Don't confuse physician assistants with medical assistants, who aren't qualified to do much more than take your blood pressure. Physician assistants do 80 percent of what doctors do: conduct exams, diagnose conditions, prescribe medications, even assist in surgery. While PAs are supervised by physicians, they have considerable autonomy. And while pay isn't doctorlike, it's far from sickly. Plus training is much shorter than it is for doctors, typically consisting of three years, post-bachelor's. No surprise this is one of America's fastest-growing professions.
National: $83,800. More pay data by metropolitan area
(Data provided by PayScale.com)
Requirements have been ratcheted up. Today, the typical student admitted to the three-year training program has a pre-med bachelor's degree, plus a few years of experience as a nurse, paramedic, or emergency medical technician.
The American Academy of Physician Assistants publishes a list of all accredited training programs.
Surgical Physician Assistant. You assist surgeons during surgery and provide pre- and post-op care. More than 20 percent of PAs choose this specialty.