How to Become a Physician Assistant

How to Become a Physician Assistant


Physician Assistants: A Quick Look
Median Salary $90,930 per year $43.72 per hour
Entry-level Education Masters’s degree
On-the-job training None
Primary employers Hospitals, Clinics, Doctor’s offices, Government
Number of positions (U.S.) 86,700
Job Growth (2012-2022) 38% (Much, much faster than average)
New positions (2012-2022) 120,000

How to Become a Physician AssistantPhysician Assistant Job Description:

A physician assistant works together with physicians and surgeons (and under their supervision) in order to help examine patients, as well as diagnose and treat them for their various conditions or injuries. They can practice all fields of medicine depending on their specialty, and can work in various places, from hospitals to private practices. Click here to learn more about the typical Physician Assistant job description.

Physician Assistant Salary:

The median physician assistant salary stands at the $90,930 per year mark as of data from May 2012. That means that most assistants earn roughly $43.72 per hour which is much higher than the median values for health diagnosing and treating professionals (who typically earn only $73,410) and for all other occupations ($34,750). Read more

How to Become a Physician Assistant:

So, you want to know how to Become a Physician Assistant? In order to become a physician assistant, the aspiring individual would need a bachelor’s degree in a science field (4 years of study) followed by a master’s degree in an accredited program for physician assistants (2 further years of study, sometimes 3).


Physician Assistant Job Outlook:

The estimated physician assistant job outlook is currently projected to be 38% from 2012 through 2022. This rate is extraordinarily fast, considering that the average job growth for all health occupations is projected at only 20% and the growth for all occupations at 11%. Read more

Physician Assistant Salary

According to the BLS, the median physician assistant salary had a value of $90,930 in mid-2012, which is higher than the median value for health diagnosing and treating practitioners (their median salary was $73,410 in the same period of time considered in the BLS report), and also higher than the average for all occupations (which was $34,750 at that time). Per hour, their pay was $43.72, also much higher than average, obviously. This means physician assistants make a pretty good living and the competition and training required in order to become one are consequently high as well. This median salary doesn’t equate to an average value for all the salaries in the branch; instead, the median salary value portrays a more comprehensive landscape of what goes on in a profession, financially speaking. The median salary means that half of the hired physician assistants in May 2012 made more than this value (of $90,930) and the other half of them made less. The interesting point to pursue would be how much more or how much less physician assistants earn in reality. The official BLS data shows that the lowest 10% of all employed physician assistants earn less than $62,430 while the top 10% of earn more than $124,770 per year, in 2012. The figures on both ends of the spectrum look remarkably positive in today’s economy, even within the low-earning percentile. But then again, no one expected doctors to earn unimpressive amounts of money, so it’s not really a big surprise there (but, rather, part of the profession’s allure (besides the work’s value to society)). There are also a few factors that can influence a physician assistant salary for the better or worse. Some of them are the usual ones, such as the size of the city where the professional is working in, or the length of the working experience etc. One more interesting such factor is the industry that hires the physician assistant in question. According to the BLS, the median salaries in 2012 for the top 5 industries that hires physician assistants were as follows: · Hospitals (state, local and private hospitals alike): a median salary of $93,660; · Outpatient care centers: a median salary of $93,520; · Offices of health practitioners: a median salary of $90,150; · Educational services (again, state, local and private): a median salary of $88,990; Government sector: a median salary of $86,870.

How to Become a Physician Assistant

The education requirements for a career as a physician assistant are as high as the earning potentials for this career path. The first step regarding becoming a professional career as a Physician Assistant involves attaining a master's degree. In fact, every Physicians assistant must hold a master’s degree in a relevant, specialized field obtained from a fully accredited program. Completing such a master’s degree takes 2 years or more of postgraduate studies. In order to qualify for one of these graduate programs, the applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. They typically also have some working experience in healthcare or a healthcare-related field. During the graduate studies (for the bachelor degree), the aspiring physician assistant needs to take as many science courses as possible. These course become pertinent when applying for a physician assistant education program post-graduation. During the master’s degree studies, the student must score sufficiently in theoretical and practical (laboratory) hours in fields such as: pathology, physiology, human anatomy, pharmacology, clinical medicine, physical diagnosis and medical ethics as well. These programs also include hundreds of supervised clinic hours in several areas (such as pediatrics or general medicine) to be completed before graduation. On a personal level regarding how to become a Physician Assistant, an aspiring physician assistant must demonstrate that they possess the following qualities which make for a good practitioner of this trade:
  • Communication skills (the outcome of patient care depends on them)
  • Compassion (empathy for their patients should be the driving motivation behind the work of every physician)
  • Emotional stability (the work requires these professionals to be good under pressure)
  • Problem-solving skills (again, people’s lives depend on this trait)
  • Being detail-oriented (for the same reason)

Physician Assistant Job Description

A physician assistant (often abbreviated as PA) is a medical practitioner that works within a team to examine, diagnose and treat patients. A Physician Assistant job description always involves working under the direct supervision of more experienced medical practitioners such as physicians and surgeons. They must be able to multi-task and perform many types of jobs for the end purpose of treating patients or at least curing their conditions and ameliorating their lives where the complete curing isn’t possible. As potential downsides, the job requires long hours, doing well under pressure and stressful conditions, as well as being often available for even more overtime when they are on call. The stressful nature of the working environment is meant to be compensated by the high pay and the satisfaction of truly helping people and actually saving lives (or, at least greatly improving them). We must point out the important distinction between physician assistants and medical assistants. The latter only perform routine check-ups and do not practice medicine. Typically, the job responsibilities of a PA include the following:
  • Reviewing patients’ medical histories and gathering more data
  • Examining the patients to check their state of health
  • Ordering and interpreting laboratory tests to better assess the patient’s condition and reach a diagnostic
  • Educating and advising patients or their families on the best health-preserving practices
  • Making and elaborating a diagnostic about the injury or condition of the patient
  • Recording and evaluating a patient’s progress based on a set of parameters
  • Researching the latest treatments and innovations in their specialty field
  • Treating patients
  • Conducting or participating in outreach programs meant to educate the greater public or promote prevention practices etc.

Physician Assistant Job Outlook

The projected Physician Assistant job outlook according to data from May 2012 through May 2022 period is 38%* This rate is so much faster than the average projected growth for all occupations (only 11%) and the projected job growth for all health diagnosing and treating practitioners (estimated at 20%). As much as the world is in need of doctors now, the US has a far greater need for quality Physician Assistants in the near future. As living and health standards continue to rise, so do the modern threats to people’s health. The total number of open jobs at the time of the study was 86,700. We predict that the rate of growth will lead to 120,000 new jobs by 2022. Physician assistants will be demanded in greater numbers since they are expected to take on the primary care duties of doctors more and more. As specialized physicians will continue to retire to more narrow fields of practice and as PAs are a bit cheaper to hire than regular doctors, the trend for PAs should certainly remain in greater demand. Financial politics are at play with these figures, and the tides are particularly favorable for physician assistants: the states’ legislations will continue to allow PAs to perform more and more medical procedures, while insurance companies consequently start covering a wider range of services. Another factor which will contribute to this colossal job growth will be more recent federal reforms (known as Obamacare). These reforms will enable a growing number of individuals to have access to basic health care (precisely the type of care services which physician assistants provide). The demand for PAs will be especially great in rural areas, since most medical professionals are usually drawn towards cities and large metropolitan areas. *All the numeric data in this post was provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),


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