Physician Assistant Overview

Overall Score 8.3 / 10

What is a Physician Assistant?

Median Salary
$115,390
Unemployment Rate
1.4%
Number of Jobs
40,100

What is a Physician Assistant?

Median Salary
$115,390
Unemployment Rate
1.4%
Number of Jobs
40,100
Physician assistants, also known as physician associates, are ubiquitous in the medical world. They use their medical expertise to examine, diagnose and treat patients, working closely with other health care professionals as a team to provide patient care.

Jennifer M. Orozco, president and chair of the American Academy of Physician Associates board for the July 2021 to June 2022 term and director of advanced practice providers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says physician assistants “help fill in a lot of access gaps across the country.”

“They practice medicine in every health care setting, from hospitals to emergency rooms to private practice to operating suites,” Orozco says. “They take care of a patient in every specialty, from primary care to pediatrics all the way through geriatrics and palliative care.”

While specific duties depend on factors including setting, specialty and state laws, physician assistants can take medical histories, assist in surgeries, conduct physical exams, prescribe medication, perform clinical research and more, according to the AAPA.

“The team-based model is the hallmark of our profession,” Orozco says. “It’s who we are and really it’s about us keeping that commitment to our patients because we know that our patients’ needs are first. And patients have better outcomes when they have a team-based approach to care.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 31.0 percent employment growth for physician assistants between 2020 and 2030. In that period, an estimated 40,100 jobs should open up.
Median Salary
$115,390
Unemployment Rate
1.4%
Number of Jobs
40,100
Physician assistants, also known as physician associates, are ubiquitous in the medical world. They use their medical expertise to examine, diagnose and treat patients, working closely with other health care professionals as a team to provide patient care.

Jennifer M. Orozco, president and chair of the American Academy of Physician Associates board for the July 2021 to June 2022 term and director of advanced practice providers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says physician assistants “help fill in a lot of access gaps across the country.”

“They practice medicine in every health care setting, from hospitals to emergency rooms to private practice to operating suites,” Orozco says. “They take care of a patient in every specialty, from primary care to pediatrics all the way through geriatrics and palliative care.”

While specific duties depend on factors including setting, specialty and state laws, physician assistants can take medical histories, assist in surgeries, conduct physical exams, prescribe medication, perform clinical research and more, according to the AAPA.

“The team-based model is the hallmark of our profession,” Orozco says. “It’s who we are and really it’s about us keeping that commitment to our patients because we know that our patients’ needs are first. And patients have better outcomes when they have a team-based approach to care.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 31.0 percent employment growth for physician assistants between 2020 and 2030. In that period, an estimated 40,100 jobs should open up.
READ MORE 

U.S. NEWS BEST JOBS

Rankings

Physician Assistants rank #2 in Best Health Care Jobs. Jobs are ranked according to their ability to offer an elusive mix of factors. Read more about how we rank the best jobs.

8.3

Scorecard

  • 8.5Salary
  • 10Job Market
  • 8Future Growth
  • 4Stress
  • 8Work Life Balance

How Much Does a Physician Assistant Make?

Physician Assistants made a median salary of $115,390 in 2020. The best-paid 25 percent made $135,220 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $95,730.
See Full Salary Details »

How to Become a Physician Assistant?

While some physician assistants pursue a doctoral degree, the terminal degree to become a PA is a master’s. To gain admission into a physician assistant program in the U.S., students should have a bachelor’s degree with a strong background in science and medical courses, as well as hands-on experience caring for patients.

“PA students, on average, have about 3,000 hours of direct patient care prior to coming to PA school,” Orozco says. “So they’re paramedics, they’re nurses, (or) they could be athletic trainers.”

The amount of hours of clinical experience required for acceptance varies by program and school.

Physician assistant programs typically take about three academic years (roughly 27 months) and include a blend of classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations, according to the AAPA. After graduation, PA hopefuls must take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Physician assistants need 100 credit hours of continuing education every two years and must take the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam every 10 years to maintain their certification. They must be licensed in the state or territory in which they want to practice and see patients.

Find a Job

Job Satisfaction

Average Americans work well into their 60s, so workers might as well have a job that's enjoyable and a career that's fulfilling. A job with a low stress level, good work-life balance and solid prospects to improve, get promoted and earn a higher salary would make many employees happy. Here's how Physician Assistants job satisfaction is rated in terms of upward mobility, stress level and flexibility.

Upward Mobility
Upward Mobility

Opportunities for advancements and salary

Average

Opportunities for advancements and salary

Stress Level
Stress Level

Work environment and complexities of the job's responsibilities

Above Average

Work environment and complexities of the job's responsibilities

Flexibility
Flexibility

Alternative working schedule and work life balance

Above Average

Alternative working schedule and work life balance

Advice From Real Physician Assistants »