Careers and Employability Service
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Physician Associate

The position of Physician Associate (or Physician Assistant in the US) is a relatively new role in the UK. Originating in the US to utilise the skills of medics from the Armed Forces who were leaving active service, it is becoming a mainstream medical profession in the UK.

At present, there are several hundred physician associates working in the UK, but this is expected to increase to around 3,000 by 2020, with 1,000 in GP practices, in-line with Government targets.

Your next steps

If you have questions about this course or the role of a physician associate and want to discuss it:



What does a physician associate do?

According to the Faculty of Physician Associates:

"Physician associates are collaborative healthcare professionals with a generalist medical education, who work alongside doctors, GPs and surgeons providing medical care as an integral part of the multidisciplinary team. Physician associates are dependent practitioners working with a dedicated supervisor, but are able to work independently with appropriate support."

The medical care they provide includes:

  • taking patient histories
  • examining and diagnosing patients
  • formulating and carrying out patient treatment and management plans

Physician associates are employed in acute hospital settings, in both medicine and surgery, as well as in general practice. 

Due to existing legislation, they currently do not have the authority to prescribe, but this is something that is expected to change in the future.

Salary, progression and regulation

Physician associates can expect to receive a starting salary in the region of £30,000 per annum.

There is currently no structured career pathway, but with experience in this role, there is scope to develop your career further, and move into management, research, teaching, or further specialisation.

Compared to doctors, physician associates have much greater flexibility to move from speciality to speciality within their careers, e.g. from anaesthesia to paediatrics and general practice.

Physician associate examinations are run by the Faculty of Physician Associates, a department of the Royal College of Physicians.

In the future, the profession may be regulated by either the General Medical Council, or the Health and Care Professions Council.


Course providers and entry requirements

In 2013 there were only two course providers in the UK and now there are over 30 universities offering this programme.

Entry requirements are:

  • Must have a science, life science, bioscience or biomedical undergraduate degree
  • No requirement for UKCAT or GAMSAT, but this may change in the near future
  • Registered healthcare professionals such as nurses, midwives or allied heath professionals can become physician associates

Applicants must apply to each course individually (and not via UCAS).

The University of Nottingham does not offer this course.

Course providers

Nature of the course and funding

The course is a postgraduate diploma (PgDip) or MSc and is a two-year programme. Typical hours are 50-60 hours per week, six days per week, split 50/50 between taught and clinical practice.

Tuition fees for the PgDip course are typically £9,000 per annum. 

Financial support during training

There are some local arrangements in place with Health Education England, NHS Trusts or Clinical Commissioning Groups willing to sponsor students in certain regions, although there is currently a majority of students who are self-funding their study.

It is therefore essential that you check the arrangements with each university individually.



Useful websites



Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679