What Is a Physician Assistant?

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect an adjusted timeline for Concordia University Ann Arbor's Physician Assistant Studies admissions timeline. Physician assistants recently topped the U.S. News best health care jobs list as the hottest position in the industry. Learn more about what PAs do and the benefits that this career route provides.


By the year 2030, the United States is expected to face a huge shortage of physicians with a decline ranging between 42,600 and 121,300—a shortage that poses a serious threat for many communities’ access to quality health care.  

But hope comes in the form of physician assistants (PAs).

According to United Health Group, PAs could be key in defusing the physician shortage threat, particularly for primary care within rural communities. In fact, U.S. News reports physician assistants as the #1 hottest health care job with a projected growth of 37% over the next ten years.

Simulation of the new facilities designed to support the PA program at CUAA.

If you’ve ever thought about advancing your health care career, we invite you to consider the physician assistant route.

Benefits of Becoming a Physician Assistant

PAs are licensed health care professionals who practice medicine often in collaboration with an MD or DO. They work in a variety of settings including hospitals, universities, governmental services, and perform a myriad of tasks.

So why become a physician assistant instead of going the doctor, physician, or nurse practitioner route?

PA programs follow the medical model of training and education, similar to medical school. However, PA programs are much shorter. Most students complete programs in just two to two and a half years. Because PA education is shorter, it’s also less expensive.  

Perhaps the best feature of becoming a physician assistant is the flexibility that it provides. PAs get exposure to and training in a wide variety of disciplines. This wide exposure and range of training provide career flexibility to PAs that is unlike any other health care position. For example, PAs can move from general surgery to oncology to pediatrics and more at any point in their career. 

In a few states, physician assistants can even open their own private practice to provide much needed health care to more rural or underserved communities—a key aspect in how PAs can help offset the impact of the physician shortage. In Michigan, this requires a practice agreement with a participating physician.

Lastly, and sometimes most attractively, is the pay. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2018 the median annual salary for PAs was $104,860 with the highest salary coming in at $146,260 and the lowest at $66,590.

CUWAA’s PA Program

Here at CUWAA, we provide a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program. As a student, you’ll get to take advantage of our state-of-the-art facilities while also reaping the benefits that our location and proximity to a variety of prominent hospital systems provides. If you have an interest in CUWAA’s PA program, you can learn more about our applicant requirements here before you begin your application.

This blog was originally published on 01/19/2019. It has been updated to reflect current information.

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