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Career profile Physical Assistant

Also known as Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C), Clinical Physician Assistant, Family Practice Physician Assistant, General Surgery Physician Assistant, Orthopaedic Physician Assistant, Physician Assistant Certified (PAC), Physician Extender, Physician's Assistant, Surgical Physician Assistant

Physical Assistant

Also known as Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C), Clinical Physician Assistant, Family Practice Physician Assistant

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Social
  • Realistic
Pay Range
$76,700 - $162,470 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Critical Thinking
  • Active Listening
Knowledge Areas
  • Medicine and Dentistry
  • Biology
  • Psychology
Core tasks
  • Make tentative diagnoses and decisions about management and treatment of patients.
  • Interpret diagnostic test results for deviations from normal.
  • Prescribe therapy or medication with physician approval.
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What does a Physical Assistant do?

Physical Assistants provide healthcare services typically performed by a physician, under the supervision of a physician.

In addition, Physical Assistants

  • conduct complete physicals, provide treatment, and counsel patients,
  • may, in some cases, prescribe medication,
  • must graduate from an accredited educational program for physician assistants.

What kind of tasks does a Physical Assistant perform regularly?

Physical Assistants are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Make tentative diagnoses and decisions about management and treatment of patients.
  • Interpret diagnostic test results for deviations from normal.
  • Prescribe therapy or medication with physician approval.
  • Obtain, compile, and record patient medical data, including health history, progress notes, and results of physical examination.
  • Examine patients to obtain information about their physical condition.
  • Administer or order diagnostic tests, such as x-ray, electrocardiogram, and laboratory tests.
  • Instruct and counsel patients about prescribed therapeutic regimens, normal growth and development, family planning, emotional problems of daily living, and health maintenance.
  • Perform therapeutic procedures, such as injections, immunizations, suturing and wound care, and infection management.
  • Visit and observe patients on hospital rounds or house calls, updating charts, ordering therapy, and reporting back to physician.
  • Provide physicians with assistance during surgery or complicated medical procedures.
  • Supervise and coordinate activities of technicians and technical assistants.
  • Order medical and laboratory supplies and equipment.

The above responsibilities are specific to Physical Assistants. More generally, Physical Assistants are involved in several broader types of activities:

Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

What is a Physical Assistant salary?

The median salary for a Physical Assistant is $115,390, and the average salary is $116,080. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Physical Assistant salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Physical Assistants earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Physical Assistants earn less than $76,700 per year, 25% earn less than $95,730, 75% earn less than $135,220, and 90% earn less than $162,470.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Physical Assistants is expected to change by 31.0%, and there should be roughly 12,200 open positions for Physical Assistants every year.

Median annual salary
$115,390
Typical salary range
$76,700 - $162,470
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
31.0%

What personality traits are common among Physical Assistants?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Physical Assistant are usually higher in their Investigative, Social, and Realistic interests.

Physical Assistants typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Physical Assistants typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Lastly, Physical Assistants typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Physical Assistant tend to value Relationships, Working Conditions, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Physical Assistants very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Physical Assistants strongly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Lastly, Physical Assistants strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Physical Assistants must consistently demonstrate qualities such as concern for others, attention to detail, and integrity.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Physical Assistants, ranked by importance:

Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Physical Assistants need?

Many Physical Assistants have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Physical Assistants may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Physical Assistants

  • 0.8% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 2.7% completed high school or secondary school
  • 2.7% completed some college coursework
  • 3.1% earned a Associate's degree
  • 17.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 58.4% earned a Master's degree
  • 15.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Physical Assistants

Physical Assistants may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as medicine and dentistry, biology, or psychology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Physical Assistants might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Biology
Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
Psychology
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Important Abilities needed by Physical Assistants

Physical Assistants must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Physical Assistants need abilities such as oral comprehension, problem sensitivity, and deductive reasoning in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Physical Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

Critical Skills needed by Physical Assistants

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Physical Assistants frequently use skills like reading comprehension, critical thinking, and active listening to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Physical Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Writing
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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