Health Care Careers: Physician Assistant (PA). What is a Physician Assistant?


Does the idea of spending four years in medical school intimidate you? Not to mention at least three years in internship and residency? In spite of these fears, do you still have a strong desire to practice medicine?

Do you already have experience working in health care?

If these questions describe you, becoming a Physician Assistant may be the perfect option for you.

US News and World Report describes it as one of the 31 Careers with Bright Futures in 2008. Here’s what they have to say:

Don’t confuse physician assistants with medical assistants, who aren’t qualified to do much more than take your blood pressure. Physician assistants do 80 percent of what doctors do: conduct exams, diagnose conditions, prescribe medications, even assist in surgery. While PAs are supervised by physicians, they have considerable autonomy. And while pay isn’t doctorlike, it’s far from sickly.

The Physician Assistant career is one of fastest growing occupations in the country.

How much training is required?

Most Physician Assistant programs are 2-3 year masters programs. A few exist as Bachelors degrees or just certificates, but these are becoming less common. The masters programs start at the beginning of the summer and go straight through, no breaks.

What is the average salary of a Physician Assistant?
The middle 50% of Physician Assistants make between $70,000 and $85,000. Specialize a little more, gain a little bit more experience and you’re bound to make a great salary with a schedule and benefits that few careers can match.

How can I learn more?

Check out the American Academy of Physician Assistants website.

The PA Forum also has some great information. Here you can discuss the field with PAs and PA students.

Pre med students should consider the PA path. I work with PAs in the ER and have only had great experiences with them. They love their work.

I gave it strong consideration, and it still is a possibility in my mind, although it is becoming more and more unlikely. Do some research, talk with some Physician Assistants and maybe you’ll find that it’s the path for you.

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7 thoughts on “Health Care Careers: Physician Assistant (PA). What is a Physician Assistant?”

  1. I am a Physician assistant and have run into issues with new employers not wanting to keep with the national average. Since the economy has been swaying, the employers are shooting for the 2007 and 2008 averages and not keeping with current times. I know that healthcare is a business even though we are taking care of patients and the hiring physician or entity will try to get a good provider at a cut rate. I find it frustrating that companies and offices are not even interviewing qualified candidates just because of how much they are asking for pay.

    Also, job search for a PA position is frustrating. I have found most job boards are too busy and have too much going on. I see that a group has tried to fix this by opening their own website I do hope that it will increase in popularity and make it a one stop shop for healthcare professionals.

  2. was wondering how will be entertained to get into this program with my current education qualification which is MD (medicine ) from Russia. So basically i am IMG, but want to somehow penetrate in USA. Do email me with favorable reply. Thank you in advance.

  3. Hello,
    So here is my background.
    I am a 2LT in the National Guard and have a bachelors in Criminal Justice and Sociology. My medical background is that I have been an LNA since I was sixteen (I am now 22). I have worked at 3 different nursing homes and the current one I work in; I’ve been at for over 2 years now. (The only reason I have changed nursing home jobs is due to moving and college).
    A Major in the Army that I work with is always on me about what I am going to be doing in the future. I always reply “PA School”. Then he replys with “what if you don’t get in?”. I don’t have a plan B for not getting into PA school because it is what I have wanted for a long long time just wasn’t in the mind-set for it years prior. I have ordered the book “Getting into Physician Assistant School” and am hoping that will help get me started.
    Anyone have any advice for me? With my background which is not much medical, do you think it is possible that it will help at all with getting into PA school?
    All answers very much appreciated.
    Very Respectfully,

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