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Physician Assistant Salary Basics
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
Doctors at busy practices can look after more patients by offloading some of their work to physician assistants. These medical professionals, also known as PAs, can diagnose and treat medical conditions but only with the supervision of physicians. They are not the same thing as medical assistants who perform clerical work and some minor medical tasks, such as checking blood pressure. PAs earn according to their employer and where they work.
Physician assistants receive their salaries by supplementing the medical tasks of doctors. They can order such tests as x-rays, determine an initial diagnosis to be confirmed by the supervising physician and prescribe medicine. The state in which they work defines what tasks they can do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, PAs earned a mean $89,470 per year, or $43.01 per hour, as of May 2011. However, pay for the top earners went beyond $120,060 annually, or $57.72 hourly, while the lowest earners received less than $60,690 yearly, or $29.18 per hour.
The employers boasting the most opportunities for PAs were at doctors’ offices, where 47,600 out of the total 83,540 professionals received means of $89,860 per year, or $43.20 per month. PAs wanting the best pay gravitate toward specialty hospitals that did not cover psychiatry or addiction. Averages here ran $96,880 yearly, or $46.58 hourly. Other high paying employers were:
- scientific research and development services
- employment services
- outpatient care centers
- office administrative services
Some PAs assume supervisory roles by overseeing the work of medical assistants and medical technicians.
Urban areas offered more jobs and but not necessarily higher pay than their rural counterparts.
- New York City held the most jobs, with 4,560 PAs averaging an annual $95,580, or an hourly $45.95. Compare this to the 340 jobs available in the non-Western parts of North Carolina, the rural region with the most jobs. Pay here was a mean $91,380 per year, or $43.93 per hour.
- For cities with the best paying employers, Glen Falls, New York, topped the list with mean at $86,390 yearly, or $41.53 hourly, but for only 140 individuals. The best paying non-metropolitan area was Southern West Virginia, were averages reached $132,490 per year, or $63.70 per hour.
Note that in many rural areas, the physician’s assistants may act as primary care doctors, referring only the more complicated conditions to doctors.
Physician assistants enjoyed relatively high wages among medical practitioners, only second to doctors and specialists.
- Compare their averages to the mean wages of $72,730 per year, or $34.92 per hour for all 7.51 million healthcare practitioner and technical occupations.
- General practitioners averaged $177,330 annually, or $85.26 yearly. The highest paid profession in the country belonged to anesthesiologists, who received a mean $234,950 per year, or $112.96 per hour.
- Registered nurses received a yearly $69,110, or hourly $33.23, on average, while medical assistants earned a mean $30,170 per year, or $14.51 per hour.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees employment for PAs jumping by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is slightly more than the 26 percent forecast for all health diagnosing and treating practitioners, and more than double the 14 percent of all occupations.