What Is A Physician Assistant

physician assistantPhysician assistants, also known as Physician Associates in the United Kingdom, are licensed health care providers who provide medical services as part of a larger team of doctors, including physicians. These professionals treat and prevent various human illnesses and injuries, and they also provide a wide array of health care services under the careful supervision of either a surgeon or a physician. Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of the physician assistant to physically examine the patient, to diagnose and treat illnesses, to perform various procedures, to prescribe medications as well as to counsel the patients on preventive health care. It is not uncommon for these health care providers to also take part in extensive surgical interventions, alongside the surgeon.

Physician Assistant – Job Overview

The duties and responsibilities of these health care providers can vary from one clinical setting to another, but they generally obtain medical histories, they perform various tests and examine the results, they order different treatments, they prescribe medications and diagnose illnesses and, when needed, they might also refer the patients to specialists, in addition to assisting the surgeon or the physician during a surgical intervention. It is not uncommon for physician assistants to work in clinics or hospitals, where they usually practice primary care or medical specialties. Just like any other medical career, becoming a physician assistant does require a lot of time and dedication, as these professionals require an extensive clinical training period before they can even apply for a license in order to practice as physician assistants. Once they have obtained the license, it is important to say that the physician assistant must renew it every few years – the exact validity of the license varies from one state to another.

Becoming a physician assistant in the United States of America requires considerably more than just training – it takes ethics, analytical skills, critical thinking abilities as well as communication skills, along with a deeper insight into the art and the science of medicine. When it comes to training and the necessary education, it must be said that physician assistants can pursue a lucrative career in the field with a variety of different degrees – not only can they obtain an entry-level job with a Master of Science in Medicine, but also with a Master of Physician Assistant Studies, Master of Health Science or even with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science. This profession is represented in the United States by the AAPA, or the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and all the physician assistants must graduate from a program that has been previously accredited by the ARC-PA before they can sit for the national certification exam.

Education And Certification Required For PAs

When talking about the education and certification options for physician assistants in the United States, it must be said that there are 181 accredited Physician Assistant programs in the United States of America, and most of them are graduate programs that will eventually lead to a Master’s Degree in MMSc, MHS or MPAS. In order to enroll in these training programs, all the applicants must have a Bachelor’s Degree, and it is important for the students to remember that like most medical professions, the training for becoming a physician assistant also involved consistent medical education. The physician assistant training typically requires two to three years of full-time study (two years for the Bachelor’s Degree and three years for the Master’s Degree), along with several extra years of science-based post secondary education. The didactic training for those who have decided to pursue this type of career is rather varied, as it encompasses in-depth training courses in fields like pharmacology, anatomy, microbiology, hematology, pathology, genetics, clinical medicine, physical diagnosis as well as behavioral science and various other fields that are closely related to medicine.


The clinical postgraduate programs for PAs are clinical training programs that offer not just supervised hands-on experienced, but also thorough didactic education for those who want to reach their objectives. There are 49 such programs across the United States of America, and they allow PAs who want to make the best of their career the possibility to specialize in fields like oncology, trauma care, neurology or critical care. Every graduate who has completed an accredited physician assistant training program must pass the PANCE, or the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam that is accredited by the NCCPA, before they can officially become PA-Cs. It is important to say that licensure is required in all the 50 states, and after getting his credentials every PA must sit for a recertification every 10 years, by completing the PANRE, or the Physician Assistant National Recertification Exam.

In spite of the fact that part of the job duties and responsibilities of a physician assistant is to prescribe medications, each one of the 50 different states has its own laws when it comes to the prescription of medications by physician assistants and other mid level practitioners. These health care providers must be supervised by a licensed physician at all time, and it is important for the supervisor to have obtained his license in the state where the PA is currently working. The supervision conducted by the licensed physician can take place in different ways: it can be done in person, via telecommunication systems or through other reliable means.

A Closer Look At The Job Opportunities And Salary

At the time being, there are estimated to be more than 70,000 physician assistants in the United States of America, the great majority of them working in the private setting such as private health clinics or physicians’ offices, while the remaining work in state hospitals. These professionals can also work in home health care agencies, schools, nursing homes or prisons.

When it comes to the median yearly salary, the National Salary Survey for Physician Assistants has released a report back in 2012 claiming that the mean total income for PAs that were working full-time was of little over $102,000, although those who choose to specialize in areas like dermatology, emergency medicine or various surgical subspecialties may make as much as $200,000 a year.

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