Rewards and Challenges of a Career as a Physician Assistant

physician assistant

In the medical field, a physician is a professional licensed to practice medicine— also known as a doctor (of medicine). So it would seem like a physician assistant (PA) is just that: an assistant, not qualified to practice medicine. That couldn’t be further from the truth for a PA, as they are just as qualified as other physicians. PAs just work under the supervision of physicians, while physicians have full responsibility.

Becoming a doctor requires an undergraduate degree, a medical degree, and several years of residency training. On the other hand, becoming a physician assistant doesn’t take as long, but it still requires eight years of education and training after high school. So it seems like you get all of the perks of being a doctor, without doing everything that a doctor has to do.

A Career as a Physician Assistant: The Rewards

A physician assistant is a certified and licensed medical professional that has the ability to prescribe medication to patients. Like any job in the medical field, PAs will always be needed and jobs like this will always exist. PAs can also specialize in anything from nursing to athletic training. Other benefits of working as a physician assistant include:

  • Making an average annual salary of $100,000.
  • It’s a fast-growing profession that sees a steady increase in jobs every year.
  • You have the ability to choose a specialization.
  • You get to help people every day.

Another benefit is that since you’re not a doctor (but still a medical professional), once you’re done with school, you’re done. The only type of continued education required of you is a recertification exam every few years. You may not make as much money as a physician, but you won’t have as much debt either.

Finding a job as a physician assistant isn’t hard either, and not just because it’s a job that’s in high demand. There are several job-specific job search sites that help medical professionals find employers suited to their particular niche. This is especially helpful in the event that you have to move to another location. Not only will you be able to easily get a job because your job’s in high demand, but job-specific sites can help you find a job in your new location.

A Career as a Physician Assistant: The Challenges

There’s no such thing as “the perfect job” in the sense that you will have absolutely no problems and not one challenging day. But all challenges aren’t considered cons by everyone. For example, as a PA, you won’t likely work regular hours. That can be considered a pro or a con, depending on what type of hours you prefer working. Other challenges to working as a PA can include:

  • You will always be supervised by a physician.
  • Working as a PA is still very stressful, and you’ll be under a lot of pressure.
  • Burnout is also a possibility.

Another unfortunate challenge of working in any part of the medical field is that you won’t be able to save all of your patients. This is the hard part of medical-related jobs, and many professionals have a hard time. It’s important to understand that this is a sad reality of working in the medical field, but at the same time, you’ll be able to help so many people.


There’s both a good side and a bad side to working any type of job, but they seem to be most obvious in medical-related jobs. It takes several years of schooling, several hours of working, and can be highly stressful throughout the entire process of becoming and working as a medical professional. However, the rewards can definitely outweigh the challenges. This is still a good field for people who are passionate about helping others. Even on a PA’s worst days, they can know that they still made an effort to improve the quality of life for another person.