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How Much Does a Physician Assistant Make?

Masked female physician assistant wearing a white lab coat and stethoscope consults with an elderly male patient while holding a tablet.

Whether you’re a seasoned physician assistant or just considering the path to becoming a PA, you probably know that this is a lucrative and rewarding career choice. On top of that, PAs tend to be very, very happy in their field. But don't just take our word for it.

According to U.S. News & World Report's Best Jobs of 2020 rankings, PAs snagged the #1 spot in the "Best Healthcare Jobs" category and the #3 spot for all jobs. (Meanwhile, physicians took the #5 and #7 spots, respectively.) In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports PA jobs are projected to grow about 31 percent between 2018 and 2028. While it’s not uncommon for a PA to earn a six-figure income, your actual earning potential will depend on several factors, including your employer, location, and specialty.

What’s the Typical Physician Assistant Starting Salary?

Entry-level PAs earn close to $90,000 per year on average, according to However, starting salaries will vary, depending on factors like your education level and location. For example, if you start your PA career in a high-paying city, you could earn 6 percent more than the national average.

How Much Does a Physician Assistant Make Per Year?

Most PAs are paid an annual salary. In 36 states, the average salary for a PA is more than $100,000. The typical PA salary can also vary by specialty. For example, PAs with an emergency medicine specialty earn more than $200,000 per year on average.

Average Physician Assistant Salary

According to 2018 data from the BLS, the average annual salary for a PA is $108,430. PAs who work in outpatient care centers tend to earn the highest salaries ($116,780), while those who work in ambulatory healthcare services earn the lowest ($97,540).

Physician Assistant Median Salary

The median salary for a PA is $108,610, with the top and bottom percentiles earning $151,850 and $69,120 per year, respectively.

How Much Does a Physician Assistant Make Per Hour?

Independent contractors and PAs who work in urgent care or emergency medicine are more likely to make an hourly wage than an annual salary. Data from the BLS shows that the average hourly wage for a PA is $52.13 and the median hourly rate is $52.22 as of May 2018. PAs who are paid hourly may also be eligible for overtime pay.

Breakdown of Physician Assistant Salaries by Specialty & State

There are several factors that can affect how high or low your salary is, including your particular specialty and location. Take a look at the infographic below to find out where PAs can make the most (and least) amount of money by specialty/work setting and by state:

Where physician assistants can make the most and least money by state and specialty

Specialty Salary Data Source: ZipRecruiter
State Salary Data Source: BLS, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2018

Didn’t see your state on that list? Here’s a table with the full set of BLS data on PA salaries by state and includes figures for the District of Columbia as well:

Average Physician Assistant Salary by State

State Average Hourly Rate Average Annual Salary
Alabama $44.66 $92,880
Alaska $58.78 $122,260
Arizona $48.84 $101,590
Arkansas $47.73 $99,280
California $56.36 $117,230
Colorado $49.41 $102,770
Connecticut $60.39 $125,610
Delaware $50.63 $105,300
District of Columbia $55.16 $114,740
Florida $50.93 $105,930
Georgia $49.61 $103,190
Hawaii $58.23 $121,120
Idaho $52.45 $109,090
Illinois $52.05 $108,260
Indiana $46.20 $96,090
Iowa $53.15 $110,550
Kansas $50.35 $104,720
Kentucky $43.75 $91,010
Louisiana $41.34 $85,990
Maine $52.90 $110,030
Maryland $52.01 $108,180
Massachusetts $52.26 $108,700
Michigan $53.00 $110,240
Minnesota $55.87 $116,200
Mississippi $39.01 $81,130
Missouri $45.42 $94,480
Montana $51.02 $106,130
Nebraska $51.30 $106,700
Nevada $56.18 $116,850
New Hampshire $53.40 $110,080
New Jersey $55.90 $116,270
New Mexico $52.22 $108,610
New York $56.25 $117,000
North Carolina $50.33 $104,680
North Dakota $51.61 $107,340
Ohio $50.68 $105,410
Oklahoma $50.10 $104,200
Oregon $54.60 $113,570
Pennsylvania $47.36 $98,510
Rhode Island $49.86 $103,710
South Carolina $49.86 $103,710
South Dakota $49.44 $102,830
Tennessee $42.16 $87,700
Texas $52.69 $109,590
Utah $49.38 $102,710
Vermont $51.21 $106,520
Virginia $47.76 $99,340
Washington $59.61 $123,980
West Virginia $50.09 $104,180
Wisconsin $51.89 $107,920
Wyoming $56.20 $116,890

Source: BLS, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2018

How Do I Become a Physician Assistant?

The path to becoming a PA isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth it for anyone looking for a high-paying, flexible career working with medical patients.

Like doctors, PAs are required to have a postgraduate degree and have experience working with patients before they begin practicing. However, students can generally complete PA requirements within two to three years, and residency training isn’t required.

According to the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), students typically have a bachelor’s degree and three years of healthcare experience before they begin a PA program. There’s no specific PA undergraduate degree, but most PA programs require behavioral science classes as prerequisites. It typically takes students 25 to 27 months to complete a PA program. Experience with patients may include prior work as a medical assistant, paramedic, registered nurse, surgical technician, or volunteering in the Peace Corps.

Like most colleges, costs of PA school have risen substantially in recent years. In 2017, the average cost of a PA program was $71,369 for resident tuition and $89,975 for non-resident tuition. Many students take out student loans to cover the costs of schooling. In fact, 65.2 percent of PA school students anticipated graduating with at least $75,000 in student debt, according to a report from the Physician Assistant Education Association.

PAs must also be licensed in the state where they practice. To obtain a license, they must graduate from an accredited PA program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). The PANCE exam must be taken after you successfully complete a program, and there is a $500 fee to apply. Once a PA is licensed, they’re able to switch specialties at any time without furthering their education.

How Is a Physician Assistant Different From a Nurse Practitioner?

While both professions are highly regarded, have autonomy to make decisions about patients — while still working under a physician — and make similar incomes, NPs and PAs consider themselves to be very different. PAs go to a medical-focused school, while NPs go to nursing school and get an advanced degree. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two professions:

Physician Assistant Nurse Practitioner
Medical school or medical-focused school (but six years of school, rather than physicians who go for nine) Nursing school with an advanced degree
Disease-centered model Patient-centered model
Focus on biologic and pathologic health Focus on disease prevention and health education
Practice assessment, diagnosis, and treatment Handle assessment, diagnosis, and treatment
Generalized education, but can specialize in emergency medicine, orthopedics, and general surgery Often specialize in a particular area (e.g., geriatric medicine, ICU, mental health, women’s health, etc.)
Always work under the supervision of a physician Depending on state laws, NPs have varying levels of freedom diagnosing and prescribing medications without a physician’s supervision

Image courtesy of Trade

Last updated on Dec 01, 2021.

Originally published on Jan 29, 2020.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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