Pay difference persists between male and female physician assistants

Doctors talking
Female PAs earn 11% less than their male counterparts, according to new research. (Getty/wmiami)

Add another study to the pile that finds disparity between how men and women are paid—this one focused on compensation for physician assistants.

Research by the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) found that female PAs are compensated 89 cents for every dollar paid to their male colleagues. That’s unacceptable for one of the fastest growing health professions, which is almost 70% female, the AAPA said in an announcement.

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The research, published this month in Women’s Health Issues, disclosed the 11% disparity, which is less than the national average of 82 cents per dollar difference reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Without controlling for variables such as years of experience and specialty, women PAs earned $16,052 less than male counterparts. Even after accounting for variables, a compensation disparity of $9,695 remained between men and women. A 17-year trend indicates the disparity has not lessened, although the difference as a percent of male compensation has decreased in recent years, researchers found.

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The research was based on data collected by AAPA from 1998 to 2014 from more than 7,000 PAs. More recent data from the 2017 AAPA Salary Report, which the organization will release at the end of the month, confirm that the gap between the salaries of male and female PAs persists.

“The disparate treatment of women in the PA profession is simply unacceptable," said L. Gail Curtis, president and chair of the AAPA’s Board of Directors.

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The disparity has a direct effect on women PAs, for instance, regarding the ability to pay off student debt. PAs typically face about $150,000 in student loans upon graduation from their medical training, Curtis said. For male PAs, earning $10,000 more a year then their female counterparts, they could use that extra money to pay off student loan debt in 15 years, she said, whereas women are saddled with those loans for a longer time period.

The healthcare industry can adopt strategies used in other industries to lessen the wage gap, the researchers said in the study. Those include relying on job duties, experience and skills to determine a PA’s salary rather than using previous salary to determine compensation offers.