Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of licensed physicians and are qualified to perform approximately 80 percent of duties commonly done by primary care physicians. PAs, however, practice in almost all health care settings and in many medical and surgical specialties. They must pass a national certifying examination which is open only to graduates of accredited PA programs.
The PA degree is a master's-level degree based on a curriculum involving both classroom instruction and clinical rotations. Therefore, most students entering a PA program have already completed a baccalaureate degree, usually in a medically related field such as nursing, or in a science area. The average entrant has had approximately four years of health care experience (some experience is at least highly recommended, and is required by many programs) and has a grade point average of 3.40. Attributes such as a demonstrated caring attitude toward others, communication skills, emotional stability under stress, and problem solving ability are important selection factors.