How Much Does a Physician Assistant Make?

Since physician assistants work in different settings including clinics, hospitals, academic medical centers, federal penitentiaries and schools, their salary varies depending on the setting, the location, and other factors.

So, how much does a physician assistant make in the US?

Various sources are used by the US Government Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate the salary of a physician assistant.  Let’s take a look at the numbers to see if this career pays off.

An Overview of Physician Assistant Salaries

In May 2008, $81,230 was the median annual physician assistant salary. While those belonging to the lowest 10% earned less than $51,360, those in the highest 10% bracket had over $110,240 as their earnings. When various industries that employed the largest numbers of PAs in May 2008 were taken into account, the median annual wages showed the following results:

  • $74,200: Universities, professional schools and colleges
  • $78,200: Federal Executive Branch
  • $80,440: Offices of physicians
  • $84,390: Outpatient care centers
  • $84,550: Surgical and general medical hospitals

In 2008, the median income for PAs involved in full-time clinical practice was $85,710, as put forth by the 2008 Census Report of American Academy of Physician Assistants. In contrast, the report stated that the earnings of first-year graduates stood at $74,470.

Factors Affecting PA salaries

Several factors determine the salary of a physician assistant, some of which are:

  • Geographical location
  • Work setting
  • Specialty
  • Years of experience

However, while considering the salary of a physician assistant, it should be remembered that certain expenses of the professional are often met by the employers. This includes payment for the PA’s state licensing fees, credentialing fees, professional liability insurance, and registration fees with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).

Detailed Study of Factors Affecting PA Salaries

The earning potential of a PA depends heavily on the cost of living of a particular geographical location, so while large metropolitan areas offer a higher pay to physician assistants, rural areas offer lower wages.

The place of work is yet another substantial influence of the earning potential of a physician assistant. According to a study conducted in 2007 on the average salary of PAs, it was found that those employed in medical staffing firms earned more than their counterparts working in specialty hospitals. While the mean salary figures of PAs in General Pediatrics and Family Medicine was $64,475 and $69,733 respectively, it was between $102,170 and $90,130 for those in medical staffing firms.

Physician assistant salaries also vary greatly depending on their domain of specialty.

According to the 2008-2009 report by the American Academy of Physician Assistants where data was collected and analyzed for more than 30 specialties, it was found that the high paying specialties included cardiovascular/cardiothoracic surgery (mean total income being $110,468), dermatology ($104,474), neurosurgery ($98,024), emergency medicine ($99,635), and critical care medicine ($96,984).

At the other end of the scale were the lowest paying specialties, which included public health ($81,387), rheumatology ($81,224), nephrology ($80,842), obstetrics/gynecology ($79,229), and endocrinology ($78,956).

The American Medical Association conducted a survey in 2008 where the results showed how years of experience play a crucial role in determining the annual salaries for physician assistants. While PAs with more than 20 years’ experience could earn $79,307 – $100,320 as their mean annual salaries, those with 1 to 4 years’ experience had the earning potential of $63,405 – $77,196. The mean annual salary for PAs with 5 to 9 years’ experience was between $73,188 and $91,417, while it was between $76,470 and $96,398 for PAs with 10 to 19 years’ experience.

As with many other occupations, education also affects the salaries of PAs. It has been seen that physician assistants who have a higher level of education usually stay on the higher end of the salary pay scale as compared to their counterparts with fewer educational qualifications.

Now that you can answer the question, ‘how much does a physician assistant make,’ you are well-armed to make an educated decision about whether to pursue this field. 

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