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Physician Assistant

Physician assistants typically do the following:                                  

  • Work under the supervision of a physician or surgeon
  • Review patients’ medical histories
  • Do physical exams to check patients’ health
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as x rays or blood tests
  • Make preliminary diagnoses concerning a patient’s injury or illness
  • Provide treatment, such as setting broken bones and giving immunizations
  • Counsel patients and their families; for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma
  • Prescribe medicine, when needed
  • Record a patient’s progress
  • Complete insurance paperwork.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Minimum Education Required for this Career

Basic Certificate
Advanced Certificate
Associate's Degree
4+ year Degree
Associate's Degree

City Colleges Program Options

Biological Sciences Focus

Nature of the Work

​Physician assistants are different from medical assistants. Medical assistants do routine clinical and clerical tasks; they do not practice medicine.  Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, and psychiatry. The work of physician assistants depends in large part on their specialty and what their supervising physician needs them to do​ .  A physician assistant’s specific duties and the extent to which he or she must be supervised by physicians and surgeons differ from state to state.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

​Most physician assistants have a bachelor’s degree. Then, they must complete an accredited educational program for physician assistants. That usually takes at least 2 years of full-time study and typically leads to a master’s degree. All states require physician assistants be licensed.​

Future Trends

​Employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.​  Physician assistants also will be needed because the population in general is growing. More people means more need for healthcare specialists.  Healthcare providers are also expected to use more physician assistants in new ways as states continue to allow assistants to do more procedures.   As more physicians enter specialty areas of medicine, there will be a greater need for primary healthcare providers, such as physician assistants.

Career Pathways

Success at City Colleges