Physician Assistants: Career Guide & Salary Facts

Learn more about careers as physician assistants. Find information on career opportunities, duties and task, education and training, licensure, and salary information. View popular schools that prepare students for careers as physician assistants.

Duties & Tasks

Physician assistants are tasked with obtaining and recording patient medical data, including medical history and results of physical examinations. They examine patients, interpret diagnostic tests, and make tentative diagnoses and treatment plans. With physician approval, they prescribe medication and therapy, order diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on prescribed medications and regimens. Physician assistants also perform procedures such as injections, suturing, wound care, and infection management. They are tasked with observing patients during hospital rounds and reporting their observations to the physician. In addition, physician assistants provide assistance to physicians during surgical procedures.

Education Requirements

To become a physician assistant, individuals must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university. After completing some healthcare-related work experience, they may apply to an accredited two-year physician assistant program which may also lead to a master’s degree. Physician assistant programs may be available at medical schools, universities, or allied health schools. These programs include classroom instruction in topics such as physiology, human anatomy, pathology, and medical ethics. Students may also be required to complete clinical supervised training in areas of family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and internal medicine.

Licensure

All states require physician assistants to be licensed. To obtain licensure, they must sit and pass the Physician Assistant Certifying Examination given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). In order to maintain their license, physician assistants are required to take continuing education courses for the duration of their career. They must also pass a recertification exam every six years.

Salary & Job Growth

Physician assistant employment is projected to increase by 30% from 2010-2020. This increase is likely due to the rapid increase in population and their need for medical care. It may also be due to the increase in physicians entering specialized fields, leaving physician assistants to provide primary healthcare. As of 2010, there were over 83,000 employed physician assistants. Physician assistants earn a median salary of $86,410 annually and an hourly wage of $41.54.

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