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Physician Assistants

Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of physicians. They perform a wide array of health care services that were traditionally provided by doctors. They diagnose and treat illnesses. Physician assistants develop and implement treatment plans. Some PAs assist in surgeries. Their duties vary with their experience, training and state laws.

In many states, physician assistants are allowed to write prescriptions. In most states a physician assistant is allowed to treat patients while the doctor is out of the office. In some inner-city or rural clinics a physician assistant may be the primary care provider and a doctor may only be present one or two days per week. In these situations a physician assistant consults with a supervising doctor and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law.

Some PAs go to hospitals to check on patients. A physician assistants practice corresponds to the supervising physician's practice. The doctor will generally deal with the more complex medical cases and cases that are not routine for a physician assistant.

PAs are found in all areas of medicine. About half of physician assistants practice primary care medicine (family medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine). Many are involved in surgery or a surgical subspecialty.


  • Examine and treat patients
  • Provide diagnostic and therapeutic services
  • Take medical histories
  • Order and interpret laboratory tests
  • Treat minor injuries
  • Provide preventive healthcare services
  • Order or carry out therapy
  • Assist doctor's during surgeries

Job Characteristics

A physician assistant's work schedule may vary according to the work hours of the supervising physician and the medical practice environment. PAs that work in clinics typically work 40 hours per week. Those working in hospitals may work at night, during weekends or work early in the morning to visit patients.

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted a 39 percent employment growth for physician assistants from 2008 to 2018 which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The employment growth is due to an emphasis on cost containment and the expansion of healthcare industries. Physician assistants are cost effective.

The median annual earnings for physician assistants in 2008 was $81,230. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $110,240.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Physician assistant education programs typically take at least two years to finish. Most of these programs are at allied health schools, medical schools, academic health centers and four-year colleges. Many physician assistant accredited programs have clinical teaching affiliations with medical schools. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant provides accreditation for physician assistant educational programs.

Most candidates for physician assistant educational programs have earned a college degree and have some health-related work experience. However, admissions requirements vary by program. many PAs have prior work experience as registered nurses, emergency medical technicians and paramedics. After graduation, they partake in continual medical education programs and they also acquire more knowledge via their interaction with doctors and other healthcare providers.

Some schools for physician assistants provide many of the classes that are provided to medical students. Physician assistant educational programs include classroom learning, time in laboratories and supervised clinical training in several areas including family medicine, surgery, internal medicine, prenatal care, gynecology, pediatrics, emergency medicine and geriatrics.

Every state has legislation that governs the practice of physician assistants. Every jurisdiction requires PAs to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination which is provided by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. To remain certified, PAs must complete 100 hours of continual education every two years. Every six years they are required to pass a re-certification examination or complete an alternative program which combines a take-home examination and learning experience.


Major Employers

The top employers are physician offices, hospitals and outpatient health care centers.

Schools for Physician Assistants are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Physician Assistants

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Physician Assistants jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Los Angeles 2560 $102,000
Long Beach 2560 $102,000
Anaheim 2560 $102,000
Roswell 2300 $101,280
Sandy Springs 2300 $101,280
Atlanta 2300 $101,280
Fort Worth 2180 $105,040
Arlington 2180 $105,040
Dallas 2180 $105,040
Hayward 1960 $118,830
Total Employment for Physician Assistants - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Total Employment for Physician Assistants
Salaries for Physician Assistants - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Salaries for Physician Assistants
Total Employment and Salary for Professions Similar to Physician Assistants

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Physician Assistants

To find out more about building a career as Physician Assistants, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Physician Assistants

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 47,450 66% $80,400
Hospital 17,660 24% $84,850
Government 3,060 4% $78,660
Education 1,970 2% $74,220
Office Services And Staffing 900 1% $87,300
Click the Visit School Site buttons to go directly to a school's website and learn more about the school and programs it has to offer. School website will open in a new tab.
Click the Request Info buttons to request more information from a representative at the school.
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  • Medical Assistant
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About Brightwood College

Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.

About Education Corporation of America

Education Corporation of America's institutions broaden access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

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Chula Vista
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  • Medical Specialties (AOS)
  • Offers several scholarship opportunities for students who qualify.
  • Laptop computers are issued to each student at the beginning of their program.
  • Provides programs in health care, business, information technology, and graphic arts.
  • Respiratory Therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Our family of non-profit colleges admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin.

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San Marcos
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  • Medical Assistant
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Dental Assisting
  • Offers a free trial period so students can attend classes before paying tuition.
  • Provides blended courses that combine traditional classroom instruction with online learning.
  • Lets students connect with peers at any time, and instructors during office hours with online chat rooms.
  • Gives students the chance to participate in externships and clinical training work under the general supervision of college staff.
  • Has accelerated programs that allow students to take the same coursework in a shorter timeframe.
  • Medical Assisting
  • Certified Nurse Assistant
  • Veterinary Technology Alternate Route - Certificate
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Medical Assistant
  • Dental Assistant
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Offers career placement assistance services to recent graduates.
  • Our short-term allied health programs will give you the skills and knowledge to become a part of the exciting health care field.
  • Programs include Medical Office Specialist, Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant and Healthcare Administration.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
  • Main campus is located in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles.
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Panorama City
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  • Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Science
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
  • Certificate - Medical Administrative Assistant
  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • Certificate - Dental Assistant

Your success is our priority. For more than 40 years, we have dedicated ourselves to healthcare education because we want you to become the best healthcare professional possible. Our instructors and staff are dedicated to providing you with the in-demand, hands-on education employers expect so that you may thrive in your profession. Pima Medical Institute started changing lives in 1972 when Richard Luebke Sr. and his wife, JoAnn, brought to life their dream of providing students with a quality medical career education.

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San Marcos
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  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • A Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited Business, with an A+ rating.
  • Computer Support Technician program is based on guidelines set by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and Microsoft.
  • Offers free student services, including tutoring, campus internet access, career placement, and a student lounge.
  • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 locations in Cathedral City and Twentynine Palms, California.
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Cathedral City
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  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • Degree - Medical Assistant
  • Degree - Respiratory Therapy
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
  • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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  • Medical Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Medical Office Specialist (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Dental Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
  • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
  • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Physician Assistants.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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