Physician Assistant

How Many Hours Do Physician Assistants Work? (PA Work Hours)

By May 7, 2020May 28th, 2020No Comments
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Have you wondered how many hours PAs work each week?

Maybe you’re trying to decide if you want to become a physician assistant, or you’re graduating from PA school, or maybe you’re just comparing the number of hours you work to other full-time physician assistants. Whatever the reason, we’re here to help!

Of course, if you are thinking about applying to a master’s degree PA program, there’s more to your decision than the number of hours you’ll work each week. However, it is a nice thing to know. Especially since the number of hours worked is a factor in establishing a healthy work-life balance and preventing burnout.

PA Work Hours Vary

It’s difficult to pin down an exact number of work hours for the general population of physician assistants since work hours depend on several variables. These same variables are important to other Advanced Practice Providers (APP), such as nurse practitioners. Each variable has an impact on the number of consistent hours PAs work, the average number of hours each week, and the highest number of hours expected.

Factors that Affect PA Work Hours

There are a number of variables that affect how many hours you might expect to work after graduating from your physician assistant program and passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Each variable has a separate effect on your work life, including the specialty you choose.


Your location has a significant impact on your practice. Different geographical locations attract different populations of people, and each difference will affect your practice and health care experience. For example, practicing in a city with higher numbers of older adults will likely increase your treatment of chronic illness and paperwork submissions to Medicare.

Scope of Practice

The scope of your practice will depend in part on your supervising physician. Their supervisory style will determine how many and how quickly you’ll see patients. For example, if your supervising physician requires a briefing after each patient, it will significantly slow your productivity.

Legislative Rulings

The U.S. uses a state-based medical regulation system to establish regulations that protect the health and safety of its citizens. The state medical board issues a license for the general practice of medicine and defines the policies and guidelines for practitioners. Your ability to perform certain procedures is controlled by decisions from your state medical board.

Work Environment

Your PA work hours and types of patients will also depend on your work environment. For example, PAs who practice in a clinic will work different hours and see different types of patients than those working in a medical center, private practice, or hospital. Additionally, in some specialties, physician assistants have a greater number of on-call and weekend hours.

No one type of work experience is better or worse, but they do help define the hours you’ll be working. Of course, you also have the option of working part-time to accommodate other family obligations.

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NCCPA Study on Physician Assistant Work Hours

While it’s difficult to pin down an exact number of work hours for PAs, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants can make some general statements. The NCCPA collected data on PA-Cs’ work hours from January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018. The data was self-reported and collected from the PAs’ Personal Profiles maintained by the NCCPA.

The NCCPA had 131,152 PA-Cs in their database as of December 31, 2018. Of those certified, data was taken from 117,280 PA-Cs. This represents a response rate of 89.4% of all certified PA-Cs, giving the data strong credibility.

The NCCPA gathered information from other sources as well, before publishing the 2018 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by Specialty. The scope of the information included the hours PA-Cs worked in their primary position, how many patients were seen in a typical week, and the number of hours the physician assistant was on call.

We used this information to inform our blog post. The information is presented as an average across all practices and then broken down by specialty.

As you read through each specialty’s work hours, it’s important to remember these are median and mean numbers, which are meant to represent the middle of the curve. Some PA-Cs will have worked more hours and others less to reach these values.

The mean is the average number of work hours. The average is found by adding all the hours worked by all physician assistants and then divided by the number of physician assistants reporting.

The median is a value that evenly splits the lower half and the upper half of the data. Half the number of physician assistants have worked more than the median and half have worked less.

Physician Assistant Work Hours by Practice

In the next tables, you’ll discover the mean and median number of hours PA-Cs worked as well as the number of patients seen per week. The information is first displayed as one table across all practices.

The subsequent tables display the hours by the most popular practice areas, including primary care, surgical subspecialties, emergency medicine, dermatology, hospital medicine, general surgery, and pediatrics.

The information was pulled from the PA Personal Profile of full-time PA-Cs. It included additional data, such as the number certified in the specialty, income range, education debt, and distribution of PA-Cs by age and gender. For the most part, the PA Personal Profiles reflected a greater number of women practicing across all specialties than men.

All Specialties

As of December 31, 2018, there were 117,280 PA-Cs who provided this information to NNCCPA. The information below represents all PA-Cs’ responses about their patient care work hours:

Median Mean
Hours worked in the primary position 40 40.4
Patients seen in 40+ hours per week 70 73

Hours Spent On Call

Weekly On-Call Hours Percentage of PAs
0 hours 64.8%
≤ 5 hours 16.7%
6-10 hours 6.1%
>10 hours 12.3%

Primary Care

Over half of the practicing PA-Cs in primary care, such as internal medicine or family medicine, worked in an office-based private practice. The mean income of PAs in primary care was $101,846 per year.

Median Mean
Hours worked in the primary position 40 38.9
Patients seen in 40+ hours per week 80 84

Hours Spent On Call

Weekly On-Call Hours Percentage of PAs
0 hours 62%
≤ 5 hours 21.8%
6-10 hours 5.8%
>10 hours 10.4%

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Surgical Subspecialties

In the surgical subspecialties, the gender split was close with 57.4% women and 42.6% men. Over 90% of these PA-Cs were hospital or office-based and their mean income was $119,852 per year.

Median Mean
Hours worked in the primary position 45 44.7
Patients seen in 40+ hours per week 50 60

Hours Spent On Call

Weekly On-Call Hours Percentage of PAs
0 hours 38.7%
≤ 5 hours 20.6%
6-10 hours 12.8%
>10 hours 27.9%

Emergency Medicine

The NCCPA data showed 85.4% of the practicing emergency medicine PA-Cs were in a hospital and only 6.6% were in urgent care settings. The mean salary for this PA-C speciality was $123,006 per year.

Median Mean
Hours worked in the primary position 40 38.6
Patients seen in 40+ hours per week 80 88

Hours Spent On Call

Weekly On-Call Hours Percentage of PAs
0 hours 88.6%
≤ 5 hours 6.6%
6-10 hours 2.0%
>10 hours 2.8%


The dermatology PA practice was 82.0% female and 92.6% office-based private practice. These numbers are likely not surprising. Their mean salary per year was $126,084.

Median Mean
Hours worked in the primary position 40 36.9
Patients seen in 40+ hours per week 115 118

Hours Spent On Call

Weekly On-Call Hours Percentage of PAs
0 hours 63.6%
≤ 5 hours 28.9%
6-10 hours 2.5%
>10 hours 5.1%

Hospital Medicine

The data showed that women made up more of hospital medicine PAs. The biggest gender disparity by far was in the 30-39 year age group, at 32.2% women to 9.6% men. However, by the next age group, the differences dropped to 13.3% women to 6.8% men.

Interestingly, the data found 0.9% of hospital medicine PAs were also practicing in an office-based private practice and 0.5% in a rehabilitation facility. The mean income for this PA-C specialty was $111,426 per year.

Median Mean
Hours worked in the primary position 40 42.7
Patients seen in 40+ hours per week 50 56

Hours Spent On Call

Weekly On-Call Hours Percentage of PAs
0 hours 76.5%
≤ 5 hours 7.7%
6-10 hours 4.4%
>10 hours 11.4%


In the last decade, pediatric practices have had a larger number of women than men practitioners. In 1990, there were nearly double the number of male pediatricians than females. However, by 2013 women outnumbered male pediatricians by 13,833. Similarly, the NCCPA’s recent data found that 83.6% of practicing pediatric PAs were female. Over 77% were based in the office and their mean annual salary was $92,194.

Median Mean
Hours worked in the primary position 40 35.7
Patients seen in 40+ hours per week 100 105

Hours Spent On Call

Weekly On-Call Hours Percentage of PAs
0 hours 61.7%
≤ 5 hours 17.3%
6-10 hours 7.7%
>10 hours 13.2%

Full battery and appleWork-Life Balance Is Important

As we have written before, establishing a strong work-life balance is important to preventing burnout. Since your education and job are rigorous and challenging, it’s important to have a plan in place to prevent burnout. Take this into consideration as you review the average and the median number of hours that physician assistants work.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a mental health condition that is exacerbated by long work hours, stressful job conditions, lack of support, and poor coping skills. You may experience symptoms including feeling alienated from work and home activities (depersonalization), body aches and pains, insomnia, emotional exhaustion, and poor work performance. Left unchecked, it can lead to a loss of Interest, potential medical errors, leaving the profession, or the deterioration of your relationships.

Develop a Healthy Work-Life Balance

There are several strategies you can use to create a healthy work-life balance. Some of these include:

  • Exercise – Exercising reduces your stress levels, increases your endorphins, and improves your sleep quality.
  • Nutrition – Good Nutrition improves your ability to withstand stressful situations.
  • Stress Reduction – Reducing stress prevents burnout. Find stress-reducing strategies that work for you, such as yoga, exercise, meditation, or engage in hobbies.
  • Sleep – Get quality sleep. Being well-rested decreases your risk of accidents, chronic disease, and experiencing high levels of stress.
  • Get Help – When your burnout prevention plan isn’t successful, consider getting professional help to reduce your risk of long-term consequences.

Are PA Work Hours Too Long?

The number of hours a PA-C works depends on a variety of factors, including geographical location, specialty, and the scope and type of practice. It’s also important to remember, the hours listed from the NCCPA data represent mean and median full-time work hours. There will be many who work a little more or less and others who choose to work part-time.

You have a personal definition of a strong work-life balance, which you must use to determine the career you choose. As you weigh your options, it’s important to remember the benefits that come from working in a field where you help others attain and maintain health.

As a PA, you have the opportunity to be the primary healthcare provider and develop personal and rewarding relationships with your patients.