduate from a PA program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) or its predecessors, you can take this exam for certification. The multiple-choice exam assesses basic medical and surgical knowledge. You will need to submit an application and payment in advance and can choose from over 200 testing sites.
Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (CVTS). Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (CVTS) to show your advanced expertise in your specialty.
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.
US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook
SOC Code: 29-1071
Projected Employment in 2030
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift
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.