How Much Do Physician Assistants Make?

August 25, 2023

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There are numerous benefits to working in the medical field, including the chance to offer comfort and healing to those in need, strong and sustained job security, and highly competitive salaries. While nurses and physicians are the most traditionally known roles in medicine, the healthcare job market has changed significantly over the past few decades. More healthcare provider opportunities exist now than ever before, so you’re able to select a career that truly fits your knowledge, skills, passion, and goals.

One of the fastest-growing and well-compensated careers in healthcare today is a physician assistant (PA). Not only does the role allow you to operate much in the same way as a certified Doctor of Medicine (MD), but you’ll also enter into a career with extensive job demand and considerable flexibility. But how much do physician assistants make? The average income for physician assistants is twice the national average for all career fields and higher than many other comparable medical careers.

Check out our blog: What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistant average income and wage

There are multiple ways to look how much physician assistants make as you consider your future earning potential. One method is to examine national averages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to current data from the BLS, physician assistants in the U.S. earned an average of $121,530 per year.

Comparatively, nurse practitioners earned an average of $123,780 per year. Although nurse practitioners’ and physician assistants’ roles often intersect, the two career paths have considerable differences. When you work as a physician assistant, your training and duties are far more similar to those of a physician.

Other data sources offer a different but also positive view of physician assistant earnings. US News and World Report, for example, shows that the top 25 percent of physician assistants earn over $131,740 per year, on average. Complementing its good news around the physician assistant career, U.S. News and World Report also lists the physician assistant role at #2 in its Best Healthcare Jobs category, #4 among its Best Jobs category, and #4 in its Best STEM Jobs category.

Meanwhile, Payscale lists the physician assistant salary in California at around $128,810. Its data also shows the top 10% of PAs in California earn over $144,000 per year.

What is the average physician assistant’s hourly salary?

How much do physician assistants make an hour? It depends on your specific job title within the field. But according to current data from the BLS, physician assistants in the U.S. earned an average of $58.43 in hourly wages in 2021.

How many hours do PAs work in a week? 

Most physician assistants work an average of 40 hours a week. This traditional full-time distribution of hours gives PAs more flexibility in their schedules and careers than MDs who are on call may have. 

While physician assistants still work in direct patient care jobs, they have more freedom in their time working and their time away from healthcare settings.

Physician assistant job outlook

The BLS predicts strong job demand for physician assistants over the next decade. Current data shows there were 139,100 individuals employed as physician assistants in 2021. The industry is expected to see a nearly 28 percent increase in jobs by 2031.

How to earn more as a physician assistant

If you’re interested in becoming a physician assistant, you may want to consider learning a specialization. Physician assistants work alongside and under the supervision of certified physicians in all areas and specialties. As is common in the medical field, physician assistants can make more money with specializations.

Some of the highest-paying PA specialties include:
  • Dermatology
  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Medicine
  • General Surgery
  • Hospital Medicine
Some PA roles have average salaries that fall well below the top-paid physician assistant specialties, including PAs in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and adolescent medicine. However, every physician assistant specialty pays an average annual salary that’s considerably higher than the national average for all careers.

How to become a physician assistant

There are three major steps required to become a practicing physician assistant:

  1. Graduate from an educational program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA)
  2. Take and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) to gain national certification
  3. Apply for and be granted a state license to practice medicine

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPA) program at Keck Graduate Institute is an excellent way to begin your journey toward landing a fulfilling physician assistant job. As a student in KGI’s MSPA program, you’ll learn in an enriching and engaging environment from experienced educators, medical industry professionals, and actively practicing clinicians.

The program also offers hands-on learning in some of Southern California’s best-rated hospitals and medical facilities. You’ll be placed in a distinctly interdisciplinary environment as you work together in teams with KGI’s pharmacy, genetics, occupational therapy, medical device engineering, and future MD students to solve complex problems within the field of medicine.

Your journey with KGI doesn’t end with the degree. Career counselors will assist with job placement and help you navigate your way with guidance in resume writing and interviewing.

To learn more about careers you can have as a physician assistant, download our career guide, There’s More to Medicine Than Meets the Eye: Your Guide to a Career in Healthcare and the Life Sciences.

To learn more about careers you can have as a physician assistant, download our career guide, There’s More to Medicine Than Meets the Eye: Your Guide to a Career in Healthcare and the Life Sciences.

Take your first bold step toward a career as a physician assistant. Contact KGI today to learn more about our MSPA application requirements, courses, and available financial aid.



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