How Much Do Physician Assistants Make?

Daniel Bal
Updated March 28, 2024
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Review the yearly salary of physician assistants, states and settings where they earn expect the highest pay, along with tips to increase earning potential.
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With competitive salaries and encouraging employment projections, becoming a physician assistant (PA) offers an attractive choice for prospective medical professionals.

The role features many of the same responsibilities as becoming a physician, such as prescribing medications, performing medical procedures, and developing treatment plans. However, becoming a PA takes less time and money.

This page details physician assistant pay, the highest-paying states and practice settings, and ways to increase your PA salary.

Average Salary for Physician Assistants

According to Payscale data from January 2023, the average physician assistant salary is $102,650. Depending on experience, physician assistant pay can range from about $92,000 for entry-level positions to $118,000 for people who spent 20 or more years in the field.

Factors such as practice setting, certification, and location can affect PA earning potential. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that the bottom 10% of PAs earn an average of $77,940, while the top 10% earn $164,620 annually.

Average Annual Salary
Source:Payscale, January 2023

Average Hourly Wage
Source:Payscale, January 2023

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The Highest-Paying States for Physician Assistants

According to the 2021 U.S. census, the top five most populous states are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. These five also happen to be the highest-paying states for PAs. Areas that have more patients tend to deliver higher pay.

The states with the highest annual pay for physician assistants are:

Highest-Paying States
StateAverage Salary
New York$131,810

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Workplaces for Physician Assistants

According to the BLS, physician assistants in settings with a steady stream of patients, such as outpatient care centers, hospitals, and primary care offices, tend to earn more than professionals working for the government or educational services.

Highest-Paying Workplaces
Workplace SettingAverage Salary
Outpatient care centers$128,430
Hospitals; state, local, and private$127,240
Offices of physicians$121,010
Educational services; state, local, and private$101,040

Source: BLS

3 Ways to Increase Pay As a Physician Assistant

Your PA salary does not have to be stagnant. You can increase your annual salary in several ways: Earning a certification, gaining administrative experience, or changing practice settings/geographic locations can help increase earning potential.

  1. 1

    Consider Pursuing Certifications

    The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) offers certificates of added qualifications (CAQ) in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, emergency medicine, hospital medicine, and nephrology.

    NCCPA also offers CAQ in dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic surgery, palliative medicine and hospice care as well as pediatrics and psychiatry. Nurses can also pursue CAQs in orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, and psychiatry.

    Before taking the CAQ exam in their chosen specialty, each PA must hold licensure from NCCPA and have completed continuing medical education hours — and a certain amount of experience — based on the specialty.

    According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), certification can increase physician assistant pay, depending on the specialty. For example, PAs working in emergency medicine earn an average of $110,000 annually.

  2. 2

    Gain Experience in Administrative Roles

    By expanding their administrative responsibilities, PAs can increase their salaries. AAPA reports that PAs in administrative roles earned a median base salary of $138,000 — over 30% more than their non-administrative counterparts. Administrative PAs also reported higher average bonuses, earning almost $7,000 more per year.

    The total compensation, which includes base salary and bonuses, is about $35,000 higher for administrative PAs. However, these professionals often work more hours per week than PAs, who focus more on clinical duties.

  3. 3

    Change Practice Setting

    PAs can also focus on certain geographic or practice settings that offer higher annual salaries. Moving to a more populated state like Texas or Pennsylvania could be financially beneficial.

    However, states with higher salaries often have a higher cost of living. PAs can also switch to practice settings offering higher pay, such as outpatient care centers, hospitals, and primary care offices.

How do Physician Assistant Salaries Compare to Nursing Careers?

PAs earn similar salaries to nurses with more advanced and specialized roles. For instance, while PAs and nurse practitioners (NPs) differ in their responsibilities, both positions earn similar pay.

January 2023 Payscale data indicates that NPs earn an annual salary of $102,610, which is slightly higher than $100,610 for PAs.

Acute care NPs ($108,020) and psychiatric NPs ($115,190), earn more than PAs, while other NPs, such as pediatric NPs ($96,180) and family NPs ($99,890) earn less.

Frequently Asked Questions About Physician Assistant Salaries

How much does a physician assistant make annually?

Payscale reports an average yearly physician assistant salary of $102,580. However, they also report that compensation can range from $82,000-$129,000 or more depending on experience, practice setting, and location.

How long does it take to become a physician assistant?

It often takes a minimum of seven years to become a PA. The process includes earning an undergraduate degree, gaining approximately 1,000 hours of healthcare/patient experience, and completing a master’s degree.

Do physician assistants earn more than nurse practitioners?

According to Payscale, the difference between the annual physician assistant salary and pay for NPs is minimal. NPs earn an annual average salary of $102,610, just over $200 more than what PAs earn in a year.

Are physician assistants in high demand?

Yes, there is currently a demand for PAs. The BLS projects that PA employment will grow by 28% from 2021-2031 — significantly higher than the 8% average for all other occupations.

Related Pages

Page last reviewed January 15, 2023

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