Career Choice: Physician Assistant

Career Choice: Physician Assistant
  • Opening Intro -

    There is something that you should know about physician assistants.

    These individuals are trained to provide healthcare services under the supervision of a physician.


Make an appointment to see your doctor and a physician assistant may handle your care directly including prescribing medicine. Such professionals are graduates of an accredited educational program with most professionals holding at least a master’s degree. In a Jan. 2013 report, AOL included physician assistant among the best jobs for 2013 and beyond.


Physician assistants take down patient information and provide diagnostic tests as needed. Such professionals obtain, maintain and update patient medical information including health history. Assistants may make diagnoses, consulting with physicians as necessary. Physician assistants may recommend medical intervention including administering shots, taking x-rays, dressing wounds and counseling patients on best care practices. In the operating room, a physician assistant may work alongside doctors and follow up with patients while making hospital rounds.


Generally, a physician assistant must have a master’s degree and previous employment experience. An accredited program involving two years of full-time study and related training are necessary; every state requires the physician assistant to be licensed. Following certification, ongoing training is required with recertification taking place every six years.

Many physician assistants begin work as a paramedic, a nurse, an emergency medical technician or other healthcare professional, before beginning their advanced preparation. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant ensures that university Allied Health programs within the US meet its standards.


The median average wage for physician assistants was $88,600 as of 2011 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries ranged from $60,700 for those in the 10th percentile to $120,100 for professionals in the 90th percentile. Those in the 25th percentile averaged $76,400 per year while those in the 75th percentile earned $104,900 annually.

Top salaries are earned by physician assistants in Rhode Island, professionals that made $104,900 per year on average in 2011. Connecticut at $100,900 and Washington at $100,200 followed. At the bottom end of the spectrum physician assistants earned just $51,700 per year in Mississippi, more than $20,000 below the next lowest state Pennsylvania, where such professionals earned $73,800 per year on average.

Salaries by metropolitan area varied as well. The top paying metro areas included New York where the median average came in at $93,100 per year, followed by Baltimore coming in at $94,900 and Los Angeles at $96,400 according to the BLS.

Job Outlook

As the medical field continues to expand and more as well as older patients need to seen, opportunities for physician assistants are expected to keep pace as well. The BLS has forecast a strong increase for physician assistant demand, with employment rising by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Managed care will continue to pace demand for physician assistants, individuals that are more cost-effective than physicians. As people age, physician assistants will likely play a more significant role in caring for them until they become ill. Job opportunities are expected to be excellent everywhere, but particularly in underserved rural areas.


O*Net OnLine: Summary Report for: 29-1071.00 – Physician Assistants

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physician Assistants


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Categories: Career Planning