Physician Assistant  What They Do

Just the Facts


Provides healthcare services typically performed by a physician, under the supervision of a physician. Conducts complete physicals, provides treatment, and counsels patients. May, in some cases, prescribe medication. Must graduate from an accredited educational program for physician assistants.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Examines patients to obtain information about their physical condition.
  • Makes tentative diagnoses and decisions about management and treatment of patients.
  • Prescribes therapy or medication with physician approval.
  • Interprets diagnostic test results for deviations from normal.
  • Obtains, compiles and records patient medical data, including health history, progress notes and results of physical examination.
  • Administers or orders diagnostic tests, such as x-ray, electrocardiogram, and laboratory tests.
  • Instructs and counsels patients about prescribed therapeutic regimens, normal growth and development, family planning, emotional problems of daily living, and health maintenance.
  • Visits and observes patients on hospital rounds or house calls, updating charts, ordering therapy, and reporting back to physician.
  • Provides physicians with assistance during surgery or complicated medical procedures.
  • Performs therapeutic procedures, such as injections, immunizations, suturing and wound care, and infection management.

Insider Info

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Related Careers


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Physician Assistants

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Irregular hours
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Anesthesiologist Assistant -- Duties include the collection of appropriate health history of patient, carrying out various preoperative tasks, applying airway management and administering drugs for induction and maintenance of anesthesia, adjusting anesthetic levels on a minute-to-min
  • Nurse Practitioner -- Provides advanced nursing care and treatment to patients, performs physical examinations, orders diagnostic tests, develops treatment plans and prescribes drugs or other therapies.
  • Cardiology Physician Assistant --
  • Neurosurgical Physician Assistant --
  • Pediatric Physician Assistant --