What is a physician assistant?

Wayne State PA splinting workshopPhysician assistants (PAs) are nationally certified and state-licensed health care professionals who are trained to provide high-quality health care services to patients. PAs practice medicine on heath care teams and share the responsibility for patient care with a physician.

PAs practice in every medical and surgical specialty and setting. PAs manage patients at all levels, often handling patients with multiple comorbidities. PAs conduct physical exams, assist in surgery, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, prescribe medications, participate in clinical research and more. 

Each PA's scope of practice is determined by their education and experience. Scope of practice is also subject to state law and facility policy. 

PAs are educated at the graduate level, with most PAs receiving a master's degree or higher. In order to maintain national certification, PAs are required to recertify as medical generalists every 10 years and complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years.

Where do PAs practice?

According to the American Association of Physician Assistants (AAPA), as of 2022 there are approximately 150,000 certified PAs working in every medical and surgical specialty across the United States.

  • 28% in surgical subspecialties
  • 20% in primary care
  • 13% in internal medicine subspecialties
  • 7.5% in emergency departments

Half of all PAs work in outpatient offices or clinics, and a third work in hospital settings. Other areas of practice include urgent care and community health centers, free-standing surgical facilities, nursing homes, school or college-based practices, industrial facilities and correctional institutions.

What is the job outlook for the PA profession?

Wayne State PAS students earn their white coatsEmployment for PAs is expected to increase by 31% during 2020-2030, much faster than the average for other health occupations. The profession was ranked: 

  • #3 in the Best 100 Jobs (US News and World Report, 2022)
  • #2 Best in Health Jobs (US News and World Report, 2021)

The median salary for a PA is $121,530, and there will be an estimated 40,100 job openings from 2020-30. Read more about the PA job outlook: ​​​https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm#tab-1

General resources about the PA profession