The role of physician's assistant, or PA, was created in the mid-1960s to help with the shortage of primary care physicians. With the goal of improving health care, PAs are allowed, under the supervision of a physician, to practice and prescribe medicine in all U.S. states, reports the American Academy of Physicians Assistants. Depending on your experience level, location and your industry, you can earn a pretty decent salary as a PA. Even beginning PAs earn higher than average pay.
When You're Starting Off
The 2012 starting salary for a physician's assistant with less than five years of experience was $91,512, according to a survey of 7,000 PAs by "The Clinical Advisor. Along with this generous salary, many PAs have a great deal of student loan debt to pay off in the beginning of their careers. The average in-state PA program will set you back $50,567, asserts the AAPA.
Working Your Way Up
As you gain more experience as a PA, your salary generally increases. Salary data from ''The Clinical Advisor'' indicates that the average PA with six to 10 years of experience earned $100,221, whereas a PA with 11 to 15 years of experience earned $101,603. PAs with 16 to 20 years of experience earned an average salary of $104,955. Finally, with at least 20 years of experience, the average salary plateaus at $104,011.
Salary for the Typical PA
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salary of the 83,600 PAs employed in the U.S. was $92,460 in 2012. PAs in the lowest 10th percentile earned $62,430 per year, and those in the highest 10th percentile earned $124,770.
The highest paying state for this occupation is Rhode Island, where 2012 salaries averaged $112,250. Salaries are also higher than average in Connecticut, Washington, Oregon and Nevada, where 2012 average salaries ranged between $102,670 in Nevada to $104,540 in Connecticut. In contrast, salaries were lower than average in Pennsylvania and Virginia, where they averaged $77,110 and $82,150, respectively. Salaries may also vary across cities and metropolitan areas within the same state. For instance, in Tyler, Texas, physician assistant salaries averaged $127,160 whereas in the Sherman, Texas area, they averaged significantly lower at $95,680, the BLS reports.
Industry Matters Too
Most physician's assistants work in physicians' offices, hospitals and outpatient care centers. In these industries, 2012 salaries were close to the national average. Some PAs work for the Federal Government, where salaries averaged lower at $83,770. Others work in specialty hospitals, such as cancer treatment centers, or for home health care services, where 2012 average salaries were higher than the national average at $100,060 and $98,230, respectively, the BLS reports.