Things are looking up for physician assistants/physician associates (PAs) and their salaries since the pandemic, including many seeing a rebound in compensation since the early days of COVID. According to Medscape’s 2022 physician assistant (PA) compensation report, which surveyed over 5,000 PAs, more than half (55%) saw an increase in their income.
The COVID effect on employment was low
Although 80% of PAs reported that the pandemic didn’t affect their employment, 20% cited COVID as the reason they weren’t working, with 14% retiring earlier than planned.
PAs see increase in compensation
Last year, PAs saw a slight increase (2%) in total compensation. However, compared to 2020, their compensation has grown from $118,000 to $129,000 (9%), with an increase in base salary of 4%.
Men still earn more
Among PAs, men continue to earn significantly more than women, with male PAs being paid 8 – 12% more than their female counterparts. However, salaried women saw a bigger pay jump from last year than salaried men — from $117,000 to $121,000 (3% increase).
Although the gender pay gap for salaried PAs is narrowing, there’s still a significant gap between men and women who are paid hourly, with male PAs earning nearly 14% more annually than female PAs.
Many PAs feel fairly compensated
Although more than half (56%) of PAs reported feeling fairly compensated for their work, that percentage has dropped since last year, when 67% reported feeling fairly compensated. Not surprising, male PAs (61%) more often feel fairly compensated than their female counterparts (54%).
PA earnings by compensation type
According to the report, hourly PAs make 5% more than those who are salaried. However, regardless of being salaried or hourly, PAs with productivity/incentive pay earn significantly higher incomes.
PA earnings by specialty
Specialties like dermatology ($146,000), critical care ($140,000), and emergency medicine ($139,000) earn the highest salaries amongst PAs, with pediatrics ($115,000), family medicine ($121,000), and cardiology ($121,000) coming in at the bottom. That’s a 27% difference between the highest-earning specialty (dermatology) and the lowest (pediatrics).
PA earnings by work setting
PAs who work in an operating room or surgical work setting make nearly 17% more than those in a school or academic setting. And although emergency department and medical office didn’t make it to the top of the list, PAs in both those areas saw a notable earning increase from the previous year.
PA earnings by age and experience
Not surprisingly, with age and experience comes knowledge — and a salary increase. PAs who are 45 years or older make 10% more in total compensation. And the more tenured PAs reported to earn nearly 19% more than their less-experienced counterparts.
PA earnings by certification
Of the PAs surveyed, 28% of them hold Certificates of Adequate Qualifications (CAQ), with emergency medicine ranking at the top of the certifications. On average, those who have CAQs make slightly more than those who don’t. However, the average earnings for both CAQ holders and non-CAQ holders increased nearly 2% from the previous year.
PA earnings by education
Although eight in 10 PAs have a Master’s degree, those with a Bachelor’s degree have the highest earning potential. A couple of possible factors contributing to the lower earnings for those with Master’s degrees include:
- Many are younger than 45 years old and have less than 10 years of experience
- Seventy percent are women
PA earnings by location
PAs in the Pacific region earn 23% more than those in the East South Central. However, two regions saw a significant increase in earnings from the previous year — West South Central ($126,000 to $133,000) and Mid-Atlantic ($124,000 to $131,000)
Outlook for PA compensation
The ongoing provider shortage means PAs will continue to be in high demand. PA interested in increasing their earning potential may want to consider pursuing additional education and/or certifications or employment opportunities in locations or settings that offer higher pay.