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Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant

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Who We Are : Program and Guidebooks : Faculty and Staff : Students and Alumni : Didactic and Clinical Year Overview : Admission : Tuition and Financial Aid : Profession : Fact Sheet


History of the profession (per the American Academy of Physician Assistants)

The PA profession was created to improve and expand healthcare.

In the mid-1960s, physicians and educators recognized there was a shortage of primary care physicians.

To help remedy this, Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, of the Duke University Medical Center, put together the first class of PAs in 1965. He selected four Navy Hospital Corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service. Stead based the curriculum of the PA program on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II.

The first PA class graduated from the Duke University PA program on Oct. 6, 1967.

The PA concept was lauded early on and gained federal acceptance and backing as early as the 1970s as a creative solution to physician shortages. The medical community helped support the new profession and spurred the setting of accreditation standards, establishment of a national certification process and standardized examination, and development of continuing medical education requirements.

Areas of Medicine for PAs

Physician assistants (PAs) are found in all areas of medicine. They practice in family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and surgical specialties including orthopedics, psychiatry as well as many other areas.  Many PAs work in settings such as education, government, administration and research.

The most common areas of medicine (per the AAPA) include:

  • Primary Care 26.6%
  • Surgical Subspecialties 19.5%
  • Emergency Medicine13.8%
  • Internal Medicine Subspecialties 7.6%

Employment Opportunities

Employment opportunities for PAs are abundant.  Many students are offered employment by preceptors on clinical rotations.  There are many resources easily available.  Examples include:

Earnings Potential

Median annual salary (per the AAPA): $93,800. 
Salary varies based on experience, education, geographical location and other factors.