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The Number of Certified PAs on the Rise

Posted by VISTA Staffing on Jun 6, 2016 1:00:00 PM

In recent years, the number of physician assistants has significantly increased and the growth doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The need for PAs in healthcare is evident in recent data collected in 2015.  

What This Growth Means

In a recent 2015 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants compiled by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), data revealed a 35% increase of physician assistants in five years with a total of 108,700 certified PAs practicing in the U.S. by the end of 2015. This growth of physician assistants is also evident in the increase in PA degree programs which are expected to grow from 199 presently to 273 in 2020. This rapid growth of physician assistants indicates the growing need to fill gaps in healthcare.

Quick Growth Stats and Information

The following information is taken from the NCCPA 2015 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants and PhysiciansPractice.com.

Geographic Distribution

PAs practice medicine in all 50 states and D.C. The states with the highest concentration of PAs per 100,000 population include Alaska, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Maine and New York.

PA Education and Training

PAs receive training in the medical model. They are required to take prerequisite disease and biological science courses with an evidence-based approach to diagnoses. The number of master’s-level certified PAs has increased from 66.2% in 2013 to 68.6% in 2015.    

PAs graduate with 2,000 or more hours of graduate-level clinical training. PAs are required to pass a national certification exam in order to get licensed by state medical boards upon graduation and are held to the same standard of care as physicians. PAs, like physicians, must maintain certification through continuing medical education (CME) and pass re-certification exams every 10 years through the nationally accredited NCCPA.


The median age of PAs is 38. In 1980, 36% of PAs were female; in 2015, 67.2% were female. In addition, 42% of PAs are both female and under the age of 40.

According to the survey, 86.7% of PAs are white, 3.9% are black or African American, 5.3% are Asian and 6.2% identify as Hispanic or Latino. The number of Hispanic PAs has increased from 3.5% in 2000 to 6.2% in 2015.

What Makes PAs different?

A modest amount of PAs – 22.6% – speak languages other than English, making them a commodity when non-English speaking patients are seen in a clinic or hospital setting. The predominant second language spoken by PAs is Spanish – 81.5%.

Where Do PAs work?

Most PAs work about 40 hours per week in a practice or hospital setting: more than 70% work outside of primary care; more than 18% work in surgical subspecialties; and more than 13% work in emergency medicine. On average, full-time PAs treat about 75 patients per week.  

Physician assistants also have the opportunity to seek out temporary locum tenens positions through staffing agencies such as VISTA Staffing where PAs are placed in temporary or permanent positions around the country.

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Topics: Advanced Practice Providers


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About VISTA Staffing Solutions

VISTA Staffing Solutions has over thirty years of experience providing award-winning customer service to clients and providers alike. Headquartered in Salt Lake City with additional offices in Atlanta and Houston, and employs approximately 1,000 people between corporate staff and field clinicians and contracts with over 2,500 physicians across 60+ specialties and subspecialties. VISTA helps U.S. hospitals, medical practices, and government agencies optimize their physician staffing, ensure quality and continuity of care for patients, and maintain financial stability. As a leading provider of U.S. Locum Tenens and Permanent Physician Search Services, VISTA also operates VISTA Select, a first-of-its-kind technology and services solution utilizing advanced data and analytics to provide healthcare organizations with customizable workforce optimization solutions.