Physician Assistant Salaries
Physician assistants in the same setting as an M.D. will almost always earn less per hour, but this must be weighed against the more expensive and lengthy schooling and the avoidance of administrative and legal details that doctors face.
A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008 report counted nearly 72,000 physician assistants in the nation earning a mean annual wage of $81,610. Less dense populations (Montana, Maine, the Dakotas and Nebraska) had a higher concentration of physician assistants (as much as .13% of the workforce) and the highest paid physician assistants were in Alaska, Nevada and Connecticut, with the average salaries being just under six figures. Indeed.com put the 2010 average salary at $90,000, almost 40 percent higher than all other listed salaries, but less than for physician assistant in specialties like cardiac care or orthopedics. The American Academy of Physician Assistants’ 2008 survey found that newly licensed physician assistants could earn between $62,000 - $90,000 and the average salary for all full-time physician assistants was just about $90,000 a year.
Learn more about physician assistant education.
Insurance, pension, vacation and other benefits for physician assistants are similar to other employees in the same healthcare settings, but because they cannot operate their own medical practice, physician assistants are not eligible for the type of profit potential of owning a business. Nor, however, are they exposed to the risks of business ownership either.
Most physician assistants work an average of 40 hours a week, although this can vary widely depending on the practice. OB/GYN physician assistants in a remote community may need to be available at any time to help delivery a baby, and professionals performing lengthy surgeries cannot leave the operating room just because the eight-hour day is over.
In addition to the cost of renewing professional licenses, memberships in organizations and retaking the national exam, physician assistants must pay for continuing medical education classes. In some cases, however, the clinic, hospital or supervising doctor may sponsor these courses. Physician assistants may also have to purchase their own malpractice insurance, which can be very expensive in some high-risk specialties.
Learn more about physician assistant certification.
Being a physician assistant is not a stepping stone towards becoming a doctor. The years spent in physician assistant school are not credited toward a medical PhD. However, physician assistants may assume administrative, teaching or supervisory roles after some years of experience. With further education, a physician assistant might chair a department or program at a hospital. In the right situation and with the right supervisor, a physician assistant might even be able to switch specialties by seeking education in a different field.