Physician Assistant

Person in scrubs touching patient's arm that is in a cast while person in a lab coat looks on.

Physician Assistants (PA's) are healthcare professionals who practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician. They work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. PA's provide services ranging from primary care to very specialized surgical care. Physician Assistants obtain patient histories, perform physical examinations, diagnose illness and develop and execute treatment strategies.

  • Percent Change in Employment, Projected 2018 - 2028 31%Physician Assistants

  • 13% Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

  • 5% Total, all occupations

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Outlook and demand

With the growing need for healthcare services to provide care to patients in rural, urban and indigent populations, the demand for Physician Assistants is projected to continue to grow. Having Physician Assistants in a healthcare practice provides greater access to medical care and allows physicians to be able to provide medical care to a larger population of patients.

Employers look for professionals who can:

  • Examine patients to obtain information about their physical condition.
  • Make tentative diagnoses and decisions about management and treatment of patients.
  • Prescribe therapy or medications to treat their medical conditions.
  • Administer or order diagnostic tests, such as x-ray, electrocardiogram, and laboratory tests.
  • Interpret diagnostic test results.
  • Work well in an interprofessional, collaborative team.

Paths that can lead to this career

Prior to entering into the profession, students must obtain a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) degree from an accredited educational program and they must obtain certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Please note, this is a highly competitive program that requires a national application through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) and requires an interview process for admission.

  • High School

    If you're currently in high school and interested in becoming a Physician Assistant you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

  • Undergraduate

    If you're currently an undergraduate and interested in becoming a Physician Assistant you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

    • Complete any bachelor degree from an accredited university.
    • Find opportunities to earn clinical experience hours shadowing a licensed Physician Assistant. Previous and current PA students have obtained experience as nurses, surgical technicians, athletic trainers, x-ray technologists, patient care technicians, and medical technologists. You may find opportunities in a variety of settings including volunteering in hospitals, outpatient clinics, pediatric practices, etc.
    • Gain research experience. You may look into applying for summer research programs, assist other professors, or even take on your own research project.
    • Study and schedule a time to take the GRE exam. UAB's code for the GRE is 7801.
    • Attend a MSPAS Information Session.
  • Graduate

    If you already have a bachelor's degree, the following courses will help you in this program:

    • Biology
    • Microbiology
    • Human Anatomy
    • Human Physiology
    • General Chemistry
    • Statistics
    • General, Abnormal, or Developmental Psychology

Job titles and employers

Did you know?

The UAB PA program offers a dualMSPAS-MPH
Degree Program
in coordination with the School of Public Health.

Physician Assistant

Places of work for this career:

  • Physicians Offices
  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Family Practice Clinics
  • Psychiatric Practice Clinics
  • Pediatric Practice Clinics
  • Home Health

To find out detailed salary information and more information on this career, you can explore the Department of Labor's O*Net database.

Organizations to check out for this career:

Next steps


Find out more information about the Physician Assistant Studies program.

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