Physician assistant profession ranked third fastest-growing profession

03/01/04

Physician assistant profession ranked third fastest-growing profession in the country by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

PA jobs to grow by 49 percent by 2012, as PAs continue rise up list of fastest-growing U.S. professions

Alexandria, VA March 2, 2004 The physician assistant (PA) profession is projected to become the third fastest-growing occupation in the U.S. between 2002 and 2012, according to employment projections released in February 2004 by the U.S. Government's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicts that the number of physician assistant jobs in the U.S. will grow by 49 percent from 2002-2012, while total U.S. employment is projected to increase by only 15 percent during this period.

The PA profession has consistently been named as one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country by the BLS. It has steadily moved up the list of top U.S. professions: PAs were the 20th fastest-growing occupation in the 1997 BLS report, 10th fastest in the 1999 report, and 12th fastest in the 2001 report. The BLS estimates that there were 63,000 PA jobs in 2002, and predicts that number will increase to 94,000 in 2012.

"This new data released by the U.S. government confirms what we're hearing all the time from the medical community that as the practice of medicine rapidly changes in the U.S. more employers are hiring PAs," said Stephen Crane, executive vice president and CEO of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). "The U.S. government is predicting what we're already seeing an increasing number of PAs in the U.S. labor force, who work directly with an increasing number of patients."

The ten-year projections by the BLS of economic growth, employment by industry and occupation, and labor force are widely used in career guidance, in planning education and training programs, and in studying long-range employment and economic trends.

While the BLS reports on the number of U.S. jobs, data collected by AAPA focuses on the number of people clinically practicing as PAs. AAPA estimates that there are currently 50,121 people in clinical practice as PAs. Additionally, according to AAPA estimates, approximately 192 million patient visits were made to PAs in 2003, up from 183 million patient visits in 2002.

According to the U.S. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics, the U.S. population is aging, raising new issues for health care delivery. 13 percent of the total population is now age 65 or older, compared with only four percent in 1900. At the same time, 43 million Americans do not have health insurance. As these factors continue to increase health care costs, the AAPA expects the number of PAs in the health care system will also increase, as PAs are a highly cost-effective means of providing quality health care to millions of Americans.

Of the health care professions listed in the top ten fastest growing occupations, the PA profession requires the most postsecondary education to enter the profession and was the only health care profession classified in the top quartile ranking of Occupational Employment Statistics annual earnings. The typical PA program is 23-25 months long and requires at least two years of college and some health care experience prior to admission. According to the 2003 AAPA Annual Physician Assistant Census Survey, the mean total income for PAs in all medical specialties is $76,039, while the comparable mean for recent PA graduates is $64,565.

Physician assistants are licensed health professionals who practice medicine as members of a team working with supervising physicians. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural and urban settings. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and prescribe medications.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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