Physician Assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of physicians. Physician assistants are referred to as physician extenders and midlevel practitioners. Their practice includes all elements of patient care including taking medical histories, completing examinations, ordering diagnostic tests, and providing medical care including the prescription of medications. Physician assistants may care for a wide variety of patients, assist in surgery, or specialize in one of a wide variety of practice areas in conjunction with their supervising physician.
The American Association of Medical College Center (AAMC) for Workforce Studies reports the demand for physician services is increasing rapidly as the nation's population continues to age, grow, live longer and have more chronic illnesses that require increased medical attention. Physician assistants are part of the solution to help alleviate shortages in states where the distribution of physician providers is problematic.
In 2012 Forbes Magazine gave the physician assistant graduate degree a first-place ranking based on salary and employment outlook, citing, in part, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projection of a 39.7 percent increase in positions for PAs by 2018. According to a 2009 American Academy of Physician Assistants job survey, the mean salary for PAs working at least 32 hours per week was $93,100.