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Emerging Occupations

Physician Assistant

This is an emerging occupation. It may have evolved from an existing occupation or emerged in response to consumer needs or technological advances. Physician assistants provide a variety of services including patient education, research and administrative services to support physicians and other health care staff.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
Also Known As

Clinical Assistant, Civilian Physician Assistant

Updated Dec 01, 2016

Physician assistants are highly skilled healthcare professionals who are physician extenders rather than independent practitioners. They enhance the productivity of physicians, which allows more patients to access quality health care.

In general, physician assistants:

  • conduct patient interviews and record medical histories
  • perform physical examinations
  • provide counseling on preventative health care practices
  • order and interpret lab tests
  • perform and evaluate routine diagnostic tests
  • administer immunization and injections
  • provide referrals within the health care system
  • act as a first or second assistant during surgery.

Individual duties may vary depending on factors such as, the physician assistant's competencies and their relationship with the supervising physician.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 01, 2016

Physician assistants work within a health care team under the supervision of registered physicians to provide patient care in various clinical settings. Their schedules and working conditions often depend on what the supervising physician's hours are and where they are working. For example, in a hospital setting they may work rotating shifts of weekends, nights or early mornings. In surgery a setting, they are required to stand for long periods.

  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 01, 2016

Physician assistants need the following characteristics:

  • critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • ability to empathize with patients
  • ability to work under pressure
  • self-motivation and a desire to help patients
  • ability to work effectively in a health care team.
Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 01, 2016

The minimum education requirement is two years in a bachelor degree then a two year physician assistant program.

Currently, there are no accredited physician assistant programs offered in Alberta, however, several Canadian post-secondary schools offer accredited physician assistant programs:

  • the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Ontario offers a physician assistant baccalaureate degree program for experienced medical technicians of the Canadian Armed Forces.
  • McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario offers a Physician Assistant Education Program which leads to a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Physician Assistant) degree.
  • the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine offers a Masters of Physician Assistant Studies program.
  • the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine offers a bachelor of Science Physician Assistant degree (BScPA).

The basic entrance requirement is successful completion of at least two years of an undergraduate degree with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of between 2.7 and 3.0, depending on the school. Graduate physician assistant programs require the completion of a four year undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other common admission requirements include Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status and experience in a patient care settings. Some programs may also have course requirements (for example, in human anatomy, biochemistry, chemistry and physiology).

For current information on programs and entrance requirements please visit the school websites or the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) website.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 01, 2016

Physician assistant (PA) is not a regulated health profession in Alberta. However, voluntary registration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) is available.

To be eligible to practice as a physician assistant (PA) individuals must have graduated from a Canadian Medical Association accredited program or have obtained the Physician Assistant Certification (PA-C), American designation.

It is recommended that all physician assistants practicing in Canada are certified and have received their Canadian Certified Physician Assistant (CCPA), Canadian designation. To maintain certification and the CCPA designation, 250 continuing professional development (CPD) credits are required every five years.

The Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC) administers and maintains the physician assistant certification process.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 01, 2016

Emerging occupations typically are the result of:

  • an increased human need (for example, alternate sources of energy)
  • technological advances
  • greater specialization within an occupation.

Often there are too few people working in an emerging occupation to gather survey information. Therefore, it can be difficult to define advancement opportunities or employment outlook. Some Albertans already are working in this emerging occupation but future demand for physician assistants is unknown.

Physician assistants are employed in:

  • public and military hospitals
  • community-based health centres
  • clinics.

In 2013, Alberta Health Services began a Physician Assistant (PA) Demonstration Project to evaluate the impact of the profession as members of the health care team by integrating physician assistants into several Alberta Health Services facilities.

Physician assistants are trained as generalists; however, work in a variety of specialties, such as orthopaedics, oncology, neurosurgery and psychiatry. As they gain greater clinical knowledge and experience, physician assistants can earn new responsibilities and higher wages. For example, experienced physician assistants may supervise other staff and physician assistant students. However, advancement opportunities are limited without additional education.

In Alberta, most people employed as physician assistants work in the Health Care and Social Assistance (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.
Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 01, 2016

Often there are too few people working in an emerging occupation to gather survey information. Therefore, no current salary data is available for this occupation.

Physician assistants are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 3124: Allied primary health practitioners.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Allied primary health practitioners occupational group earned on average from $40.75 to $48.37 an hour. The overall average wage was $46.94 an hour. For more information, see the Allied primary health practitioners wage profile.

Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
  • Health, Recreation and Human Services
    • Community Care Services
    • Health Care Services
    • Human and Social Services
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 01, 2016

Alberta Health Services website:

Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) website:

Canadian Medical Association (CMA) website:

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) website:

Council of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (PACCC) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 23, 2015. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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