How Much Money Do Physician Assistants Make?

Knowing a job's potential pay is a great way to help you decide what career to pursue or position to accept. If you're considering a career as a physician assistant, you'll surely want to know what it pays. Obviously, factors like location, experience, and education can affect individual pay, but you can still get a general idea of what salary range to expect with a little research — much like you can with physical therapist or pharmacist professions

Per the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, a physician assistant, or PA, is a medical professional whose specific responsibilities vary by state but are typically tasked with performing patient exams, prescribing medications, and creating treatment plans. Live About also highlights ordering patient tests, administering immunizations, and maintaining patient records as potential PA duties.

While PAs are somewhat similar to nurse practitioners, their education, training, and available specializations differ. Typically a full-time job, PAs can work in many settings, including hospitals, general care facilities, and outpatient clinics (per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). They often work on teams with other healthcare professionals, especially in collaboration with physicians.

The median annual income for physician assistants is over $100,000

The median income for a physician assistant is $115,390 annually or $55.48 per hour (via Live About). Compared to the median annual income of all U.S. workers in 2021, which was $45,760 (per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), PAs are on the higher end of the earning spectrum. Considering that physician assistants are licensed medical professionals, it makes sense that it's a six-figure position.

The highest-earning 10% of PAs make more than $162,470, or $78.11 hourly, while the lowest-earning 10% make less than $76,700 or $36.87 per hour (via Live About). Reportedly, the highest paying PA positions are at outpatient clinics, with PAs in dermatology and critical care medicine also being highly paid (per The Physician Assistant Life).

According to Nursing Process, the annual pay of a PA compared to a nurse practitioner is about $10,000 less. The entry-level pay for an NP is $81,410 per year and $72,720 for a PA. Although physician assistants are not the highest-paid medical professionals, they still make far more than the average U.S. worker.

A career as a physician assistant requires extensive education

As medical professionals, physician assistants must undergo a considerable amount of education before entering their field. Education from a graduate PA program is typically required, which necessitates a medically-related bachelor's degree and some professional experience in health care (per Nursing License Map).

According to AAPA, pre-program medical experience can be obtained through positions such as paramedic, emergency medical technician, a medical assistant, among others. Specific requirements for PA graduate programs will vary by institution, though. The required master's degree for PAs typically takes three academic years to complete, which includes over 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. To become Physician Assistant-Certified, PA program graduates should then take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Then, certified individuals will need to get their PA license in the state in which they wish to practice.

After finding a professional position, PAs also need to maintain their certification by continuing their medical education every two years and taking an exam every ten years.