The average physician assistant (PA) earns $56,000, which is more than many other professions, including: dental assistants ($43,000), physical therapists ($48,000), and licensed practical and Licensed vocational nurses ($53,000). On the other hand, some specialties with higher salaries are: clinical laboratory scientists and technologists ($76,000), cardiovascular and respiratory therapists ($74,000), and occupational therapists ($73,000).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician assistants have the third highest median salary in the United States, at $91,190. This is still a good amount higher than the median salary for other health-care professionals like nurses ($71,300), physician assistants ($80,500) and physical therapists ($89,420).
Generally physician assistants are hired to take care of patients’ needs in a healthcare setting. They’re responsible for things like examining a patient, administering medications, and performing simple, routine procedures, such as taking blood pressure. They also have basic medical knowledge, and are required to have a certain amount of formal education, usually at least an associate’s degree. Physician assistants can have a wide range of employment options by specialty, with some making more than others.. Read more about physician assistant salary by state and let us know what you think.The market for medical assistants is growing. PAs can help you with diagnostic tests, medical history, etc. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently 118,000 PAs employed. This number is expected to rise to 155,700 by 2029, an increase of 31%, as wages continue to rise. The median annual salary is $115,390 in 2020. Several key factors influence this growth, including location and which specialties pay better than others.
By estimating physician assistant incomes in different parts of the United States and comparing general physician assistant jobs to specialty jobs, you can get a better idea of what to expect if you aspire to a career as a physician assistant. Studying this information will help you decide whether pursuing a medical assistant degree is worth it – given the time and cost of education – and can help you maximize your average medical assistant salary.
The annual salary of medical assistants averages just over $100,000, according to several sources:
However, some IPs earn $10,000 to $20,000 more or less than the average, depending on where they live or what they specialize in. For example, your salary will likely be lower if you work in places like Oklahoma, Delaware, Iowa or Nebraska than in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts or California.
For most professions, location is important. Areas with a higher cost of living or a shortage of skilled labor typically pay more. Let’s look at two sources of information on PA salaries in different states.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collects wage data, these are the five states with the highest wages for medical assistants:
- Connecticut: $125,610
- Washington: $123,980
- Alaska: $122,260
- Hawaii: $121,120
- California: $117,230
These are the highest paid states for PAs, according to ZipRecruiter, which bases its numbers on recent job postings:
- New York: $120,653
- New Hampshire: $116,960
- Vermont: $110,559
- Wyoming: $107,725
- Maine: $107,514
Since BLS data reflect actual wages, they may provide a more accurate picture of average wages. ZipRecruiter is a great job search tool, but the data is about job openings, not actual salaries received or negotiated.
So let’s take a look at the states with the lowest wages in Pennsylvania, according to the BLS:
- Mississippi: $81,130
- Louisiana: $85,990
- Tennessee: $87,700
- Kentucky: $91,010
- Missouri: $94,480
Sometimes it’s not about how much money you make, but how far that money goes. Most states with lower wages have a lower cost of living. If someone earns $91,000 in Kentucky, his or her relative income may be higher than that of someone who earns $117,000 in California, for example.
Finally, let’s look at the median income of a medical assistant in the most populous states, where many medical assistants are likely to live:
- California: $117,230
- Texas: $109,590
- Florida: $105,930
- New York: $117,000
- Pennsylvania: $98,510
You should now have an idea of how your location affects your income. The states with the highest wages pay $10,000 to $18,000 more than the national average, and the states with the lowest wages pay $14,000 to $27,000 less than the national average.
Like doctors, medical assistants can specialize in a number of medical specialties. And just like that, they can get a higher salary for certain specializations.
A recent 2018 survey of 89% of all certified PAs conducted by the National Commission on Certification of Medical Assistants (NCCPA) found that these are the highest paying PA specialties in terms of average salary:
- Dermatology: $126,084
- Emergency room: $123,006
- CPR: $122,957
- Surgical subspecialties : $119,852
- General surgery: $112,396
It’s the PA majors who get paid the least:
- Adolescent Medicine : $90,588
- Pediatrics: $92,194
- Obstetrics/Gynecology : $96,244
If you rank the PA salaries from top to bottom by occupation, the difference is $36,000. These salaries are also in line with the salary scale for doctors in these specialties.
Medical assistants should choose the specialty that best suits them. Emergency medicine and surgery top the reimbursement list, but they can also be the most stressful. It’s best to choose a field of work that suits you, so you don’t burn out.
Judging by the income data, working as an AP is not a bad way to earn a six-figure salary. But to earn that income, you have a six-figure student debt.
A study by the NCCPA shows that the average debt for physician assistants is $112,500. However, this figure may be higher for many PAs enrolled in an accredited physician assistant program. At Student Loan Planner®, the average AP we recommend has $186,000 in student loans.
To decide whether to take on such debt, compare the average AP student’s debt to his or her potential income, then find out about public service loan forgiveness schemes for APs. PA loan repayment options can be confusing. So take the time to consider your options and decide whether it’s better to actively repay or make lower payments and seek maximum loan forgiveness through a PSLF or income-driven repayment plan.
The good news is that the career and income outlook for APs is very good, and there is certainly a student loan repayment strategy that can be tailored to your career, life, and financial goals.
PA revenue is likely to increase as the country approaches an expected physician shortage. The American Association of Medical Colleges estimates there will be a shortage of 40,000 to 100,000 physicians by 2030. Primary care will account for about 40% of this shortfall.
If this trend continues, physician assistants and nurse practitioners will be in high demand to fill this void.
If you’re considering becoming a PA, Student Loan Planner® advisors can help you figure out the best way to manage the student loans you may need to take out to pay for your education. And if you’re already a PA student and you’re struggling to figure out the best way to repay your loans, seek advice from an experienced Student Loan Planner®. We have helped dozens of IPs find a clear and optimal path.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the highest paying Physician Assistant specialty?
The highest paying Physician Assistant specialty is Cardiovascular Disease.
Can physician assistants make 6 figures?
Physician assistants can make six figures.
How much do PA’s make by specialty?
The average salary for a pediatrician is $187,000.