Career Spotlight: Physician Assistant Job Outlook

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Healthcare and the Physician Assistant Career

Healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors of the American job market, adding more than 650,000 jobs in 2023 with more growth projected in the coming decade. Within healthcare, the field of physician assistant job outlook is robust, with 27% growth projected between 2022-2032. In January 2024, U.S. News and World Report ranked the physician assistant career as the second best job in healthcare and the fifth best job overall. What makes the profession so appealing and why should you consider becoming a PA?

Physician Assistant Job Outlook

Why is the physician assistant career booming? A few factors are combining to make the physician assistant job outlook so appealing. The American population is both growing overall and aging, prompting a need for more medical care. This is combined with a predicted physician shortage of anywhere from 17,000 to 48,000 fewer doctors working by 2034. Physician assistants can’t totally replace doctors, but as highly skilled licensed patient care providers their generalist training allows them to fill in many of primary care gaps exacerbated by a physician shortage.

Among their many abilities, PAs perform physicals, diagnose illnesses, create treatment plans, order and read diagnostic tests, and prescribe medication. As such, PAs are positioned well to provide critical medical care to Americans in a variety of settings. Physician assistants come from a wide assortment of undergraduate degree backgrounds, train for between two and three years in a curriculum similar to that of medical students, and can begin working directly with patients as soon as they pass their national licensure exam. The PA field allows people who want to provide top notch medical care and make a direct impact in patients’ lives a faster, less expensive, but still rigorous pathway to a medical career.

Physician Assistant Training and Career Flexibility

Physician assistants train primarily as generalists with a wide-ranging education across both the didactic and clinical phases. Their education largely focuses on learning the essentials of preventive care, patient counseling, and the ins and outs of diseases and disorders. While this generalist education allows PAs the opportunity to see a range of patients in a variety of clinical settings, being a generalist isn’t the only career path for physician assistants.

PAs find work in nearly every medical speciality because of their generalist training which allows them to switch specialists without the added work of recertification. Nearly half of all PAs studied over a four decade span changed their speciality at least once. The ability to switch specialities allows physician assistants to both change their career focus as they develop new interests and to meet the market changes flexibly. As new healthcare needs develop and new opportunities arise, PAs are well positioned to meet these challenges and patient care demands. In an ever changing economic landscape, the physician assistant job outlook has more built in adaptability and advantages then most.

While many, if not most PAs still specialize in the traditional PA roles of family medicine and internal medicine, PAs are found specializing almost anywhere. You’ll find PAs working in dermatology, cardiology, endocrinology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, psychiatry, and pediatrics. A growing specialty for PAs is in the booming field of telemedicine – allowing PAs to expand their patient care reach and see to their clients virtually.

Where do PAs work

PAs don’t just work in primary care physicians’ offices or outpatient medical practices – although many do. Physician assistants are found in diverse healthcare settings across the country. Your PA work may see you spending your days in primary care practices seeing regular patients for care ranging from their annual physical exam to illnesses, injuries, and ongoing treatments. Or you might decide to work in a hospital setting where you could work in a coronary unit with patients recovering from heart attacks and cardiac surgery. Physician assistants who want to specialize in working with children and babies needing critical care can specialize in the skills needed to staff neonatal intensive care and pediatric intensive care units.

An incredibly popular option for physician assistants are surgical specialties where PAs assist in different types of surgeries. PAs in these fields provide pre and post-operative care, assist in surgical procedures, and use their diagnostic skills on a range of tests. Beyond general surgery, PAs can specialize in a wide range of surgery subspecialities including plastic surgery, pediatric surgery, transplants, and oncology surgery. For PAs who want a challenge somewhere in-between the physician’s office and the hospital, urgent care centers are an increasingly popular PA speciality. Here, physician assistants test their skills by working with clients who are presenting with urgent illnesses or injuries and deciding whether they can be treated onsite or need to be transferred to a hospital. This can be a great option for PAs who want to experience new challenges every day while seeing a wide range of patients.

Finally, there is a huge demand for physician assistants excited to work in remote or rural areas where there may be few options for health care. A number of physician assistant programs have training rural PAs a top program goal – particularly schools in the west. In areas far from hospital centers, numerous doctor’s offices, and corner urgent care facilities, PAs are an essential healthcare provider for illnesses, injuries, and preventive care. Jobs in rural areas can often pay at a premium as a way to attract people to out of the way locations.

Facts and Figures

The national mean annual physician assistant salary in America is $130,490. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the percentile wage estimates for PAs are:

  • 90% of all PAs earn more than $86,280 annually
  • 75% of all PAs earn more than $108,100 annually
  • 50% of all PAs earn more than $130,020 annually
  • 25% of all PAs earn more than $151,720 annually
  • 10% of all PAs earn more than $170,790 annually

The five states with the highest employment levels for physician assistants are:

  • New York with an annual average salary of $138,410
  • California with an annual average salary of $153,960
  • Florida with an annual average salary of $121,780
  • Pennsylvania with annual average salary of $119,760
  • Texas with an annual average salary of $134,780

The annual mean wage for PAs by industry are:

  • Physicians’ Offices: $127,910
  • Outpatient Care Centers: $144,160
  • Specialty (not including psychiatric and substance abuse) Hospitals: $134,260
  • General Medical and Surgical hospitals: $132,580
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $125,840
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: $116,420


The physician assistant job outlook is one of the strongest in America right now. A growing field with even more growth opportunities projected in the next decade, PAs enjoy strong job stability, good annual wages, and the chance to change specialities as needed. For people who enjoy healthcare and being able to provide hands-on patient care in a variety of settings and roles, the physician assistant role is highly appealing. Read more about the top PA programs in the country to begin your career journey now.


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