Physician Assistant: Career Information

Job Description - Physician Assistant:

A physician assistant provides primary health care services under a physician's supervision.

Employment Facts - Physician Assistant:

There were 74,800 physician assistants employed in the U.S. in 2008.

Educational Requirements - Physician Assistant:

A physician assistant's required training consists of earning a master's degree from an accredited PA training program.

This usually takes two years. Entrance requirements to PA training programs vary, but usually those who are admitted have a four year college degree and experience in a health-related job.

Other Requirements - Physician Assistant:

After completion from a PA training programs, one must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Only graduates of accredited PA education programs may sit for this exam. Physician assistants must be recertified every six years. To qualify for recertification, one must complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years.

Advancement Opportunities - Physician Assistant:

Some physician assistants continue their education beyond the initial two years in order to get training in a specialized area such as pediatrics or cardiology. Experienced physician assistants will be given more responsibilities and earn higher salaries.

Job Outlook - Physician Assistant:

The job outlook for physician assistants is excellent. This occupation is projected to experience faster growth, through 2018, than other occupations requiring at least a master's degree (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Earnings - Physician Assistant:

Physician assistants earned a median annual salary of $84,420 in 2009.

Use the Salary Wizard at to find out how much a physician assistant currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Physician Assistant's Life:


On a typical day a physician assistant's tasks might include:

  • conducting physical examinations of patients in order to get information about their physical condition
  • interpreting the results of diagnostic tests
  • diagnosing and treating patients
  • visiting and observing patients in the hospital
  • administering injections, suturing wounds and managing infections

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Physician Assistant, on the Internet at (visited March 19, 2010).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Physician Assistant, on the Internet at (visited December 6, 2010).

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