Navigating Travel Opportunities as a Physician Assistant

Working in healthcare, most clinicians may be aware of travel nursing, but they might assume other roles aren’t suitable for travel. Luckily, all kinds of healthcare professionals in different specialties and settings are needed throughout the country. As a result, traveling for work as a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or therapist has become more common. 

Physician assistants (PA) are directly involved in patient care and fall into this group of healthcare providers who can travel, so long as they get the right licensing. They get to work with a varied patient population and enjoy the added guidance of supervision from physicians. With all the perks of a traveling lifestyle, PAs can have the best of both worlds. 

As an integral part of any healthcare team, PAs work interdependently and take care of patients who come into hospitals or offices for anything from check-ups to emergencies — they have individual appointments, perform physical exams, order tests, and devise treatment plans. And, as for a physician assistant’s career path? The sky’s the limit due to a shortage of primary care clinicians in the United States. They can expect wages anywhere from around $58,500 to $177,500.

For these and other reasons, those who are considering a career as a PA may be interested in travel jobs, too. And, there’s an added perk — the leverage that comes with having in-demand licensing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of physician assistant roles is expected to increase by 27 percent between 2022 and 2032, and there may be up to 39,300 new roles open for PAs. That increase in positions makes this the perfect time to build on past healthcare experience and get licensed as a PA. 

The Role of a Physician Assistant (PA)

A physician assistant, or PA, is someone who is licensed to work under the supervision of a physician or doctor. Physician assistants hold advanced degrees (a master’s degree in combination with a bachelor’s degree) but do not have a doctorate in most cases. 

Physician assistants usually come from a medical or healthcare background of some kind. They often have hands-on clinical experience gained from work in another medical or healthcare position.

However, not everyone has that experience. If they don’t, clinical experience is a must before applying to PA school and completing a short (usually two-to-three-year) program. 

After graduating from school, a prospective PA will need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). It’s a five-hour-long test made up of 300 questions. Once they pass this test, the next steps are to get licensed through the state, get a National Provider Identifier (NPI) number, and register with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 

Can Physician Assistants Travel and Work?

For physician assistants who have the travel bug, you’re in luck. There are travel PA jobs that you can apply for all over the country. So, whether you want to live and work with patients in remote locations or you’re keen to be in a busy metropolitan city, you’re likely to find a travel assignment that’s right for you.

PAs work in a number of different environments and you can opt to work in one or more specialties such as:

  • Primary care
  • Intensive care medicine
  • Emergency medicine
  • General surgery
  • Dermatology
  • Occupational medicine
  • Gynecology

Travel PA Licensing

Keep in mind that traveling physican assistants will need to be licensed in each state you wish to work in. The good news is that the PA Licensure Compact is an interstate agreement that allows PAs to perform services in another member state. To work in the new state, you still need to notify the Compact Commission, fill out an application, and submit a background check. Once approved, you’ll be able to practice in a new area, opening up even more travel employment opportunities. You can read the full requirements here on the PA Licensure Compact website

The Benefits of Traveling as Physician Assistant

The job outlook for physician assistants looks excellent with 27 percent expected growth by 2032, so there’s plenty of time to get licensed and find a job. Since there is a physician shortage and high demand for people in healthcare, travel work will continue to be a prominent part of the industry, too. 

There are additional benefits to becoming a traveling physician assistant. For example, you will appreciate that traveling PAs tend to earn more than PAs who stay in one place. Travel PAs can expect to earn an average of $139,887 annually, while non-traveling PAs can expect to earn an average of $120,212. On top of that, many PAs have their housing and travel covered, which helps them save even more money while they work on new opportunities. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that traveling PAs have significant flexibility in their schedules. They may choose from contracts of different lengths, usually from three to six months at a time. Overall, being a traveling PA gives you plenty of opportunities to work with new people in different specialties.

While traveling, PAs may be exposed to different patient populations and new skillsets in various healthcare facilities. PAs can gain experience they may not have otherwise thanks to being with a larger group of professional colleagues. 

Travel PA Jobs with SHC

At Supplemental Health Care, we have a nationwide network of connections. As your career partner, we’ll help you find the right role, so you can expand your skills and career as a traveling physician assistant. Ready to find your perfect fit? Contact us to speak with our helpful staffing specialists and learn more about the open travel opportunities we have available.