Whether to ease medical shortages in rural or poor areas, or to cut medical costs in general, the use of physician assistants is common in modern health care. Physician assistants care for patients under an M.D.'s supervision. They provide a range of services, including performing physicals, providing treatment such as suturing and wound care, interpreting medical tests and counseling patients. Some also prescribe medication. Many government agencies track physician assistant salaries.
National Salary Figures
Physician assistants earned a mean annual salary of $92,460 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, tracks and disseminates information about labor market activity and working conditions in the United States. Physician assistants in the lowest 10 percent of wage earners made $62,430 or less in 2012, while those in the top 10 percent earned $124,770 or more.
Location and Employer
The BLS also provides information on salaries according to various geographical areas, such as states and metropolitan statistical areas, as well as employer types. The top five paying states in 2012 were Rhode Island at an annual mean salary of $112,250, Connecticut at $104,540, Washington at $103,890, Oregon at $103,400 and Nevada at $102,670. Among employer types, physician offices employed the most physician assistants in 2012 and paid an average of $93,040 a year. General medical and surgical hospitals ranked second in total employment and paid $93,630 on average. The top-paying employers were in 2012 specialty hospitals, excluding psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals. The annual mean salary here was $100,060.
State Agency Data
State government agencies related to labor and economic development collect their own salary data, or collect it in conjunction with the BLS's Occupational Employment Statistics program. For example, the Idaho Department of Labor reports in its fall 2012 Occupational Employment and Wage Report that physician assistants earned a median hourly wage of $42.55 in 2011. It also reports salary information for Idaho's metropolitan statistical areas. The hourly starting salary was $26.25 in the Boise-Nampa MSA and $34.88 in the Idaho Falls MSA. California's Employment Development Department reports that, in 2013, physician assistants earned a median salary of $103,708 annually, or $49.86 hourly. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, physician assistants in 2013 made median hourly salaries of $46.12. Those in southwest Minnesota earned median wages of $42.95 hourly, while those in southeast Minnesota earned $51.87.
Education and Future Outlook
Physician assistant salaries also vary by factors such as education, experience, geographical location and employer. Those who work in hospitals tend to earn more than physician assistants working in offices or clinics, the State of Minnesota's iSeek Careers website notes. Aspiring physician assistants must receive a master's degree from an accredited program for physician assistants, which typically requires at least two years of full-time study. Aspiring physician assistants frequently already have some experience in health care, such as being a nurse or emergency medical technician, before they enter a program. Physician assistants must be licensed in the states where they work. The BLS expects employment of physician assistants to increase 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, more than double the average for all occupations. Factors for job growth include increasing specialization among M.Ds., which will increase the need for primary care providers, as well as the aging population in the United States.
- I Have a Plan Iowa: Physician Assistant -- What They Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages -- May 2012 -- Physician Assistants
- Idaho Department of Labor Communications and Research: Idaho Physician Assistants Work Force Overview, Fall 2012
- State of California Employment Development Department: Summary Guide for Physician Assistants in California
- iSeek Jobs: Physician Assistants Salary Information
- iSeek Careers: Physician Assistants Wages and Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physician Assistants -- How to Become a Physician Assistant
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