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What is a Physician Assistant’s Job Description, Education Requirements, and Salary?

Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine and are valuable members of healthcare teams.

What is a Physician Assistant’s Job Description?

Physician Assistant's Job DescriptionBy law, physician assistants must work under a doctor’s supervision. Their duties are based on state laws and specialty, though there are several that are more common amongst all physician assistants.

  • Performing patient exams
  • Making a preliminary diagnosis of an illness or injury and deciding on a treatment plan
  • Informing the physician of their findings
  • Ordering and interpreting medical tests
  • Explaining test results to patients
  • Answering patient questions
  • Taking a patient’s health history
  • Filling out insurance paperwork
  • Monitoring a patient’s medical progress
  • Performing therapeutic care such as dressing wounds, infection care, and immunizations.
  • Monitoring healthcare professionals who work under them such as nurses and technicians
  • Assisting doctors during surgery
  • Administering medications either orally or through an IV
  • Ordering and setting up special equipment
  • Recommending therapy or follow-up visits
  • Checking on patients during hospital rounds and updating the treating physician
  • Counseling patients on a host of medical issues
  • Coordinating with other physicians’ offices when a patient needs to see a specialist

Education Requirements

Bachelor’s Degree – You can obtain a bachelor’s degree in any major, however, it’s best to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree. This is because after graduation, you need to work in the healthcare field (in positions such as nursing, medical assisting, and lab assisting) performing hands-on care before you can complete your education.

Master’s Degree – A master’s degree in physician assistant studies typically takes two years to finish, and usually, students need a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 in order for their application to be considered. Programs offer a wide range of courses that may include Disease Prevention, Pharmacology, Medical Ethics, and Anatomy. The program also includes 2,000 total hours of clinical rotations in several areas of healthcare such as family medicine and general surgery.

Program Interview

Part of the application process for physician assistant programs includes an interview. Here are some things you need to know:

Learn about the program. Make sure you learn all about it before the interview. This helps to show you care, and you can do this by visiting the program’s website and reading informational materials such as pamphlets and articles.

Most frequently asked questions. There are a few common questions that interviewers from many different programs ask (remember to keep your responses to under sixty seconds). They include:

  • Why do you want to become a physician assistant?
  • Will you tell us about yourself?
  • What interaction have you had with physician assistants?
  • What is your understanding of what a physician assistant does?

Remember names – Write down the names of those interviewing you or ask for business cards so you can write thank you cards after the interview. This can help you be remembered.


All physician assistants working in the United States must become certified before being allowed to practice. They take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) which is a computer-based test administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Once passed, physician assistants can add the initials PA-C after their name to show patients and other healthcare providers they are certified. Every two years, continuing education is required, and re-certification takes place every ten years.

Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook is great as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 38 percent job growth until 2022. Physician assistants are well paid, and in 2013, the average median salary was $92,970. Those who work in metropolitan areas make more than those employed in rural communities, and other determining factors include education, specialty, and employer.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about the job description or other aspects of this profession.