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Are you considering a career as a physician assistant (PA)?* PAs are essential members of the healthcare team who work closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals to provide quality care to patients. Under the supervision of a licensed physician, PAs can perform many functions including patient evaluation, monitoring, diagnostics, therapeutics, counseling, and referral. Their scope of practice varies according to state laws, the medical setting, and the training of the physician assistant.

One exciting aspect of becoming a PA is the opportunity to specialize in the area of medicine that interests you. Let's look at some of these specializations to help you understand your options.

1. Emergency Medicine

In emergency medicine, PAs work in fast-paced environments like emergency rooms and urgent care centers. They treat patients with acute illnesses or injuries, such as heart attacks, broken bones, or severe infections. Physician assistants in this field must think quickly on their feet and remain calm under pressure to provide life-saving care in critical situations.

2. Internal Medicine

Internal medicine PAs focus on preventing, diagnosing, and treating adult diseases. They often work in outpatient clinics or hospitals, helping patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Internal medicine PAs develop long-term relationships with patients and support them as they navigate complex medical issues.

3. Family Medicine

Family medicine PAs provide comprehensive care to patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. They treat a variety of medical conditions and often serve as the first point of contact for families seeking healthcare services. Family medicine PAs emphasize preventive care and health maintenance, promoting wellness and addressing acute and chronic health concerns within the context of the family unit.

4. Women’s Health

Physician assistants specializing in women’s health focus on the unique healthcare needs of women across the lifespan. They provide reproductive healthcare services, including prenatal care, family planning, and gynecological exams. Women’s health PAs also address issues such as menopause, hormonal imbalances, and reproductive cancers, offering compassionate and personalized care to their patients.

5. Pediatrics

Pediatric PAs specialize in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. They work in pediatric clinics, hospitals, and specialty practices, diagnosing and treating childhood illnesses, injuries, and developmental concerns. Pediatric PAs collaborate closely with pediatricians and other healthcare professionals to ensure the health and well-being of their young patients.

6. Surgery

Surgical PAs assist physicians with surgical procedures in the operating room and during pre- and post-operative care. They play a crucial role in surgical teams, helping to prepare patients for surgery, assisting during procedures, and providing follow-up care. Surgical PAs must possess strong technical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work effectively in high-pressure environments.

7. Behavioral Medicine

Physician assistants specializing in behavioral medicine diagnose and treat mental health conditions and behavioral disorders people across the lifespan. They work in psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics, and community mental health centers, providing therapy, medication management, and support to patients struggling with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Behavioral medicine PAs are vital to promoting mental wellness and helping patients achieve optimal psychological health.

Exploring Your Options and Planning Your Next Steps

The physician assistant field offers a range of specialty options, each with unique challenges and rewards. Whether you're drawn to the fast-paced environment of emergency medicine, the continuity of care in family medicine, or the surgical precision of the operating room, there's a PA specialty suited to your interests and passions in healthcare.

In addition to doing your own research, you can explore these specializations during a Master of Science in Physician Assistant program. Your courses and clinical rotations can help you discover the best path for your goals, interests, and skills. If you’re interested in becoming a PA, explore our PA program page or request information to speak with a South University Admissions Representative about our program.

*It is up to each student to review the national and state licensure requirements for licensure, as well as the eligibility criteria to sit for licensure exams. South University cannot guarantee each graduate will pass the required licensure examinations. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University. Students must pass the required licensure to work in their respective field.

South University does not promise or guarantee licensure or employment.