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What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

Physician assistants (PAs), not to be confused with medical assistants, work closely with doctors and complete medical tasks from taking medical histories to setting simple fractures. These professionals are licensed in all states. Read on to learn more about this field.

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Physician Assistant Job Duties

Physician assistants examine, diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of licensed physician. PAs can prepare casts or splints, suture small wounds and interpret medical tests. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), these medically-trained professionals can also prescribe medications (www.aapa.org).

Some PAs specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as emergency care or geriatrics, and can assist doctors in advanced medical techniques and procedures. Physician assistants are often the first line of medical care in rural and underserved areas. In some cases, a physician assistant will refer the patient to a medical doctor or make arrangements for transferring the patient to a hospital or clinic.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of physician assistants was expected to increase by 38% for the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). As of May 2013, the median annual salary of a physician assistant was $92,970 according to the BLS, with most earning between $62,030 and $130,620. The APPA estimates that there are approximately 90,000 certified PAs in the United States, as of 2013.

Physician Assistant Licensure

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) administers the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), which all graduates of physician assisting degree programs must take before beginning to practice (www.nccpa.net). The PANCE is a multiple-choice test that covers medical knowledge.

Once a candidate has successfully passed the exam, they must complete at least 100 hours in continuing education courses every two years to keep the national license current. Each state may have their own continuing education requirements, according to the AAPA. A physician assistant must take a recertification exam six years after initial licensure.

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Physician Assistant: Educational Requirements

Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (7)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (4)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Currently not accepting applications from Texas residents
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    Which subject are you interested in?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must complete an application online and submit transcripts for their highest degree earned.
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • School locations:
    • Arizona (1 campus)
    • California (1 campus)
    • Florida (6)
    • Idaho (1)
    • Kentucky (2)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Ohio (7)
    • Oklahoma (2)
    • Tennessee (1)
    • Texas (1)
    • Virginia (5)
    • West Virginia (1)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    • Associate
        • Associate in Medical Assisting and Administration

    What year did you graduate from high school?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Master
        • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Distance Learning Programs

    • Non-Degree
        • Undergraduate Certificate in General Studies (Medical Assistants)

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Applicants must have completed 12 college credits
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • California (19 campuses)
    • Washington (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Non-Degree
        • Certificate - Health Administration

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Athletic Trainer
        • Physician Assistant
      • Medical Residency Programs
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
      • Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
      • Public Health and Safety
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
      • Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Sciences
  • School locations:
    • Wisconsin (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Marquette University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Athletic Trainer
        • Physician Assistant
      • Nursing Professions
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions

Popular Schools

  • What is your classroom preference?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • When would you like to start classes?

    • Associate in Medical Assisting and Administration

    What year did you graduate from high school?

    • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Undergraduate Certificate in General Studies (Medical Assistants)

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    • Certificate - Health Administration

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Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics