Physician Assistant

At a Glance

Years in School (after high school graduation):


Hourly Wage:

$36.49-$74.01 (Mean $54.26)
*based on 2016 Alaska DOL data

One-page Description (PDF):

Physician Assistant

Professional Activities

Physician assistants (PAs) are highly skilled members of the healthcare team who are licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed M.D. The physician assistant functions in many capacities in the state of Alaska. In urban areas, they work in close association with a supervising M.D. However, in rural areas, they often work independently in a clinic, with their supervising physician stationed many miles away. Historically, physician assistants have been a major influence in the delivery of healthcare in rural areas and villages where access to care has previously been limited.

The physician assistant can be found in all medical and surgical specialties. They are trained to perform physical examinations, compile patient medical histories, and order and interpret diagnostic testing, including electrocardiograms, laboratory tests, and x-rays. PAs often perform therapeutic procedures (including suturing and cast application), develop and monitor patient treatment plans based on medical diagnosis, and counsel patients about preventive care and risk management. In the state of Alaska, PAs can prescribe medications and controlled substances (schedule two through five). PA training is that of a medical school model.

The Physician Assistant is among the top 10 fastest growing positions in the United States.  Physicians and institutions are expected to employ more PAs to provide primary care and to assist with medical and surgical procedures, as they are cost-effective and productive members of the health care team. PAs work in both rural and urban settings. A majority of PAs work in clinics and physician offices. Other settings in Alaska include tribal health organizations, hospitals and nursing homes.

Educational Requirements

  • Graduation from high school with coursework in science and math.
  • Completion of at least two years of coursework in the sciences. Some programs require a Bachelor’s degree prior to admission. Most PA programs require anatomy and physiology.
  • Acceptance into and completion of a 24-month PA program which includes coursework and clinical experiences.

Academic Programs

MEDEX Northwest has been training physician assistants (PAs) for Alaska’s communities since 1972. Students entering the MEDEX program are required to have significant health care experience prior to application. The MEDEX training model creates opportunities for second career students with prior health care experience (e.g. community health aides and practitioners, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, military medics, nurses, allied health workers) to move up into the health care practitioner role.

The two-year program is a collaborative effort with the University of Washington MEDEX Northwest Physician Assistant Program, developed in response to the need for practitioners in rural and underserved communities. The first year classroom portion of the MEDEX program is delivered in Anchorage and the second year consists of clinical rotations throughout Alaska and the Northwest region. The MEDEX program provides an opportunity for rural health professionals to further their professional development into PA practice.  One of the program’s goals is to recruit rural applicants who have a higher likelihood of returning to their home community thereby improving rural retention rates.

After completing the MEDEX PA program, students are eligible to sit for the National Certifying Examination for Physician Assistants. The University of Washington School of Medicine also grants a Physician Assistant Certificate upon successful completion of the program.

Students accepted into the MEDEX PA program, also have the option of getting a bachelor’s degree through UAA or UW. The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences Degree (BSHS), with a MEDEX Physician Assistant Track provides a BS degree to students who have completed the required education and clinical experience to work as a physician assistant.

For further information, contact:

MEDEX Physician Assistant Track:
Sandy Snethen, Administrative Assistant
University of Alaska Anchorage
3211 Providence Drive, BOC-3-Suite 205
Anchorage, AK 99508
Phone: (907) 786-5481

Rhonda M. Johnson, DrPH, MPH, FNP
Professor of Public Health
University of Alaska Anchorage
3211 Providence Drive-BOC 3-Suite 220
Anchorage, AK 99508-4614
Phone: (907) 786-6545

MEDEX Northwest
4311 11th Avenue NE, Suite 200
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98105
Phone: (206) 616-4001


State Contact:

Alaska Academy of Physician Assistants (AKAPA)
4450 Cordova Street, Suite 110
Anchorage, AK 99503
Phone: (907) 646-0588

National Contact:

American Academy of Physician Assistants
2318 Mill Road, Suite 1300
Alexandria, Virginia 22314-1552
Phone: (703) 836-2272

In order to view PDF files on your computer, you must have a PDF reader program installed. If you do not already have such a reader, you can download a free reader at Adobe's website: Download Adobe Acrobat Reader Software

Back to top