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Types of Physician Assistants

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Physician assistants, often referred to as PAs, are a step below doctors in the medical field. Physician assistants are licensed and may perform many of the same duties as a regular doctor, but they are required by law to report their work and findings to a physician or surgeon.

Doctor's offices

The job duties of a physician assistant working in a primary or specialty doctor's practice may vary widely. These workers often take patient medical histories and discuss symptoms and the reasons for patient visits. Physician assistants employed in private practices often make a diagnosis and set up the terms of treatment, such as medical tests for the patient. Other duties in the office may include ordering medical supplies and managing other personnel such as nursing assistants.

Hospital Work

Some PAs may work in hospitals in areas such as emergency rooms. Duties for these physician assistants could entail ordering diagnostic tests or x-rays to determine the extent of an injury or physical problem. These workers might also perform sutures or apply casts and splints. Some of these professionals may work in surgery, providing both before and after care to the patients, as well as assisting the surgeon during the actual procedure.

Rural Work Opportunties

In some rural areas of the U.S., a full-time doctor is not always available. In these cases, it is often a qualified physician assistant that serves as the primary caregiver to residents in these communities.

Assessing symptoms, ordering tests and prescribing medications are among the duties you may perform. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some physician assistants may also make house calls to those unable to get into the office.


Although it may vary from one state to another, most candidates are required to hold at least a two year associate degree or four year bachelor's degree to be considered for admittance into a certified PA program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the programs generally last two years and upon successful completion you are rewarded a license. Some graduates may choose to take additional courses in order to specialize in certain areas such as pediatrics, cardiac care and oncology.