Physician Assistants
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Overview
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Provide healthcare services typically performed by a physician, under the supervision of a physician. Conduct complete physicals, provide treatment, and counsel patients. May, in some cases, prescribe medication. Must graduate from an accredited educational program for physician assistants.
Titles for this career often contain these words
AssistantPhysicianAnesthesiaTechnicianCertifiedSurgeryAnesthesiologistTechTechnologistPAPhysician'sClinicalDoctorFamilyOralSurgicalAnesthesiologists'AnestheticCardiothoracicEmergencyMedicinePracticeGeneralGynecologicalMedicalServiceMidlevelProviderOperatingRoomCoordinatorOrthopaedicOrthopedicPediatricPACExtenderSurgeonFirst
Education
About 75% of physician assistants have a graduate-level education, and 92% have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by physician assistants
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with graduate degrees
More physician assistants have graduate degrees than 96% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Physician assistants, with 118,800 workers, form a larger workforce than 67% of careers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for physician assistants are expected to grow by 31%, and should have about 11,500 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Physician assistants are less likely to be automated than 73% of other careers.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for physician assistants compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most physician assistants earn.
$112K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Gender
Women account for 65% of physician assistants -- that's a larger percentage than 78% of other jobs.
Gender of physician assistants
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For physician assistants, the median men's salary was 12% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 15% of physician assistants are minority, and 11% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of physician assistants
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (11%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Physician Assistants per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
Context: workers are union members
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of physician assistants who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (98%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (71%)
  • Time Pressure (70%)
  • Consequence of Error (67%)
  • Exposed to Radiation (56%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (50%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (47%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (41%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (33%)
SOURCES:
Salary and diversity
What do physician assistants earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries. This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for physician assistants (BLS Salary Data)
$112K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$112K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for physician assistants (ACS Salary Data)
$101K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$101K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Physician Assistants: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $104KAll jobs' median $45K$75K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire physician assistants.
Employers of Physician Assistants (ACS)
Private for-profit (65.0%)
Private not-for-profit (24.1%)
Local government (1.5%)
State government (2.8%)
Federal government (4.7%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.2%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.7%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of physician assistants by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$101K$103K$99K$94K$102K$106K$111K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Self-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of physician assistants by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$112K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for physician assistants

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$86K$111K$108K$100K$106K$116K$107K$28K$108K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
05K10K15K20K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Physician assistants and gender

With 65% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 78% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
65%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Physician assistants
Men (35%)
Women (65%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for physician assistants, with the median salary for men 12% higher than the median salary for women.

$96K$108K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men. Physician assistants have one of the smaller inequity calculations, with the increase for men's median salary over women's median salary in this job lower than that for 62% of other jobs.

12%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of physician assistants

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. There is a smaller percentage of minority physician assistants than for 75% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of physician assistants
White (83% )
Asian (7% )
Black (6% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (2% )
American Indian (0% )
Hispanic (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
15%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
11%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for physician assistants by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$92K$92K$94K$96K$101K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KOtherMultiracialBlackAsianWhite
Distribution: Salaries for physician assistants by nativity
$97K$101K$0$50K$100K$150KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Physician assistants and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 14% part-time workers, this occupation has a higher percentage of part-time workers than 55% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
14%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time physician assistants is shown following.

$58K$101K$0$50K$100K$150KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by physician assistants

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physician assistants typically hold a master's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as physician assistants as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for physician assistants

Most applicants to physician assistant education programs already have a bachelor’s degree and some patient care work experience. Although admissions requirements vary from program to program, most programs require 2 to 4 years of undergraduate coursework with a focus in science. Many applicants already have experience as registered nurses or as EMTs or paramedics before they apply to a physician assistant program.

Physician assistant education programs usually take at least 2 years of full-time study. More than 200 education programs were accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) in 2017. Almost all of these accredited programs offer a master’s degree.

Physician assistant education includes classroom and laboratory instruction in subjects such as pathology, human anatomy, physiology, clinical medicine, pharmacology, physical diagnosis, and medical ethics. The programs also include supervised clinical training in several areas, including family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and pediatrics.

Sometimes students serve in one or more clinical rotations in these areas under the supervision of a physician who is looking to hire a physician assistant. In this way, clinical rotations may lead to permanent employment.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for physician assistants

All states and the District of Columbia require physician assistants to be licensed. To become licensed, candidates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). A physician assistant who passes the exam may use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).”

To keep their certification, physician assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years. The recertification exam is required every 10 years.

In addition, state licensure laws require physician assistants to hold an agreement with a supervising physician. Although the physician does not need to be onsite at all times, collaboration between physicians and physician assistants is required for practice.

Education attained by physician assistants
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for physician assistants? Below we see the distribution of physician assistants salaries based on the education attained.

$39K$38K$97K$103K$106K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KSome College (2%)Associate's/Cert. (4%)Bachelor's Degree (17%)Master's Degree (60%)Professional Degree (14%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

College majors held by physician assistants

This table shows the college majors held by people working as physician assistants.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Percentage of Physician assistants with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers

With the following sankey diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as physician assistants, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. We hope this provides ideas for similar jobs and similar fields of study.

PhysiciansPostsecondary TeachersSpecialized ManagersElementary and Middle Sch...DentistsRegistered NursesSpecialized Physical Scie...Specialized Life Scientis...Medical and Clinical Labo...PharmacistsPhysical TherapistsOccupational TherapistsSpecialized TherapistsMedical and Health Servic...Physician AssistantsSpecialized Healthcare Pr...Dental HygienistsMedical AssistantsDental AssistantsSecretaries and Administr...Customer Service Represen...Specialized Social Worker...Educational, Guidance, an...Specialized PsychologistsLawyers, and judges, magi...Labor Relations Specialis...Education and childcare a...Nurse Practitioners and N...Nurse AnesthetistsNursing AssistantsLicensed Practical and Li...Secondary School TeachersWholesale and Manufacturi...First-Line Supervisors of...Exercise Trainers and Gro...Coaches and ScoutsAccountants and AuditorsChiropractorsSpecialized SurgeonsVeterinariansBiologyTreatment TherapyProfessionsMedical Assisting ServicesGeneral Medical and HealthServicesPsychologyNursingPhysical Fitness, Parks,Recreation, and LeisureMultidisciplinary or GeneralSciencePhysiologyHealth and MedicalPreparatory ProgramsAll other degreesThis jobTop 10 majorsEach major's top ten jobs
What college major is your best entry?

About 92% of people working as physician assistants have at least a bachelor's degree. Each dot represents a college major leading to these jobs, with the dots to the right representing the majors sending the most of their grads into this career. The dots at the top are the majors who earn the most working in this career.

Darker colors have a larger percentage with graduate degreesOverall median salary0.0%2.0%4.0%6.0%8.0%10.0%12.0%14.0%16.0%18.0%20.0%22.0%24.0%Percentage with this major$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000$140,000$160,000$180,000$200,000Median salary with this major
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for physician assistants

What jobs will most physician assistants hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of physician assistants reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Physician AssistantsMedical assistants and other healthcare support occupationsPhysicians and surgeonsRegistered nursesNursing, psychiatric, and home health aidesHealth Technologists and TechniciansTherapists, all other
Lateral job transitions for physician assistants

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 5 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as physician assistants as well as 1% of respondents after working as physician assistants. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Prior and next careers for physician assistants: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as physician assistants? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of physician assistants surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most physician assistants? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as physician assistants. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Physician Assistants per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.51.01.5
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where physician assistants earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for physician assistants compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for physician assistants.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Location-adjusted median salary for Physician Assistants (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which physician assistants earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEWIVTNHWAIDMTNDMNILMINYMAORUTWYSDIAINOHPANJCTRICANVCONEMOKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
$0$50K$100K$150K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
Choose the similarity measure to compare careers
Interests
Environment
Knowledge
Physical Abilities
Jobs that are similar by Interests with
All education levels
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