Physician assistants are in high demand, and their salaries are increasing. In this article, we will explore how much PAs can expect to make in 2022. We will also look at the factors that influence salary, such as experience, location, and specialization. Finally, we will discuss the future of PAs and their earning potential and compare PA salaries to those in other healthcare professions.
AAPA Salary Report 2022
The American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA) is a professional society for PAs in the U.S. They advocate on behalf of the profession and patients and provide educational resources for PAs to advance their careers and improve their quality of care.
The AAPA Salary Report is a comprehensive report that surveys thousands of PAs across the U.S. and provides detailed information on salary, hourly pay, and bonuses. Often regarded as the authoritative source on PA compensation, the report is used by PAs, employers, and others to benchmark salaries, negotiate pay, and understand compensation trends. The AAPA Salary Report gathers on-the-dot salary amounts, as opposed to other surveys which ask about salaries in broad ranges, which leads to more accurate data. Additionally, the data is up-to-date, whereas the often-cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes reports that are sometimes three years old. This can lead to misrepresentations of trends, which was the case with data that included pre- and post-COVID figures.
So, how much do physician assistants make? We’ll first dive into AAPA data then look at other sources.
AAPA: How Much Does a PA Make in 2022?
The AAPA Salary Report is released annually, so the numbers for 2022 won’t be available until 2023. However, comparing the data from 2021 to 2020 can help give us an idea of how PA salaries have changed in recent years and what we can expect in the coming year.
Here’s some good news: The median base compensation for physician assistants has risen 4.5% from 2020 to 2021. This is after a slight decrease in PA compensation in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- AAPA 2020 figures: Median of $110,000
- AAPA 2021 figures: Median of $115,000
Additionally, PAs in leadership roles were paid more in 2021.
- AAPA 2021, PAs in informal leadership positions: Median of $117,000
- AAPA 2021, PAs in formal leadership positions: Medical of $129,911
AAPA on the Impact of COVID-19 on PA Salary and Workplace
The president of AAPA has stated that, despite the challenges and immense strain put on the U.S. healthcare system in 2020-2021, nearly 80% of PAs feel optimistic about their profession.
Though PAs are optimistic about the future of their work, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still felt across the profession and will be for some time. Just under 50% of PAs surveyed in 2021 reported symptoms of burnout.
Professional development funds, which are used to pay for things like additional training and supplies, are reported to have rebounded from the pandemic, paralleling pre-pandemic figures.
The AAPA also reports that telemedicine services are still used by 61% of PAs.
Unfortunately, staff shortages continue to be a prevalent issue in healthcare. According to the AAPA, 88% of PAs surveyed are experiencing staffing shortages in their place of work. The AAPA believes that advocating for expanding the scope of practice for PAs can help to alleviate some of the strain on the healthcare system.
AAPA: PA Starting Salary and Part-Time vs Full-Time
According to the AAPA, 68% of students in PA degree programs expect $80,000 to $100,000 salaries. Of recently certified physician assistants, 22% report that the minimum PA starting salary they will accept is $100,000. Of the PAs who have accepted their first healthcare job, 35% earn over $100,000. So, according to many student and recently certified PAs, the answer to the question of how much does a PA make is $100,000 a year at minimum.
The mean base salary for part-time PAs is $78,000 with the mean hours per week worked being 24. The average physician assistant hourly pay for this percentile is $55 and bonuses are usually $3,000.
Full-time PAs, on the other hand, receive higher per-hour pay on average. The average physician assistant hourly pay for full-time employees (40 hours per week) is $60 and the average bonus is $6,000.
AAPA: PA Salary by Specialty
- Urology: $109,532
- Surgery, Subspecialty: $122,477
- General Surgery: $115,427
- Radiology: $113,440
- Radiation Oncology: $106,848
- Psychiatry: $113,417
- Public Health: $95,323
- Physical Medicine/Rehabilitation: $104,150
- Pediatrics: $94,526
- Pathology: $101,667
- Pain Management: $111,938
- Otolaryngology: $105,913
- Ophthalmology: $100,067
- Occupational Medicine: $111,286
- Obstetrics and Gynecology: $99,151
- Neurology: $104,933
- Internal Medicine: $105,081
- Hospital Medicine: $114,356
- Hospice and Palliative Care: $106,333
- Gynecology: $98,145
- Family Medicine/General Practice: $105,286
- Emergency Medicine: $125,110
- Dermatology: $129,246
- Critical Care Medicine: $125,522
- Anesthesiology: $107,421
- Adolescent Medicine: $91,045
- Addiction Medicine: $113,864
What Other Sources Say About PA Compensation
The AAPA Salary Report isn’t the only source of information on PA compensation. Here’s what other data has to say about how much PAs make.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a federal government agency that collects data on employment and wages in the U.S. Their most recent estimates for 2021 show 132,940 employed PAs. Physician assistant hourly wage is, on average, $57.43. The mean annual pay is $119,460.
Here’s a breakdown of BLS’s percentile wage estimates for physician assistant hourly wage:
- 10% — $37.47/hr
- 20% — $48.02/hr
- 50% — $58.43/hr
- 75% — $63.34/hr
- 90% — $79.14/hr
And percentile wage estimates for PA annual pay:
- 10% — $77,940/yr
- 20% — $99,880/yr
- 50% — $121,530/yr
- 75% — $131,740/yr
- 90% — $164,620/yr
Finally, here are average PA wages by industry profile according to BLS:
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: $100,850
- Outpatient Care Centers: $129,910
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $122,870
- Offices of Physicians: $117,370
- Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $113,980
The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) also reports an increase in pay for PAs in 2022.
- NCCPA 2021: Average of $113,186
- NCCPA 2022: Average of $115,470
And here are the numbers for the median PA compensation according to NCCPA:
- $115,470 a year
- $9,623 a month
- Equal to $55.51 hourly
High-earning physician assistants are also on the rise. Since 2016, the number of PAs making more than $200,000 a year has doubled. Overall, PAs have seen an average increase of 10% in pay during this time.
Here is a breakdown of average PA compensation by specialty:
- Orthopedic Surgery: $122,477 annually, $10,206.42 monthly, $2,355.33 weekly, $58.88 hourly
- Emergency Medicine: $125,110 annually, $10,425.83 monthly, $2,405.96 weekly, $60.15 hourly
- Family Medicine: $105,286 annually, $8,773.83 monthly, $2,024.73 weekly, $50.62 hourly
- Critical Care Medicine: $125,522 annually, $10,460.17 monthly, $2,413.88 weekly, $60.36 hourly
- Dermatology: $129,246, $10,770.50 monthly, $2,485.50 weekly, $62.14 hourly
Clinical Advisor Data
Clinical Advisor’s 2021 NP and PA Salary Survey reports the following figures:
- Average salary: $116,373
- 44% of PAs report raises
- 27% earned less during the height of the pandemic, 15% earned more
- 54% satisfied with pay
- Western U.S.: $130,255
- Southern U.S.: $111,235
- Insufficient data for other regions
- Urgent Care: $116,500
- Internal Medicine/Family Medicine/Primary Care: $102,727
- Emergency Medicine: $131,154
- Orthopedic Surgery: $126,250
- Adult Medicine: $118,231
- Oncology/Hematology: $143,429
- Other: $111,016
Clinical Advisor also reports that their figures indicate a gender wage gap for physician assistants:
- $127,139 average for men
- $113,236 average for women
- $102,500 average for nonbinary
- $72,000 for transgender
PA Starting Salary
The average entry-level salary for physician assistants is $81,410. Most PA students expect a salary between $80,000 and $100,000 when they enter the workforce. Of PAs that are certified by not yet accepted a position, most say their minimum salary is $100,000.
PA Benefits in 2022
Most full-time PAs receive non-salary benefits:
- 51% receive an average bonus of $6,000
- 87% receive professional development funds
- Majority of PAs receive liability, health, and dental insurance from employer
How Do PAs Compare to Other Healthcare Professionals?
Let’s take a look at how PAs compare to some other popular healthcare professions in terms of pay.
PAs vs. NPs
Physician assistants and nurse practitioners (NPs) are often compared to each other, as they both provide similar patient care services and similar pathways to certification that do not require medical school. However, NPs are permitted to practice without physician supervision in more states than PAs. Additionally, PA education tends to be more generalized while NP education is more specialized. The difference in the starting salary for PA vs. NP is usually less than $10,000.
Here is a comparison of the two professions (PA vs NP) in terms of pay:
- Nurse Practitioner Entry-Level Salary as high as $117,000
- Physician Assistant Entry-Level Salary as high as $142,000
From the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Average NP Entry-Level Salary: $81,410
- Average PA Entry-Level Salary: $72,720
- Average NP Hourly Pay Rate: $53.77
- Average PA Hourly Pay Rate: $54.04
- Average NP Annual Salary: $111,840
- Average PA Annual Salary: $112,410
The statistics from BLS indicate that starting pay for NPs is higher, but the average salary for employees with experience is higher for PAs.
Average annual pay for nurse practitioners by the level of experience:
- 1-4 Years of Experience: $81,410
- 5-9 Years of Experience: $92,790
- 10-19 Years of Experience: $127,030
- 20 Years or More Experience: $152,160
Average annual pay for physician assistants by the level of experience:
- 1-4 Years of Experience: $92,800
- 5-9 Years of Experience: $112,260
- 10-19 Years of Experience: $130,530
- 20 Years or More Experience: $157,120
In most states, NPs and PAs receive comparable pay, with variances of a few thousand dollars, generally. NPs make more than PAs in 28 states on average. PAs earn more in 22 states.
According to the BLS, there are 16,900 job openings annually for nurse practitioners, compared to 11,500 for physician assistants. However, job growth for PAs is expected to increase by 31% and 28% for NPs. The BLS expects the nurse practitioner workforce to be 242,400 by 2028. The number of PAs is expected to reach 155,700 by 2028.
It’s important to keep in mind that these trends are based on averages and medians. Salary will vary based on factors such as experience, geographic location, employer, and specialty.
PAs vs. MDs
Physicians (MDs) tend to make double what PAs make on average. Physicians, however, spend 7-11 years in medical school and residency, graduate with more student debt, and work longer hours. Full-time PAs generally work no more than 40 hours per week. The average MD works over 50 hours a week with a more inconsistent schedule that usually includes nights. A fourth of MDs work 60 to 80 hours a week. Both MDs and PAs can be on call, which requires being available for emergencies outside of normal work hours.
The median pay for MDs is equal to or greater than $208,000 a year ($100/hr). For PAs, the median is $112,410 a year ($54.04/hr).
Physician pay varies widely depending on specialty. Plastic surgeons, for instance, make up to $500,000 a year. On average, surgeons earn $252,040, anesthesiologists earn $261,730, and psychiatrists earn $220,430 a year. Family/general MDs earn an average of $211,780 annually.
PAs vs. Speech-Language Pathologists
Just below NPs and PAs, and one place above MDs, speech-language pathologists are ranked #3 in 2022 for best healthcare jobs according to U.S. News and World Report.
Speech-language pathologists work with patients who have trouble speaking or swallowing. They assess patients, develop treatment plans, and provide therapy to help improve communication skills. A two-year degree and licensure is the minimum requirement to practice in most states.
In 2020, speech-language pathologists made an average of $80,480 a year. Higher earners saw salaries of $101,110 and low earners made $62,790. Job growth is expected to persist at 29% for this profession.
While speech-language pathologists make an average of around $20,000 less per year than PAs, speech therapists report lower stress levels. They also report average marks for upward mobility and flexibility.
Tips for Getting Into Your Dream PA Program
If you’re interested in becoming a PA, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting into the program of your choice.
Pre-PA Internships: The Key to an Impactful Application
Clinical experience is essential for PA school applicants. In addition to giving you exposure to the field, clinical experience also make your application more competitive.
But not all clinical experiences are created equal. To make the most of your pre-PA internship, look for programs that will give you a well-rounded view of healthcare, provide unique learning opportunities, and offer specialization.
IMA offers pre-PA internships that combine service learning, clinical shadowing, and didactic experiences to create an immersive and effective learning experience. IMA also offers the opportunity for specialized studies, including programs for PAs interested in pediatrics, neurology, anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency care, and many more.
Pre-PA interns take part in our not-of-profit global initiatives and learn the ins and outs of healthcare systems while serving some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Our internships have helped launch thousands of healthcare careers and serve as a powerful centerpiece for applications and interviews.
If you’re applying to PA programs, clinical experience is a must for competitive applicants. Take a moment to learn about our physician assistant internships and please reach out if you have any questions at all.
PA School Admissions Consulting
There’s a lot that goes into a strong PA school application. In addition to academic excellence and clinical experience, your application will also be judged on your leadership experience, motivation for becoming a PA, and more. Your personal statement, application responses, and interviewing skills are all evaluated closely to gain a sense of who you are as an applicant and whether or not you’re a good fit for the program.
The admissions process is competitive and can be confusing, but our team of experts has helped countless pre-PAs successfully navigate the process and get into their dream programs. It’s true, the process can be daunting. But with the help of an admissions consultant, you can greatly increase your chances of getting into the PA school of your choice.
What is PA School Admissions Consulting all about? We work one-on-one with you to help you put your best foot forward every step of the way, from start to finish. We’ll help develop an overall application strategy, discuss the application process, edit your application materials, prepare you for interviews, and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about our services or getting started with a free consultation, you can learn more here.
PAs generally earn a great salary and report high levels of optimism for the future of their profession. If you’re interested in becoming a PA, the first step is to gain clinical experience through internships and other opportunities. Admissions consulting can also help you navigate the competitive admissions process and increase your chances of getting into your dream program.
Thank you for reading! We hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all.