Physician Assistant (PA)

  • Physician Assistant (PA)


  • Surgeon Assistant – assists surgeons in the operating room.
  • Anesthesiology Assistant – assists the anesthesiologist with duties.
  • Neonatology – assists neonatologists (specialists in diseases and care of newborns).
  • Emergency Medicine – assists emergency room physicians.
  • Family Practice
  • Internal Medicine
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Pediatric Medicine

Work Activities/Work Locations

  • Physician Assistants work in primary, specialty, and long-term care, providing patient services under the supervision of a licensed physician.
  • They handle common problems and educate patients, allowing doctors to concentrate on the more difficult cases. They can treat cuts and burns, apply and remove casts, give injections, and take blood samples. They perform minor office surgery and give emergency care, as well as assisting doctors in major surgeries.
  • Their scope of practice include performing routine examination, diagnostic tests, rehabilitative and preventive healthcare, health screenings management or therapy for chronic health problems, minor surgical procedures, assisting with surgery and issuing prescription orders and medications.
  • They support and consult with physicians regularly.
  • Laws and regulations vary for practices of physician assistants.
  • PA’s work in a variety of settings including physician’s private offices, hospitals, clinics, public health clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Physician Assistants enjoy working in the field of medicine. Their responsibilities can be emotionally and physically demanding but also challenging and rewarding.
  • They always have physicians to consult with, which removes some of the stress of working in the medical field.
  • They also have more flexible hours than physicians do.
  • Some would like to work independently instead of always for a doctor.

 Education: 6 years

 Patient Interaction: High

 Physical Activity: High

 Salary: $91,993

 Job Growth: High

Related Careers


Physician Assistant (PA)


Getting Started

  • Students should take a college preparatory curriculum.
  • UW-Madison requires algebra, plane geometry, college preparatory math, and 2 years of single foreign language.
  • Most PA’s hold a bachelor’s degree and then complete an accredited formal physician assistant program (2-3 years). Currently (2015) there are about 156 accredited training programs in the nation. Physician Assistant Education Association
  • Students take classroom courses in anatomy & physiology, clinical medicine, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology, pharmacology, geriatric and home health care, disease prevention, and medical ethics.
  • Clinic training rotations are also included in a variety of specialty areas such as family medicine, internal medicine, surgery, prenatal care, gynecology, geriatrics, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics.
  • Some PA’s pursue additional education in specialty areas such surgery, neonatology, emergency medicine, etc…
  • PA postgraduate Residency training programs are available in areas such as internal medicine, rural primary care, emergency medicine, surgery, pediatrics, neonatology, and occupational medicine.
  • Most programs now award a Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA)/ (MS PAS) thru graduate school.

Educational Institutions

Carroll University
Concordia University
Marquette University
University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Collaborative Physician Assistant Program

UW Department of Family Medicine

Pre-Professional Programs

Alverno College
Beloit College
Lawrence University
Marquette University
Marian University
Northland College
Ripon College
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
University of Wisconsin – Green Bay
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin – Parkside
University of Wisconsin – Platteville
University of Wisconsin – River Falls
University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
University of Wisconsin – Stout
University of Wisconsin – Superior
University of Wisconsin – Waukesha
Viterbo College

Hospitals with Associated Educational Programs

Froedtert Hospital, Milwaukee
Gundersen Lutheran, La Crosse
Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield
Mayo School of Health Sciences, Eau Claire
Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, Milwaukee

  • All states and the District of Columbia have legislation governing the qualifications or practice of physician assistants. All jurisdictions require physician assistants to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physical Assistants (NCCPA) and open only to graduates of an accredited PA education program.
  • Admission into an accredited PA program requires a multi-step application process. This could include a resumé, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. Some require taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  • Although minimum admission prerequisites states one must complete at least 2 years of college, most PA programs require a bachelor’s degree.
  • Prerequisites courses vary with schools. Generally, 6 semester hours in biology, 8 hours in chemistry, 4 hours in anatomy & physiology all with laboratory components. Also 6 hours of English with 3 hours in composition and 6 hours of psychology/sociology, or behavioral science. Courses in statistics, physics, and/or organic chemistry are highly recommended.
  • Some schools require clinical experience prior to admission.
  • A few universities still offer a bachelor’s degree in this field, using the two year minimum prerequisite. (UW-Madison…they are phasing this out)
  • The majority of people admitted to PA programs have an undergraduate degree in pre-medicine studies or one in the life sciences.
  • After completing the PA educational program and passing a national certification exam, the graduate may use the title “Physician Assistant Certified” or PA-C.
  • To remain certified, PA’s must have 100 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) every 2 years and pass a recertification exam every 6 years.

American Academy of Physician Assistants
2318 Mill Rd., Suite 1300
Alexandria, VA, 22314-1552

Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants
77 Wollcott Ave.
Dartmouth, MA, 02747

Association of Physician Assistants in Cardiovascular Surgery
500 Cummings Center Suite 4550
Beverly, MA, 01915

National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
12000 Findley Rd., Suite 100
Johns Creek, GA, 30097-1409

Physician Assistant Education Association
655 K Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC, 20001-2385

Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants
8400 Westpark Dr. 2nd Floor
McLean, VA, 22102

Wisconsin Academy of Physician Assistants
563 Carter Court, Suite B
Kimberly, WI, 54136
800/762-8965 or 920/560-5630

Career Outlook

Number Employed in 2012 (Wisconsin): 1,590
Number Employed in 2014 (U.S.): 94,400
Expected Employment in 2024 (U.S.): 123,200
Percent Employment Growth (2014-2024): 30%
Expected Annual Openings: 5,000
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $91,993

Salary information is located at Career One Stop

Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.

  • Physician Assistants usually work 40 hours a week.
  • They can work weekdays, shifts, and/or holidays.
  • Experienced physician assistants earn more money and receive more responsibilities. With experience, they may work with patients who have more serious problems.
  • Some physician assistants go to medical school after working in the field for several years.