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Physician Assistants - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Some PAs pursue additional education in a specialty. PA postgraduate educational programs are available in areas such as internal medicine, rural primary care, emergency medicine, surgery, pediatrics, neonatology, and occupational medicine. Candidates must be graduates of an accredited program and be certified by the NCCPA.

As they attain greater clinical knowledge and experience, PAs can earn new responsibilities and higher wages. However, by the very nature of the profession, clinically practicing PAs always are supervised by physicians.

Employment
Physician assistants held about 74,800 jobs in 2008. The number of jobs is greater than the number of practicing PAs because some hold two or more jobs. For example, some PAs work with a supervising physician but also work in another healthcare facility. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, about 15 percent of actively practicing PAs worked in more than one clinical job concurrently in 2008.

More than 53 percent of jobs for PAs were in the offices of physicians. About 24 percent were in general medical and surgical hospitals, public or private. The rest were mostly in outpatient care centers, including health maintenance organizations; the Federal Government; and public or private colleges, universities, and professional schools. Very few were self-employed.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities for PAs should be good, particularly in rural and inner-city healthcare facilities.

Job Growth
Employment of physician assistants is expected to grow by 39 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Projected rapid job growth reflects the expansion of healthcare industries and an emphasis on cost containment, which results in increasing use of PAs by healthcare establishments.

Physicians and institutions are expected to employ more PAs to provide primary care and to assist with medical and surgical procedures because PAs are cost-effective and productive members of the healthcare team. Physician assistants can relieve physicians of routine duties and procedures. Healthcare providers will use more physician assistants as States continue to expand PAsí scope of practice by allowing them to perform more procedures.

Besides working in traditional office-based settings, PAs should find a growing number of jobs in institutional settings such as hospitals, academic medical centers, public clinics, and prisons.

Job opportunities for PAs should be good, particularly in rural and inner-city clinics because those settings have difficulty attracting physicians. Job openings will result both from employment growth and from the need to replace physician assistants who retire or leave the occupation permanently. Opportunities will be best in States that allow PAs a wider scope of practice.

Earnings
The median annual wage of physician assistants was $81,230 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent of physician assistants earned between $68,210 and $97,070. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $110,240.

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistantsí 2008 Census Report, median income for physician assistants in full-time clinical practice was $85,710 in 2008; median income for first-year graduates was $74,470. Income varies by specialty, practice setting, geographical location, and years of experience. Employers often pay for their employees' professional liability insurance, registration fees with the Drug Enforcement Administration, State licensing fees, and credentialing fees.

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