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master of physician assistant studies


Career Impact

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Physician Assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of physicians. Physician assistants also 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 which can include prescribing medication. 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 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) 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 2015, 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 30 percent increase in positions for PAs by 2018. The average annual wage for a physician assistant in 2016 was $102,090 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). 

Workforce Needs

  • The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 30% increase in physician assistants through 2024 due to the growing and aging population; widespread chronic disease; and a shortage of physicians1.
  • The AAMC projects a shortage of up to 104,900 by 2030 with the greatest shortages in general primary care and surgical specialties. More than one-third of currently practicing physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade2.
  • Younger physicians and female physicians are working fewer hours than men to accommodate their work-life choices.
  • Much of the demand in Iowa is to help meet the need in the primary care workforce; 62 counties were considered underserved in 2015.


2AAMC Projections Update (2017)