The Physician Assistant Field

Ranked the No. 3 Best Job Nationwide

With a median salary of $115,390 and more than 40,000 jobs open nationwide, the role of physician assistant (PA) was ranked the No. 2 best health care job and the No. 3 best job overall by U.S. News & World Report for 2022.1 Explore how you can pursue this career path below.

What Is a PA?

PAs are medical professionals who work under the supervision of licensed physicians and surgeons although, often, the dynamic is more a collaboration between the two. In fact, in many health care settings, patients work closely with a PA in lieu of seeing a general physician, which helps reduce the obstacles that stand between individuals and medical care. PAs are trusted health care providers.

What Does a PA Do?

PAs can work autonomously or work on or lead health care teams, and PA responsibilities can include:

  • taking patient histories
  • performing examinations
  • ordering tests and diagnosing medical conditions
  • developing and administering treatment plans
  • prescribing medicine
  • consulting with and counseling patients

PAs work in all medical settings, including hospitals, offices, community health centers, nursing homes, clinics, and correctional institutions.

How to Become a PA

Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

Some master’s programs, including Yale PA Online, will allow you to apply while your bachelor’s degree is still in progress—they just require that your degree be conferred prior to matriculation.

Attend an Accredited PA Program

PA master’s curricula prepares students to diagnose and treat illness and disease across the patient life span. In addition to core coursework, PA students complete clinical rotations in various health care settings. As with any medical program, hands-on experience with patients is critical to any PA program’s curriculum.

In order to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)—the test PAs must pass to obtain licensure and practice medicine—students must first graduate from a PA program that is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

Apply for Certification and Licensure

To obtain certification and then licensure, you must pass the PANCE test, which covers a wide variety of questions to assess basic medical and surgical knowledge. Once certified, PAs must “renew” their certification with the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) every 10 years.

How Long Does It Take to Become a PA?

The time can vary depending upon a variety of factors, but a PA program often can be completed in 24—28 months.

Why Become a PA?

The country is experiencing a major shortage in primary care physicians—a recent report found that the U.S. could see a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033—and as a result, PAs are gaining more prevalence.2 In fact, the PA field is expected to grow by 31 percent by 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 3

Explore Yale PA Online

For more than two centuries, Yale School of Medicine has remained at the forefront of innovation and academic excellence in the field of medicine. Now, we offer a hybrid PA master’s program so students around the United States can advance their education—and support the nation’s health care needs—from their home state.

As a student, you will complete all coursework online. However, more than one-half of the program will be spent applying your newfound knowledge and skills in person, at health care facilities near you. This includes:

  • Clinical Experience in Early Didactic (CEED): Working under the guidance of a preceptor, you will be exposed to 120-plus hours of direct patient care in a clinical setting. This component will be completed in your first year, during the didactic portion of the curriculum.
  • Clinical Training: You will spend the last 16 months of your program working at clinical sites in or near your community. Each four-week rotation is supervised by a clinical preceptor—and trainings include a wide variety of medical areas and specialties.
  • On-Campus Immersions: The program includes two separate weeklong immersions and a graduation ceremony on Yale’s campus. During these immersions, you will work in the Yale Center for Medical Simulation, participating in activities like cadaver dissection, patient assessments, sensitive exams, suturing, and splinting.

To learn more about Yale PA Online, request information and an admissions counselor will contact you.


1 U.S News & World Report, 2021
2 IHS Markit Ltd., 2020
3 BLS, 2020