Like physicians, physician assistants diagnose illnesses, prescribe treatments and provide basic care to patients. But because their training is a fraction of that of a physician, PAs must work under the supervision of a licensed doctor or surgeon, so their scope of work is somewhat limited. Salaries vary by practice setting, employment status and gender.
Hourly Wage Ranges
In 2012, physician assistants averaged $44.45 an hour, or $92,460 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was an increase of more than 3 percent from the previous year, when wages averaged at $43.01 an hour, or $89,470 a year. As of 2012, those working at family practices earned closer to $44.73 an hour, or $93,040 a year. A survey by ADVANCE, an online resource for health care professionals, provides a slightly lower figure. In 2011, PAs at family practices brought home $89,847 a year. Assuming a 40-hour per week pay period, this works out to nearly $43.20 an hour.
Wages for Part-Timers
Not all medical facilities hire physician assistants on a full-time basis, which can work to a PA's advantage, as part-time PAs often earn more on an hourly basis than those working full time. In 2011, the overall part-time hourly rate was $50.52 an hour, according to the ADVANCE survey. This was a decrease of roughly 1 percent from the previous year, when the average part-time hourly rate was $51.11. Part-time PAs at family practices earned nearly 8 percent less than the average, bringing home $46.56 an hour. But this was still 4 percent higher than the hourly rate of full time PAs at family practices.
As with many occupations, men out-earn women in the field. As of 2011, male PAs earned $49.15 an hour, or $102,222 a year. Female PAs earned roughly 13 percent less, at an average of $42.74 an hour, or $88,895 a year.
The BLS expects employment for PAs to be good, with an average growth rate of 30 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is more than double the national average for all U.S. occupations, a projected growth rate of 14 percent. With more than 48,000 PAs reportedly working at offices of physicians, the 30 percent works out to nearly 14,500 new jobs at family practices over the course of a decade.
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