About the Physician Assistants Profession

Physician Assistants (PAs) diagnose and treat a wide range of acute and chronic conditions in both inpatient and outpatient settings, working under the supervision of a licensed physician. Depending on the practice setting, a PAs job may include:

  • Taking medical histories and performing physical exams
  • Ordering diagnostic tests
  • Prescribing medication
  • Counseling patients and promoting wellness
  • Performing minor, as well as complex, medical procedures
  • Assisting in surgery

Practice Settings

  • Private and public practices and clinics
  • Hospitals
  • The armed forces and other federal government agencies

Physician assistants work in all primary care and most specialty settings as an integral part of the health care team. With increasing scope of practice and favorable patient ratings, PAs report a high degree of job satisfaction and autonomy in their day-to-day work.

A law recently passed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows patients to designate a physician assistant as their primary care provider.

Certification and State Licensure

In order to practice, PAs must graduate from an accredited PA program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). After receiving national certification, PAs must complete the licensure process through the board of medicine in their state of practice.

Maintaining Certification

To maintain national certification, PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and take a recertification exam every ten years.

Read more on the Career Outlook for Physician Assistants.

For more information about the profession, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).

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