California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Physician Assistants in California

May also be called: Physician's Assistants; Physician Assistant Certified Assistants

Specialties within this occupation include: Family Practice Physician Assistants; Orthopedic Physician Assistants; Pediatric Physician Assistants; Surgical Physician Assistants

What Would I Do?

Physician Assistants (PAs) are formally trained to work under the supervision of a medical doctor assisting in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries. They perform routine tasks allowing doctors more time to treat seriously ill patients. Physician Assistants interview patients, take medical histories, give physical examinations, and order laboratory tests. They perform routine medical procedures, such as giving injections and immunizations, cleaning and stitching minor wounds, applying splints, and removing casts.

Physician Assistants usually work in comfortable, well-lit health care facilities. At times, the job requires a considerable amount of walking or standing. Schedules vary according to the practice setting and often depend on the hours of the supervising physician. The workweek of hospital-based PAs may begin early in the morning and include weekends, nights, and 12-hour shifts. These workers may also be on call. Conversely, PAs in clinics usually work a traditional 40-hour week.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Physician Assistant may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve working with ideas and that require an extensive amount of thinking, searching for facts, figuring out problems, and making decisions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Income varies by specialty, practice setting, geographical location, and years of experience.

The median wage in 2016 for Physician Assistants in California is $110,955 annually, or $53.34 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

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Annual Wages for 2016Low
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Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Benefits generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Some employers pay for their employees’ liability insurance, Drug Enforcement Administration's registration fees, State licensing fees, credentialing fees, and continuing education expenses.

What is the Job Outlook?

Job growth is expected as health care establishments increasingly use Physician Assistants to contain costs. Job opportunities for PAs should be good, particularly in some rural and inner city clinics because these settings typically have difficulty attracting physicians.

How Do I Qualify?

Physician Assistants must complete a physician assistant program at an accredited school that issues a certificate or an associate or bachelor's degree. Physician assistant programs usually last at least two years. Admission requirements vary by program, but many require at least two prior years of college and some health care experience.

California requires that a Physician Assistant obtain an Interim Approval or license prior to practicing. In addition, the PA must also obtain a written agreement from a supervising physician which includes guidelines for adequate supervision.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges and universities. Supervising physicians sometimes hire PAs who worked for them during their clinical training. Professional associations may list job openings on their Web sites. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Physician Assistants