A Career as a Physician Assistant
Career Goal: Physician Assistant

By Brianna Prange

Career Overview

Physician assistants (PAs) provide health care services under the supervision of doctors.

Physician assistants perform a range of medical duties. They work in all areas of medicine including primary care, family medicine, and emergency medicine. Specific duties and how much they need to be supervised by a physician vary by state.

Helpful High School Courses

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Computer Applications
  • Health Education
  • Introduction to Health Care
  • Nursing
  • Keyboarding

Skills and Abilities

Perceive and Visualize

  • Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.
  • Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns.

Work with Things

  • Determine the tools and equipment needed to do a job.

Manage Oneself, People, Time, and Things

  • Check how well one is learning or doing something.
  • Manage the time of self and others.
  • Go back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information without becoming confused.
  • Motivate, develop, and direct people as they work.


  • Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.
  • Listen to others, understand, and ask questions.
  • Read and understand written information.

Working Conditions

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Have a high level of social contact. They spend a lot of time talking to patients and doctors.
  • Deal with unpleasant, angry, or discourteous patients on a weekly basis. Patients who are not feeling well may be upset.
  • Are responsible for the health and safety of patients.
  • Are often placed in conflict situations.
  • Are responsible for work outcomes. They must determine the correct treatment for a patient.
  • Communicate with coworkers and patients daily by telephone, face-to-face conversations, letters, and e-mails.
  • Communicate with coworkers by e-mail on a weekly basis.
  • Work in a group or as part of a team.

Physical Work Conditions

  • Always work indoors.
  • Are exposed to infections or disease on a daily basis.
  • Work very near patients. They often work within inches of other people.
  • Always wear gloves or other safety attire.
  • Nearly always wear a lab coat or uniform.

Work Performance

  • Must be exact in their work. Errors could seriously endanger patients' health.
  • Make decisions on a daily basis that strongly impact patients. They consult doctors for some decisions, but make most without talking to a supervisor.
  • Are usually able to set their tasks for the day without consulting with a supervisor.
  • Work in a moderately competitive atmosphere. Their days are structured around patient appointments.
  • Repeat the same mental and physical activities.


Have a High School Diploma or GED

Graduate from a Physician Assistant Program

Have a License

Experience in the Health Science Field

Bachelors Degree with required prereciqutes

Career Field

Health Science Technology


MN: $45.50 per hour

US: $43.75 per hour

MN: $94, 630 salary

US: $90,930

Employment Outlook

MN: 50% growth

US: 60% growth

Great Outlook

Related Occupations

Nurse Practitioner


Registered Nurse

Nurse Anesthetist

Program Choices: Overview

Physician assisting programs prepare people to diagnose and treat patients.

Program Admission

You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.

In addition, admission to bachelor's programs in physician assisting usually first requires the completion of some college courses first. These courses typically include the following:

  • General Biology with labs
    •General Chemistry with labs
    •Microbiology with labs
    •Organic Chemistry with labs
    •General Physics with labs
    •Social Sciences
  • Typical Course Work

    Anatomy and Physiology

    Clinical Medicine

    General Surgery

    Medical Ethics


    Related Programs



    Nurse Practitioner

    Medicine and Medical Services

    Schools that Offer this Program

    Mayo School of Health Sciences



    St. Catherine

    University of Northwestern

    Augsburg Information


    Minneapolis, MN


    2,907 undergraduate students and 870 graduate students


    4 year private school

    Urban setting

    Large city

    Co-ed school

    Religious Affiliation: Lutheran

    Admission Requirements

    Fall Admission: May 1

    Spring Admission: December 15

    Test Required: ACT or SAT

    Average Test Scores: ACT 22

    Average GPA: 3.08

    Rank: Top 50% of Class


    Majored offered: Yes, my program is offered

    Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and School

    Student-Faculty Ratio: 14:1

    Typical Class Size: Lecture-17 students, Laboratory-19 students, Discussion-17 students

    College Expenses

    Tuition: $33,209

    Room and Board: $8,355

    Estimated Total Budget: $42,564

    Application Fee: $25

    Financial Aid

    Deadline to Apply: June 1st

    Required Forms Needed: FAFSA or SAR

    Scholarship Available: Merit-based, Need-based, loans, and work study


    Resident Hall: Co-ed Dorms


    60 clubs and associations

    Greek Clubs available

    Athletics and Intramurals

    Campus Visit

    By Appointment

    Monday-Friday: 8:30-4:00

    Saturday: 9-12

    Informational Interview

    Date of Interview: 1/12/14

    Interviewee: Jamie Hooley

    Name of Company: MNSC Clinic, Marshalltown, IA

    Type of Company: Hospital Clinic

    Position: Physician Assistant

    Phone Number: 641-485-4604

    1. The person I interviewed was very easy to talk to and gave me great advice about working in the medical field. The workplace sounded like it was a great place to work, and it gave me an idea of what it would be like to work in a clinic.

    2. I learned a lot of tips about how to prepare for a job in the medical field and what it would be like to work as a physician assistant.

    3. What I liked about the career was the ability to help people. What I didn't like was the possibility of having not so great hours.

    4. An advantage to this career would be job security, the person I interviewed felt that her job would be very secure and this is something I want in my life.

    5. I received advice to get as much experience as you can in the medical field, to help you get into a program.

    6. I discovered the occupation of a nurse practitioner, but I don't think that the career would be for me.

    7. The work environment was like a typical clinic, and because of this she has very flexible hours.

    8. Yes, I feel that I would be very happy in this occupation. It sounds like something I would enjoy very much. I would still be able to work in the medical field, but would have more flexibility in what I want to do.

    Plans to Reach Your Goal

    To reach my goal I plan on continuing to be in High-STEP to get my Certified Nursing Assistant certificate. After getting my CNA, I want to use that to gain more experience in the healthcare field. By gaining experience it can help me get into my program of choice, and help me decide if this is what I want to do with my life. Also, by having my CNA I have an opportunity to work while going to school. Through High-STEP and the organization I am a part of, HOSA, I have many volunteer opportunities to help me better understand the healthcare field. I also plan on job shadowing at some point to really see what it is like to work in a hospital.