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Emerging Occupations

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants help physicians expand their services. They assess patients to the degree determined by the supervising physician. They work with health care providers to improve patient access to care. They may also provide patient education and conduct research.

This is an emerging occupation. It may have evolved from an existing occupation or emerged in response to consumer needs or technological advances.

Also Known As

Clinical Assistant, Civilian Physician Assistant

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

This occupation has not yet received an official NOC code. However, it is considered similar to the following historical NOC codes. CAUTION—As this occupation is only similar to these NOC codes, related details and labour market information may not be accurate:

  • 2006 NOC: Other Assisting Occupations in Support of Health Services (3414) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Other Assisting Occupations in Support of Health Services (D313) 
  • 2011 NOC: Allied primary health practitioners (3124) 
  • 2016 NOC: Allied primary health practitioners (3124) 
Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Physician assistants are highly skilled health care providers. They support physicians and enhance their productivity. This allows more patients to gain access to quality health care.

In general, physician assistants:

  • conduct patient interviews and record medical histories
  • perform physical exams
  • counsel patients on preventive health care practices
  • perform and evaluate routine diagnostic tests
  • diagnose and treat disease and injury
  • tend to cuts, casting, and splinting
  • provide referrals within the health care system
  • prepare patients for surgery
  • manage patients before, during, and after surgical procedures
  • act as a first or second assistant during surgery
  • provide prescriptions and medical orders.

Specific duties may vary with the physician assistant's skill set and relationship with the physician in charge.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary

As part of a health care team, physician assistants work under the direction of registered physicians to provide patient care in various clinical settings. Their schedules and working conditions depend on where they work and the hours of the physician in charge. In a hospital they may work rotating shifts of weekends, nights, or early mornings. In a surgical setting they often stand for long periods. It can be a high-stress role.

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Physician assistants need to possess:

  • the ability to think critically
  • the ability to solve problems
  • the ability to empathize with patients
  • the ability to work under pressure
  • self-motivation and a desire to help patients
  • the ability to work well as part of a health care team
  • an interest in pharmacology
  • an interest in human anatomy.
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

The minimum education requirement is 2 years in a bachelor’s degree program followed by a 2-year physician assistant (PA) program. Successful completion results in either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies.

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

  • The Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Ontario, together with the University of Nebraska, 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 2 years of an undergraduate degree with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of between 2.7 and 3.0, depending on the school. Graduate PA programs require the completion of a 4-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 setting. 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.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Certification Not Regulated

Physician assistant is not yet a regulated health profession in Alberta, although registration is pending. 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) 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 Mar 31, 2018

Emerging occupations typically are the result of:

  • An increased human need
  • 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 it is unknown.

Physician assistants work in:

  • public and military hospitals
  • community health centres
  • private practice specialty physician offices
  • clinics.

Physician assistants train as generalists but work in many specialties (such as orthopaedics, oncology, neurosurgery and psychiatry). As they gain greater clinical knowledge and experience, they can assume new duties and seek higher wages. For example, they may supervise other staff and PA students. Additional education improves career prospects.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 3124: Allied primary health practitioners* occupational group, 94.6% of people work in:

*This data is for a NOC group that is similar to the Physician Assistant occupation.

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment

Explore emerging workplace trends in Alberta that could affect this occupation.

In Alberta, the 3124: Allied primary health practitioners* occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.9% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 20 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

*This data is for a NOC group that is similar to the Physician Assistant occupation.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2018

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

According to the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants’ 2015 Census [pdf], the average annual salary for a physician assistant in Canada is between $75,000 and over $120,000. The salary varies depending on factors such as work experience, the size and type of employer and the location.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Allied primary health practitioners*

2016 NOC : 3124
*The physician assistant is similar to this NOC group
Average Wage
$54.68
Per Hour
Average Salary
$96,502.00
Per Year
Average Hours
33.9
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 3124 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $41.58 $48.27 $46.63 $48.27
Overall $50.43 $55.76 $54.68 $55.70
Top $55.25 $62.91 $60.78 $62.91

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Health Care & Social Assistance
ALL INDUSTRIES
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
0%
0%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
N/A
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
8%
8%
Vacancy Rate
3%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Alberta Health Services website: www.albertahealthservices.ca

Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) website: capa-acam.ca

Canadian Medical Association (CMA) website: www.cma.ca

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) website: www.cpsa.ca

Physician Assistants Certification Council of Canada (PACCC) website: capa-acam.ca/paccc

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2018. 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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