Physician’s Assistant SalaryCareer as a Physician’s Assistant

By Diane Turner

Currently there are over 84,000 Physician’s Assistants in the United States that conduct physical examinations, counsel patients and provide accepted treatment under the supervision of a physician or surgeon.  In addition, they diagnose illnesses and determine the cause and/or treatment of injuries.  In most states, Physician’s Assistants are allowed to prescribe medications and perform all the activities that are normally associated with the physician under whom they work.  Physician Assistants is one of the highest paying and continuously growing career field available today.   With the advent of the new National Healthcare system, which will be in full force and effect as of January 2014, the need for Physician’s Assistants is estimated to grow more than 40% over the next ten years. 

Becoming a Physician’s Assistant requires a minimum of a Master’s Degree with a Bachelor’s Degree as a Registered Nurse at an accepted and accredited college or university.  Most employers require at least three years experience as a registered nurse in emergency room care, cardiac care or pediatric care before they will consider a candidate’s application.  Upon graduating with the Master’s Degree, Physician Assistants must pass licensing examinations in the state in which they wish to practice. 

While a career in Physician’s Assistant istrained in general and specialist fields, this occupation requires a higher than normal amount of personal and interactive skills, both with patient communications and with nurses and other staff.  Because of the wide latitude many Physician’s Assistants are granted, many find this a challenging and rewarding career that is interesting beyond salary alone. 

Job descriptions for Physician’s Assistants normally include the following: patient examination, diagnosis followed by treatment and management of patient’s care, order diagnostic tests, order or perform therapeutic treatment,  assist in family planning, emotional counseling and health maintenance, assist in surgery and complex medical procedures, visit with patients in hospitals, update charts and order medications or treatments as needed.  

Above average skills are required in active listening, critical thinking, reading comprehension, and the ability to rely on judgments to make decisions.  Physician’s Assistants careers depend on scientific rules and methods including above average inductive and deductive reasoning skills for problem solving.  Education requires a high degree of scientific theory, practical application and extensive labs.  The average wages are calculated for Physician’s Assistants salary by state. 

Physician’s Assistant Average Salary

The average salary for a Physician’s Assistantis currently $88,600.  It is important to keep in mind that there are several factors that can affect the salary of a physician’s assistant, including the region or city you are employed in as well as the type of physician’s assistant that you decide to be.

Physician’s Assistant Salary Factors and Influences

Physician’s assistant salaries can fluctuate for a variety of reasons. Understanding these reasons can help you choose a salary range most in line with your needs and desires.

Before we discuss the different influences on a Physician’s Assistant salary, let’s look at the range of salaries. Currently, the bottom 10% of physician’s assistant salaries average $60,700 a year. In comparison, the top 10% of physician’s assistant salaries average $120,100 a year.

However, when looking at salary trends, the salary for a Physician’s Assistantdata becomes extremely encouraging. For instance, in 2008, the average physician’s assistant made around $50,000 a year or $10,000 less than the bottom 10% of physician’s assistants make today.  To put it another way, the average physician assistant’s salary has increased 30% over the last four years! This is exceptionally steady growth and is projected to grow faster than any other career field in all industries combined over the next ten years. 

In fact, no other mainstream profession can boast the robust growth salaries in physician’s assistantover the same time period. This has made physician’s assistants an especially popular career choice.

The average salary of a physician’s assistant can be affected by a variety of factors. The most influential factors included the specific city or region you are in and whether or not you are hired into a general or specialty provider environment.

Demand for physician’s assistants greatly influence how much compensation you may receive as a physician’s assistants in a particular metropolitan or non-metropolitan area. If you live in a location with a high demand for physician’s assistants, you are more likely to receive a higher salary.  Conversely, if you are in a locale with a lower demand, you should expect to be on the lower end of the salary pay scale.

Here are some of the most in demand metropolitan areas for physician’s assistant and the average salaries for those cities.

Racine, Wisconsin: Average Salary:  $139,730

Gainesville, Georgia: Average Salary: $119,870

Orlando, Florida: Average Salary: $115,050

West Palm Beach, Florida: Average Salary:  $110,120

Seattle, Washington: Average Salary:  $103,370

Houston, Texas: Average Salary: $100,980

Los Angeles, California: Average Salary: $97,850

Baltimore, Maryland: Average Salary: $97,080

White Plains, New York: Average Salary: $95,580

There are several non-metropolitan areas also considered high demand regions for physician’s assistants and these are the average salaries for some of these regions.

Southern West Virginia: Average Salary:  $132,490

Southern-Central Belt North Carolina: Average Salary: $91,380

Lower Peninsula Michigan: Average Salary:  $82,870

Nonmetropolitan Kansas: Average Salary: $81,930

Western North Carolina: Average Salary: $69,080

It is important to note that the factors that influence higher physician’s assistant salaries are not always the same factors that influence job growth in any particular area.

For instance, while Baltimore has become a poster city for economic downturn in the last 5 years, it still pays a physician’s assistant an average of over $37,000 more than the average U.S. city.  Racine, Wisconsin has been below the poverty level with an average of 18% unemployment for more than ten years, the salary of a physician’s assistant is nearly double that of the U.S. average.

In general, the lowest paying areas for most career occupations are typically found in rural areas across the United States.  This is not necessarily the case for physician’s assistant as is seen in the instance of non-metropolitan areas of West Virginia and North Carolina with Physician’s Assistant average salary paying $40,000 to $50,000 over the national average.

For this reason, we encourage you to investigate average salaries for any particular city or region before making a decision on physician’s assistant as a career.

As for metropolitan areas, here are some that are on the lower end of physician’s assistant salaries:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Average Salary $63,810

New Orleans, Louisiana: Average Salary: $74,450

Charleston, West Virginia: Average Salary: $78,090

Washington D.C.: Average Salary: $80,610

Boston, Mass: Average Salary: $80,710

In spite of the specific cities and rural areas that are in the top and bottom of the pay range, the consistency of pay throughout a state may vary greatly.  These are the five highest paying states are on the East Coast and West Coast. 

Physician’s Assistants in Rhode Island: Average Salary $107,000

Physician’s Assistants in Nevada: Average Salary $102,190

Physician’s Assistants in Washington State: Average Salary $101,910

Physician’s Assistants in Connecticut: Average Salary $100,470

Physician’s Assistants in New Jersey: Average Salary $99,870

In addition to where you live, another factor in a physician’s assistant salary is dependant on the type of facility in which you work.  Currently the average physician’s assistant working in:  

Hospitals [state, federal or private]:  Average Salary: $89,500

Outpatient Care Facilities: Average Salary:  $88,160

Physician’s Offices: Average Salary:  $85,340

Government – other than hospitals: Average Salary: $85,170

Colleges, Universities and professional schools: Average Salary: $80,810

As you can note, working in a hospital can increase your income approximately 10% over working in an upper division educational facility.

Physician’s Assistant Salary Compared To Related Fields

Now, let’s compare the salary of a physician’s assistant to some related health care fields that require the same amount of education.

Average Physician’s Assistant Salary: $89,470

Average Registered Nurse Salary: $65,690

Average Physical Therapist Salary: $76,270

Average Occupational Therapist: $72,320

Average Speech Language Pathologist Salary: $66,920

As you can see here, the average salary for a physician’s assistant is on the upper end of related professional salaries with the same educational requirements.  It is these combinations of factors that have made physician’s assistant such an attractive career choice.

Physician’s Assistant Salary by State

Below are the five states that employ the most physician’s assistants and the average salary in each state.

New York: Average Salary: $93,600

California: Average Salary: $94,940

Pennsylvania: Average Salary: $70,960

Texas: Average Salary: $95,560

North Carolina:  Average Salary $86,460

Below are the five states with the highest concentration of physician’s assistants and their average salaries in the concentrated locations:

Alaska: Average Salary: $94,680

Maine: Average Salary: $96,160

West Virginia: Average Salary: $91,570

Idaho: Average Salary: $90,140

New York: Average Salary: $93,600

Keep in mind that “highest concentration” does not necessarily mean the best place for physician’s assistants. Areas with the highest concentration may mean less demand and more competition, depending on the area. Again, we always encourage you to investigate the salaries in any particular region or city where you would like to work.

Physician’s Assistant Types of Salaries

It is important to understand that Physician’s Assistant is a career field with opportunities in several specialties within the field. However, the average salary is dictated more by the facility, in which the activity is performed, such as doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, ect.   Each specific facility has its own income range.  Here are the most common industries with the average salary information and a brief description of the duties of the Physician’s Assistant in each category.

Physician’s Assistant Physicians’ Offices:Average Salary: $ 96,880

The Physician’s assistant who works in a Doctor’s office examine patients, orders treatment, prescribes medications, does follow-up exams and manages patient care.  This includes specialties as family services, orthopedic surgical office or general practice office.

Physician’s Assistant Outpatient Care Clinics:Average Salary: $ 92,450

When working in outpatient care facilities such as emergency clinics, family planning clinics or specialty care clinics such as orthopedic clinics, the physician’s assistant is responsible for all the clinical operations including diagnosing patients, treatment decisions, educating patients in management of their disorder and make referrals as needed.   Specialist’s fields such as surgical or orthopedic require a minimum of three years in that field and two years in general practice. 

Physician’s AssistantScientific Research & Development Industry:Average Salary: $93,330

There are openings in robotic medicine that overlaps between the research & development industry and clinical practice. Robotic medical procedures are a subcategory of surgical care.

Physician’s Assistant General Medical/Surgical Hospitals:Average Salary: $91,620

For Physician’s assistants working in general medicine in a hospital, the duties include patient rounds, writing prescriptions, ordering treatment, updating charts and following up with hospital staff on outcome of patient care. 

Physician’s Assistant Government Facilities – Veteran’s Care:Average Salary: $92,330

The physician’s assistant functions in the same capacity as in a general hospital or clinic setting since the facilities include both.  Often, there are positions for specialists in orthopedic and nuclear medicine. 

History of Physician’s Assistant

In early 1961, a physician from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina presented the concept of the creation of Physician’s Assistant as a new field within the medical community.  He described the position as one that was between that of a registered nurse with more than ten years of hospital experience and a physician with at least two years of experience after residency.  He created the first training class at Duke in 1965. By 1970, the AMA designed guidelines for educational requirements and certification procedures. 

Physician’s Assistant Salary Outlook – Conclusion

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, as the national healthcare system takes effect in full, the need for physician’s assistants will dramatically increase.  The AMA is estimating that the need for preventative medical care will require an increase in physicians or physician’s assistants more than 60% above the total number now in practice. 

As the needs in each region increase and physicians realize that they are unable to provide the level of care mandated by the health insurance laws, the demand for people in this field will reflect in higher wages even in areas that currently have not utilized physician’s assistants before now. 

It is estimated that the average Physician’s Assistant salary will increase by 20 – 25% within the next two years.  The consistent need for people to fill this role keeps the Physician’s Assistant salary higher than any other field over the next fifteen years according to Occupational Employment statistics estimations and expectations.