Physician assistant workforce is on the rise along with an increase in salaries

physician assistant
2018 was the fifth consecutive year the number of certified physician assistants in the U.S. increased. (Getty/wmiami)

The physician assistant (PA) workforce is one of the fastest-growing professions in healthcare—with an increase in both numbers and salaries.

The number of certified PAs grew over 6% in 2018, and the average salary increased by more than 12% in a four-year span, according to an annual report (PDF) released by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

PAs are helping fill the gap in primary care, as close to half of the country’s PAs are working in primary care specialties, the report said. Just over 40% of PAs in the U.S. are working in a hospital setting.

It was the fifth consecutive year the number of certified PAs in the U.S. increased. The workforce grew 6.6% between 2017 and 2018 and now totals 158,438 current licensees.

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And, between 2014 and 2018, the average salary increased by 12.4%. The median salary for all certified PAs was $105,000, and the mean salary was $110,599.

The highest median salaries of $125,000 were found in Alaska, California and Nevada, the report indicated.

The report includes a state-by-state breakdown. The states with the greatest increase of PAs were Rhode Island (13.7%), Arkansas (11.4%), Nevada (11.3%) and Indiana (10.4%).

The growth in the number of PAs comes at the same time the U.S. is experiencing a national shortage of primary care physicians. Alaska leads the nation in the number of physician assistants practicing in primary care with 50.4%.