Physician assistant essential career information:
- 2011 median pay: $90,930
- 2011, number of jobs: 83,640
- Employment growth forecast, 2010-2020: 30 percent
- Entry level education requirements: Master’s degree
Physician assistants; what they do:
Physician assistants do a lot more than your average assistant. Physician assistants, under the supervision of a physician or surgeon, do everything from performing physical exams on patients, to diagnosing injuries and illnesses, to prescribing medication.
Patients often meet with a physician assistant prior to meeting with a physician. A physician assistant career includes reviewing patients’ medical histories, performing exams, ordering or interpreting any necessary diagnostic tests. They sometimes provide a diagnosis and treatment for patients. Treatment can range from giving an immunization to setting a broken bone.
Physician assistant careers include answering questions from patients and their family members; following up with patients to monitor progress and to complete insurance paperwork. Some physician assistants make house calls and then report back to a physician.
Physician assistants work in primary care, family medicine, emergency medicine and psychiatry. The duties a physician assistant may perform on patients varies by state.
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Physician assistants job titles:
- Physician Assistant Certified (PAC)
- Physician’s Assistant
- Family Practice Physician Assistant
- Neurosurgical Physician Assistant
- Orthopedic Physician Assistant
- Cardiology Physician Assistant
- Cardiothoracic Surgery Physician Assistant
- Cardiovascular Physician Assistant
Physician Assistants Education, Certification and License Requirements
A physician assistant career begins with a master’s degree. Most applicants to a physician assistant master’s program already have a bachelor’s degree and some healthcare-related work experience, such as experience as a registered nurse, emergency medical technician, or a paramedic.
Allied health schools, academic health centers, medical schools, and four-year colleges provide most of the physician assistant programs. Physician assistant programs include supervised clinical training in a variety of areas, such as family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and pediatrics.
Physician assistants programs cover subjects such as:
- Human anatomy
- Clinical medicine
- Physical diagnosis
- Medical ethics
All states require physician assistants to have a license. Obtaining a license involves passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Physician assistants need to take continuing education courses to maintain their license. Additionally, physician assistants must pass a recertification exam or complete an alternative program that combines learning experience and a take-home exam every six years.
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Career Advancement Opportunities
Physician assistants may advance through obtaining additional education in a specialty, such as internal medicine, rural primary care or occupational medicine. Physician assistants can take these advanced educational programs after graduating from an accredited program and have certification from the NCCPA. The additional education provides physician assistants with opportunities for broader responsibilities and higher wages.
Physician Assistants Job Outlook
Forecast: 30 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for physician assistants, much faster than the average for all occupations.
The increasing number of physicians entering specialty medical fields increases the demand for physician assistants. Also, physician assistants are more affordable to employ than physicians.
An increasing elderly population, as well as the increasing overall population equates to more people in need of physicians and physician assistants.
Physician Assistants Salary
- 2011 median annual wage: $90,930
- 2011, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage: $108,580
- 2011, workers at the 25% percentile annual wage: $78,640
- Offices of physicians
- State, local and private hospitals
- Outpatient care centers
- Government agencies
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools