Each year, Medscape releases its Physician Assistant Compensation Report, evaluating trends and insights related to physician assistant (PA) income and earnings. For its 2023 report, Medscape surveyed more than 3,000 PAs across the United States for insight into salary, hours, job satisfaction, and challenges facing the profession.
One key theme that emerged from the 2023 report is that despite increasing salaries, a greater percentage of PAs feel unfairly compensated for their work — a trend which has steadily held since 2019. Even still, the survey found the majority of PAs surveyed were hopeful their income would increase. Read on for more insights and takeaways from the 2023 PA salary report.
Average PA salary increased in 2022
Nearly 60% of PAs surveyed reported increased income over last year’s earnings, and an additional 33% reported their income remained the same. Average PA compensation rose approximately 4% to $134,000, compared to $129,000 in the 2022 report. This figure represents an increase in both base income and annual bonuses.
Did PAs earn more in 2022?
On average, experience translates to higher income — with PAs aged 45 or older out-earning their younger counterparts by more than 13%.
An increasing number of PAs don’t feel fairly compensated
Despite these compensation gains, only half (50%) of PAs surveyed say they feel fairly compensated, a figure which has steadily dropped over time from 74% in the 2020 report.
Do PAs feel fairly compensated?
The feeling of being fairly compensated did not vary by gender and age. Male and female PAs, as well as PAs of every age group, were equally divided in their feelings on fair compensation.
Experts say fair compensation should take into account the time it takes to perform “non-income producing” tasks, such as returning phone calls and reviewing labs. PAs who feel adequately compensated for the full breadth of their work responsibilities are more likely to feel fairly paid.
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PAs paid hourly earn higher wages than salaried PAs
The majority of PAs (93%) are employed by a medical group or hospital system. Self-employed PAs, including those working locum tenens full-time and others who are paid on an hourly basis, represent just 7% of the PAs surveyed for the Medscape report.
Of those surveyed, those earning an hourly base salary (before productivity bonuses) earned more vs. salaried PAs ($135,000 compared to $128,000). And experts suggest hourly pay generally translates to higher job satisfaction, with providers feeling more fairly compensated for their work.
Who earns more: salaried or hourly PAs?
Jason Raehl, a locum tenens PA specializing in orthopedic surgery, says one major benefit of locum tenens is being paid on an hourly basis.
“The hourly rate [for locums] is higher in general and you’re getting paid on an hourly basis, so it’s nice that when you work, you get paid for the work,” says Raehl. “If you have a heavier week, you’re rewarded for that work and you’re rewarded for being called in. That’s not always the case in the medical profession, so that’s a huge benefit.”
PA pay varies by practice setting
PAs work in a range of practice settings and pay varies slightly by setting. The greatest number of PAs surveyed work in a medical office or clinic (46%), with emergency department/urgent care (15%), acute care hospital/inpatient unit (14%), and operating room/surgery (10%) rounding out the top four.
PAs working in operating rooms and surgical settings reported an average salary of $145,000 per year. PAs working in medical offices and clinics reported an average salary of $129,000 per year, a figure which increased from $124,000 in 2021.
How much PAs earn in different practice settings
Raehl says the ability to work in different practice settings was a major consideration that drew him to the profession initially.
“The reason I decided to become a PA is for the unique opportunities that being a PA presents — including the ability to work with a wide range of patients in a wide range of settings, and being able to have mobility in specialties, as well.”
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PA income is highest on the West Coast
PAs practicing in the Pacific region of the United States (which includes Alaska and Hawaii) command the highest salaries, $152,000 per year, on average. However, experts state that the high cost of living in these areas typically offsets the higher PA incomes earned here.
PAs in the East North Central region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) generally earned the least, with an average reported salary of $122,000 per year in this area. Experts add that even in regions considered to have lower earning potential, PA salaries can be negotiated.
What PAs earn in different parts of the United States
And, PA compensation remained fairly consistent regardless of the community type, whether in an urban, suburban, exurban, or rural area.
For more findings, view the full 2023 PA Salary Report report here.
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