Demand for Physician Assistants Continues to Rise

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Physician Assistant: The Strong Career Growth ContinuesPhysician Assistants (PAs) continue to enjoy strong job growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Physician Assistant positions is expected to grow 30% from 2014-2024. Increased demand means PAs enjoyed median earnings of $101,480 per year and over $48 per hour in 2016.

PAs have higher incomes than other medical professions that require similar amounts of education. For instance, the median salary for Occupational Therapists was over $81,000 and over $74,000 for Speech-Language Pathologists. All three professions require a Master’s degree to enter the field.

Where the Best-Paying Jobs Are

When it comes to finding the best-paying Physician Assistant positions, smaller states are better. PAs in Nevada earn an annual mean wage of over $128,000. The other highest paying states are Connecticut, North Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.

There is great variation in pay between metro areas. In 2016, Yuba City, CA and Las Vegas/Henderson/Paradise, NV were the highest paying metro areas for Physician Assistants. PAs in those markets achieved mean annual wages of $149,740 and $146,350 respectively. One factor that can influence these variations is proximity to PA training programs. Metro areas with a training program, or several training programs, usually have greater access to candidates, which can drive down salaries, while areas without close proximity to training programs often need to offer higher compensation to entice candidates to relocate.

As with physicians, the specialty a PA chooses greatly impacts his or her earnings. A 2016 survey conducted by the NCCPA found that PAs in dermatology and emergency medicine had median annual earnings of $115,000. Pathology, critical care medicine, and surgical subspecialties rounded out the top five highest earning Physician Assistant specialties.

Strong Student Loan Repayment Options

Due to strong demand for PAs, the federal government offers several loan repayment programs in order to recruit people into this profession. These programs include the National Health Service Corps, which offers up to $50,000 in loan repayment for a 2-year commitment, and the Indian Health Service, where PAs can earn $40,000 for a 2 year commitment at a facility that serves Native Americans. Contract extensions are available for Indian Health Service PAs.

The U.S. Military offers loan repayment options to PAs. For instance, the National Guard offers $20,000 per year in return for a 3-year contract. Both the Army and the Navy offer up to $40,000 per year in loan repayment for a 3-year commitment.

Increased Responsibilities 

The trend in state legislatures is for a broader scope of practice. Thirty-nine states (and Washington, D.C.) allow PAs to write and sign prescriptions without physician countersignatures. States such as New Jersey are looking to broaden the scope of practice by allowing PAs to perform more duties in addition to performing exams, taking histories, and suturing minor wounds.

The increasing responsibilities mean that Physician Assistants are eligible to become Medicare and Medicaid certified providers. Also, commercial insurance plans look to Physician Assistants to be part of a value-based as opposed to a fee-for-service compensation structure.

Key Team Members

Discussion of major or minor changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) means that many Americans are unsure what their health coverage will look like in the near future. Controlling costs and providing value are still important in healthcare. That is one reason why the Physician Assistant role is so important.

Since 2010, the number of Physician Assistants grew 44%. Sites such as HospitalRecruiting.com have PA openings from across the United States. This field continues to offer strong earnings growth and, because of ongoing regulatory changes, new opportunities for professional development.

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