Did you ever get some seasonal crud you couldn’t shake? Up all night coughing? We’ve all been there; you call for a last minute appointment, go ahead in only to find out your appointment was not actually with the Doctor but this person with the title “PA”. Well rest assured, a PA truly is as good as seeing your Doctor for typical sick and well visits – maybe even better, as they see a lot more patients than ol’ Doc and as a result are probably more familiar with current bugs passing through your area.

Physician Assistants, also known as PA’s, practice under a team of Physicians and Surgeons. They have been through extensive training and are well prepared to examine, diagnose and treat patients. And there’s always room for a few more, if you want to do the schooling.


Typically one enters into this career path via another healthcare related career; Nursing, EMT, Technicians. A bachelor’s degree and some healthcare experience is required for admission into a Physician Assistant Program. To increase your chances of gaining admission to a PA graduate program the bachelors degree should be a B.S. (bachelor of science) in a science major; think biology, chemistry, you get the idea. The actual PA program is a Master’s degree, a 2 year full time program. In 2012, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc (ARC-PA) accredited 170 programs.

The program includes both lectures and laboratory style instruction in the following courses:

  • pathology
  • human anatomy
  • diagnostics
  • physiology
  • clinical medicine
  • pharmacology
  • medical ethics

You don’t have to do a clinical residency like doctors, though there are residency programs available if you want to specialize. Plus, you have to pass a national certification exam with the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and be licensed by the medical board in whatever state you want to practice in.

Work Environment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58% of PA’s are working in doctor offices, 23% int hospitals, 7% at outpatient care centers, 4% in government and 3% private practice.

PA’s can perform pretty much the same services as doctors. And, as expected, they are utilized more than doctors for preventative care visits because they are more cost effective than physicians. As more Physicians retire or enter specialty fields. more PA’s will take on primary care services.

PA’s may be expected to do everything from routine sick and well visits to assisting surgery or prescribing medicine – in other words, a lot of responsibility.


Look, you can’t go wrong with medical fields; most people know this. PA is not the exception: it is estimated to grow a whopping 38% from 2012 to 2022 as stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For a 2 year Master’s program it’s a great salary booster from other bachelor level healthcare positions. The median annual wage for Physician Assistants was over $90k in 2012!

Federal healthcare reform will also play into the equation on the future of PA’s. The number of individuals who now have access to general services has and will continue to increase, thus resulting in more work needed for Physician Assistants as well as Doctors.