Physician assistants (PAs) are medical professionals who work under the supervision of a physician (or doctor). Depending on where you work, you can do many of the same things as a physician, including diagnosing and treating illnesses, conducting physical exams, making rounds in inpatient settings, clinical research, assisting in surgery, and even prescribing medication. One of the biggest benefits of becoming a physician assistant is that you don’t have to complete medical school or a residency— which also means that you can switch medical specialties throughout your career if you find you’re not satisfied.
Dermatology is the specialty of medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions of the skin, nails, and hair. About 4% of all PAs work in dermatology, and they make an average of approximately $98,000 per year. PAs in dermatology can treat skin conditions, as well as perform minor surgeries— meaning that you’ll have to have surgical training (in addition to a physician assistant license) to work in dermatology as a PA.
● Procedural Dermatology
● Paediatric Dermatology
Emergency medicine focuses on treating patients in pre-hospital settings, emergency rooms, critical/intensive care units, and urgent care settings. More than 12% of PAs specialize in emergency medicine, and the average annual salary is around $104,000. Emergency medicine is one of the most fast-paced environments in healthcare, with physicians often working round-the-clock with unpredictable schedules.
● Undersea and hyperbaric medicine
● Paediatric emergency medicine
● Pain medicine
● Medical Toxicology
Family medicine is one of the most popular PA specialties because it provides primary care for people of all ages. PAs in family medicine diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, perform wellness screenings, order lab tests, and even prescribe medication. You can find employment in physician offices, hospitals, community health clinics, and other medical facilities.
● Paediatric medicine
● Geriatric medicine
● Adolescent medicine
Internal medicine focuses on the diseases of the heart, kidneys, lungs, digestive system, and other internal organs and systems. Nearly 14% of all PAs specialize in internal medicine, with many acting as generalists and treating a variety of conditions. The average annual salary of PAs specializing in internal medicine is $89,000, with one of the highest job outlook rates at 31%.
● Rheumatology (musculoskeletal system)
● Pulmonology (lungs and respiratory system)
● Oncology (cancer)
● Nephrology (kidneys)
● Haematology (blood disorders)
● Endocrinology (endocrine system)
● Gastroenterology (digestive system)
● Cardiology (heart and cardiovascular system)
The OB/GYN specialty focuses on women’s reproductive health, including prenatal, labour, and delivery. PAs in this field of medicine diagnose and treat gynaecological issues and may perform gynaecological exams. Their average salary is close to $101,000 per year. PAs can also specialize in urology (the study of the urinary system and the male reproductive system).
● Reproductive Endocrinology
● Maternal-foetal medicine
● Female pelvic medicine
While nearly 25% of all PAs are involved in some type of research (no matter their specialty), not many actually “specialize” in research. However, all medical professionals should be involved in research, and you can devote your PA career to research. This switch may be ideal for PAs who feel burned out by the traditional roles of assistants to physicians. Besides, research is just as important as treating patients, as treatment isn’t possible without research.
The majority of PAs (close to 22%) specializes in general surgery, and they are known as surgical PAs. Surgical PAs provide preoperative and postoperative care for patients, as well as assist surgeons during procedures. Like PAs in dermatology, surgical PAs must receive surgical training. Their average annual salary is $100,000.
● Vascular surgery
● Thoracic surgery
● Paediatric surgery
● Orthopaedic surgery
● Colon and rectal surgery
As a PA, you have the unique ability to change specialties more easily than a physician because of your general education background. This means that you can try out different areas of medicine or research to find what best suits you and your career goals. Of course, if you’re enjoying your current specialty then you should stick with it. Just know that, according to TMF, you have many options and job opportunities if you decide to switch.