Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Allied Health Professions recently sent 93 Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies graduates into the world, and their future looks bright.

CNN Money and U.S. News released their Best Healthcare Jobs for 2014, and ranked PAs as the eighth-highest health care profession out of 38 professions reviewed. The same group, in their 100 Best Jobs list, ranked the PA Profession as the 13th-best profession in terms of employment opportunity, salary, manageable work-life balance, and job security for 2014.

The 2012 median annual salary of PAs is $90,930. The top-earning 10 percent in the PA profession was $124,770 while the lower end of the pay spectrum was $62,430. The Bureau of Labor statistics predict a 38.4 percent employment increase in PAs between 2014 and 2022. It is also predicted that 33,300 new PAs will be added to the current 87,000 workforce by the end of the decade. Reasons for the profession’s growth include the health care needs of the retiring baby boomer generation, and a physician shortage that has become more acute in recent years. The profession has a 1.2 percent unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the Best Jobs 2014 list.

“Many people lack health coverage, and the PA profession is poised to address this,” said College of Allied Health Professions Dean Stephanie Bowlin, EdD, PA.

The master’s degree for physician assistant is one of the best degrees as far as job payback, said Roy Guizado, MS, PA-C, chair of WesternU’s Department of Physician Assistant Education.

“All professions negotiate a balance between personal and professional life,” he said. “PAs recognize the very balanced life that the PA profession can offer.”

PAs enter the workforce after completing a two-year program. Other health professionals complete a four-year program, and then may have additional years in residency.

“But there’s a price for that. We are not independent practitioners, but we can be described as an integral health care team member,” Guizado said. “That balance between personal life and professional life is more attractive for people coming out of college right now. Being a part of the health care team is also appealing in today’s society and in the context of the Affordable Care Act.”

A PA can move from one specialty field to another because there is no formal requirement for lateral movement.

“A PA can work with a primary care physician and then work with an orthopedic physician, as long as the orthopedic physician is willing to assist in the development of the education for that PA,” Guizado said. “They can go from one field to the next with minimal formal incursion.

This provides PAs with options and flexibility to move positions if they are unsatisfied with their current position or condition.

“PAs are recognized across all states, as long as you’re certified,” Guizado said. “You have to apply for a business license or a provider license, and then you are eligible for employment in that state.”

Job satisfaction for PAs is very high. They’re appreciative of the profession and what it has to offer, Guizado said.

“I think, personally speaking, there’s higher job satisfaction because the patients do appreciate what PAs do,” Guizado said. “Patients appreciate all health care providers, but it seems that the level of communication between a patient and a PA is a little bit different. And it’s not so much in the context of how much time is spent with patients; it’s what is said in the time that they are together. PAs have a tendency to speak to patients in regular, everyday terms, truly being a liaison for the medical community.”