“Explosive Growth” for PAs Says the 2016 AAPA Salary Report

February 10th, 2017 4 Min read “Explosive Growth” for PAs Says the 2016 AAPA Salary Report Blog
The ranks of PAs continue to expand just as their presence in and importance to healthcare do.  Nationally certified and state-licensed professionals, PAs practice medicine alongside physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals in nearly every medical and surgical specialty throughout the US. Their training in general medicine provides them with a flexibility that enables movement across specialties and settings. It offers PAs career satisfaction and work variety that few other healthcare careers can match. These conclusions are reported in the 2016 American Academy of PAs Salary Report.

PA Training

PAs are educated at the graduate level, usually after obtaining bachelor’s degrees and undergoing an average of 4 years of healthcare experience. The rigorous, nationally-accredited graduate programs run 27 months, consisting of classroom and laboratory training and clinical rotations. The clinical rotations last a year and include the major specialties like internal medicine, family medicine, general surgery, emergency medicine, ob/gyn, pediatrics, and psychiatry. Graduates must pass a national certifying exam administered by the NCCPA and must acquire a state license before practicing medicine. PAs are then able to obtain patient medical histories, perform medical exams, order and interpret lab results, prescribe medications and other therapeutic interventions, perform office procedures, assist in surgery, and round in hospitals and other inpatient facilities such as skilled nursing facilities.

American Academy of PAsReport Findings

The 2016 AAPA Salary Report found:
  • Growth: “The profession has seen explosive growth in recent years” with 65 percent of the PA profession being under 40 years old.
  • Make-up: 87.2 percent of PAs are white, and the majority are female (69.4 percent), in line with a nearly 20 year trend.
  • Specialties: Three specialties account for employing nearly 40 percent of PAs: family medicine at 18 percent, orthopedic surgery at 10.9 percent, and emergency medicine at 10.5 percent.
  • Localities: PAs are authorized to practice in every state, US territory except Puerto Rico, and in Washington, DC. PAs predominantly (85.3 percent) work in urban areas.
  • Compensation: 78.3 percent of full-time PAs were compensated by salary, with a median annual pay of $97,000. Full-time PAs earning hourly wages reported a median pay of $55 per hour. However, self-employed PAs working as independent contractors and those working for staffing companies earned significantly above the median, $117,000 and $108,286 respectively.

2016 PA Salary ReportCompensation versus Inflation

Compensation for PAs kept well ahead of inflation with a median increase of 55.2% during the years 2000 to 2015. The total inflation rate for the same years was 37.6%. With a Bureau of Labor Statistics projection of a 30% increase in PA jobs from 2014 to 2024, a PA career looks to continue to be rewarding both in the array of available opportunities and the competitiveness of their compensation.

Compensation by Area, Specialty and Employer

The West Coast fared better than other parts of the US when comparing PA salaries. The West Coast PA median salary of $102,000 is above the national median, as was the Northeast at $97,500. The South’s $96,000 and the Midwest’s $95,000 were slightly below. Compensation is contingent upon other factors as well, like specialty and employer. PAs in surgical specialties topped the salary range, and critical care access hospitals paid the best with a median compensation of $120,000 per year.

Gender Disparity

“The 2015 median-base salary of full-time clinical practicing male and female PAs differed by $11,000. . .” the report says, “and the median bonus differed by $2,000. . . .” The disparity, according to the AAPA, starts with the first years of practice. The difference in initial salary becomes compounded over time with future employers basing pay in part on a PA’s previous salary. An analysis by AAPA finds that even when practice demographics and expertise are controlled for, salary differences between men and women exist.  Past research by social scientists has found that women are less likely to negotiate salary than men, so women prepared with this knowledge are encouraged to negotiate the highest initial salary possible.

Clinical Flexibility

A PA career offers flexibility not available to many others in healthcare. PAs can change work settings and even specialties with relative ease, giving them a variety of challenges for a better quality of life. This flexibility proves beneficial to employers as well. The ability to move a PA within an organization with changing healthcare needs can make such adaptability invaluable. The landscape of healthcare in the US depends on PAs like never before. As the landscape continues to shift and be redefined to meet patient needs, that dependence will only increase with time. The explosive growth of the PA profession in past years offers but a glimpse of the growth to come. PAs will continue to prove a crucial and even indispensable asset on healthcare teams across every specialty. Interested in a new PA job? Check out our job board.     


Chad Saley

Chad Saley

Chad Saley is a public relations manager at CHG Healthcare, the parent company of CompHealth.

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