Physician Assistant as a Career

The Role of the Physician Assistant (PA)

A physician assistant (PA) is an advanced practitioner who acts as an extension of the physician in making diagnoses and treating patients. Working as part of a patient care team, a physician assistant works in all practice settings, performs comprehensive history and physicals, orders and interprets diagnostic tests, prescribes medication and performs procedures.

Areas Of Medicine for the Physician Assistant

PAs practice in the areas of primary care medicine (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology) and in surgery and the surgical subspecialties.

The Difference Between A PA And A Physician

One of the main differences between PA education and physician education is the amount of time spent in formal education. PAs do not have to undertake an internship or residency. A physician has complete responsibility for the care of the patient. PAs share that responsibility with the supervising physicians.


  • The Physician Assistant Career by the Numbers

    • Most Common Practice

    • Areas of Specialty

    • Salary

* Information from the 2013 American Academy of Physician Assistants Census.

The Job Outlook

Employment of physician assistants is expected to grow by 39% from 2008 to 2018.  Physicians and institutions are expected to employ more PAs to provide primary care and to assist with medical and surgical procedures because PAs are cost-effective and productive members of the health care team.   

Physician assistants can relieve physicians of routine duties and procedures.  The field will continue to grow as states continue to expand the scope of the procedures they allow PAs to perform.

Besides working in traditional office-based settings, PAs should find a growing number of jobs in institutional settings such as hospitals, academic medical centers, public clinics, and prisons.  In addition jobs in rural and inner-city clinics will be available because those settings have difficulty attracting physicians. 

For more information about the physician assistant career, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site.

External Resources

American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (SAAAPA) 


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