The Physician Assistant Salary Is Highly Competitive: A Very Strong Job Outlook

by admin on November 20, 2018

physician assistant

Are you interested in the field of medicine, but not sure if you want to become a doctor? If you're looking to get into medicine but aren't able to put in the years of school and training needed for a medical degree, there is an alternative path. Being a physician assistant will allow you to get started on a career much faster, and you'll also have less of a burden in medical liability insurance.

The physician assistant salary is competitive, and you will carry out many of the same duties and functions of a traditional medical doctor. These will include examining patients, ordering diagnostic tests, and prescribing medicine. In most cases, you will work under a supervising physician or surgeon. Areas that lack enough doctors, such as rural or inner-city areas, will often have a physician assistant working independently and only consulting with a physician or surgeon when it's needed.

 We are here to help you by laying out all the steps and information you'll need to get started on the path to becoming a physician assistant. Below, you'll find the physician assistant salary, duties, necessary education, and license requirements. The path to getting involved in a medical profession is a lot less difficult than you may have thought.

Duties Of A Physician Assistant

The duties of a physician assistant are varied, and will be influenced by the area where they work. All physician assistants will have many duties in common, and they will resemble those of a general practitioner. These duties will include:

  • Filing and reviewing patients' medical histories
  • Examining patients and noting their initial symptoms
  • Ordering diagnostic tests, including blood tests and x-rays
  • Interpreting diagnostic tests according to medical standards
  • Giving patients their diagnosis and prescribing a course of treatment
  • Providing medical care for non-emergency injuries, such as stitching wounds or setting fractures
  • Providing routine immunizations
  • Counseling patients and their families following a diagnosis
  • Prescribing medicine and provide referrals to specialists
  • Conducting follow-up visits to assess a patient's progress
  • Conducting regular physicals and routine wellness exams
  • Keeping up with medical research and equipping the office with the latest treatment and test options
  • Meeting with fellow physician assistants and physician groups to network and learn from other practitioners
  • Working on teams with physicians and surgeons as needed
  • Making house calls or visits to nursing homes to assist house/bed-bound patients
  • Consulting with specialists including oncologists and physical therapists to determine long-term courses of treatment

Necessary Skills

Physician assistants are required to be "jacks of all trades," as they will do some work in all areas of medicine. This will include primary care, family medicine, emergency care, surgery, and psychiatry. The work you focus on will depend on the specialty of the medical practice in which you are employed, and the area in which you live. If you have an interest in a specific type of medicine, you should focus your search for a practice seeking a physician assistant that has a need for your specific skills and interests.

A skilled physician assistant will also need a few key personal skills that will come into play frequently in their duties. These include the communication skills needed to explain complex medical issues to patients; the compassion to help patients dealing with pain, distress, or grief; a detail-oriented nature to keep track of symptoms, and focus when evaluating patients; the emotional stability to maintain a calm demeanor when working under pressure in emergency or surgical environments; and lastly, the problem-solving skills needed to evaluate patients' symptoms and determine a diagnosis and course of treatment.
physician assistant assisting a patient

Education And License Requirements

Most physician assistant education programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. Working in the medical or patient care position in an entry-level position, such as a medical assistant, will also help you gain admission. Although the admission requirements vary, most programs require a background in science or medicine in your undergraduate work. It is also common for applicants to have a background as a nurse, EMT, or paramedic before enrolling, although this is not mandatory.

Physician assistant education will last at least two years of full-time study in a master's program. Over two hundred certification programs are offered nationwide, including at most state universities. You should be looking for a program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

The education program for a physician assistant will include classroom instruction and laboratory exercises in the areas of anatomy, physiology, pathology, clinical medicine, pharmacology, medical ethics, and the skills needed for making accurate diagnoses. You will also receive supervised clinical training in specific concentrations of medicine, including family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine, and pediatric medicine. These may take the form of clinical rotations under the supervision of a physician looking to hire an assistant. Impressing them during your rotation can lead to permanent employment.

Those applicants who have patient care experience in a related occupation will have an advantage in gaining admission, and may be allowed to bypass some requirements by showing competence in these areas. This depends on the specific requirements of your program. The positions that will give you a competitive edge include work as an EMT, paramedic, registered nurse, nursing assistant, or personal care assistant. If you work in an unrelated field and want to gain a competitive edge before entering the field of physician assistant, you can gain valuable experience through volunteer positions working at hospitals, clinics, shelters, or nursing homes. Contact the program you're considering applying to for details on their requirements.

All fifty states and the District of Columbia require licensing for physician assistants. After completing your coursework, the next step to become certified is to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. After passing this exam, you will officially be a certified Physician Assistant and can use that title professionally.

To keep your certification, you are required to complete one hundred hours of professional development and continuing education every two years, and pass a re-certification exam every ten years. State licensing laws require physician assistants to have a working agreement with a supervising physician. How much supervision will be provided is up to the physician, but each physician assistant is required to be linked to a working physician.

Physician Assistant Salary

The physician assistant salary is highly competitive, with the median annual wage being $101,480. That refers to the middle point of wages, with half earning more than that sum and half earning less. The lowest ten percent average of physician assistant salary rates was $65,000, while the highest ten percent averaged out to $142,000. The difference in rates is partially explained by location, as areas with a higher cost of living will pay more. The location in which a physician assistant works will impact their salary. Those working in employment services average the highest salary, followed by those in outpatient care centers and hospitals. Those working in private physicians' offices are next, with those working in educational services averaging the lowest salary.

Physician assistants have a very strong job outlook, as their employment rates are expected to jump thirty-seven percent over the next ten years. This is among the highest rate of growth for any profession. This is because the demand for healthcare services is skyrocketing as the population grows and ages. More people means more need for general healthcare, while the aging of the baby boomer population means a greater need for those specializing in elder care. As many of these patients will be coming in with common health issues that can be diagnosed according to set standards, physician assistants are becoming invaluable to allow practices to treat more patients than a doctor can see in a day.

 As physician assistants can be trained in less time than physicians, and are able to provide many of the same services, they are expected to have a growing role in the healthcare industry. Many practices and public healthcare facilities are moving towards a team-based model that allows one supervising physician to direct multiple healthcare workers and assist many more people in a day than a single physician could manage. The physician assistant salary is expected to stay steady or rise as the demand for these skilled healthcare workers continues to rise, and qualified physician assistants will find many job opportunities waiting for them as they complete their training.
physician assistant


For someone interested in the medical field, the workload and training period needed to become a doctor can seem daunting. This is even more so if you're coming in from another field and want to transition into medicine. The profession of physician assistant cuts that training in half and offers a hands-on opportunity to learn about the medical field from an expert physician. With a competitive salary and a fast-growing job market that finds the need for physician assistants growing and currently in short supply, the time is now to look at physician assistant programs and find one that can set you on the path to a successful position in the healthcare industry.

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