10 Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties

The primary factor in selecting your physician assistant specialty should be your areas of interest.  But, there is significant variation when it comes to pay for PAs across different specialties so salary comes into play when choosing where you will work.  Which physician assistants earn the most?

1. Radiology Physician Assistant ($150,000)

Radiology physician assistants perform fluoroscopies, initial interpretations of scans or X-rays, needle biopsies and insertion and removal of IV catheters.  PA’s working in radiology may also administer and monitor conscious sedation.

2. Mental Health Physician Assistant ($125,840)

Mental health physician assistants diagnose and treat mental ilness.  They commonly work in hospitals with in-patient psychiatric units, private mental health clinics, prisons and jails as well as county mental health facilities.

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3. Emergency Department Physician Assistant ($116,366)

Physician assistants working in the emergency room provide care for patients with acute illness.  They work in both the main emergency department as well as fast track settings.  PA’s in the ED treat patients with symptoms such as chest pain and abdominal pain as well as perform procedures like suturing and draining abscesses.

4. Surgical Physician Assistant ($110,479)

Surgical physician asssitants work in the operative environment.  They perform pre-admission assessments, testing and act as first-assists in the operating room as well as provide post-operative care.  They may also work in step-down units and office-based practices.

5. Urgent Care/ Walk-In Clinic Physician Assistant ($104,237)

Physician assistants working in urgent care and walk-in clinics provide care for acute but not emergent illness.  They perform procedures such as suturing and draining abscesses as well as diagnose and treat medical conditions like bronchitis and sprains.

6. Hospitalist Physician Assistant ($101,769)

Hospitalist physician assistants manage patients in the in-patient hospital setting.  They treat acute and chronic medical conditions such as pneumonia and congestive heat failure.  PAs are used in all areas of the hospital including units like the CCU and ICU.

7. Nursing Home/ Long-Term Care Physician Assistant ($101,000)

Physician assistants working in long-term care facilities and nursing comes care for both acute and chronic medical conditions in older adults.  They improve health outcomes and quality of life for residents unable to live on their own.

8. Internal Medicine Physician Assistant ($98,555)

Internal medicine physician assistants manage chronic and acute health problems in adults.  Most commonly, they work in the clinic setting caring for patients with complex, chronic medical conditions.

9. Occupational Health Physician Assistant ($98,400)

Physician assistants working in occupational health clinics provide care for employees injured at work.  They also work within large companies offering primary care and walk-in services for employees.  Occupational health PAs may implement and manage health and wellness programs offered to employees.

10. Dermatology Physician Assistant ($98,071)

Dermatology physician assistants diagnose and treat skin conditions.  They manage chronic dermatological conditions and perform cosmetic as well as medically indicated procedures.


Note: This data is based on a report from Advance for NPs and PAs.

27 thoughts on “10 Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties”

  1. I know a PA that did H&P’s and follow-up visits for a specialist. He got to keep what he made, so he netted about $200K annually. There’s no reason a PA needs to make less, unless the practice owner has his (or her) hands deep in the PA’s pocket.

  2. My father is a Physician Assistant who works at Urgent Care, $60/hr. So that comes out to be around 120k per year. He works in the midwest.

    If you’re a Physician Assistant or if you know a physician assistant, could you tell us what your salary is and what specialty you practice.

  3. My father is a Physician Assistant who works at Urgent Care, $60/hr. So that comes out to be around 120k per year. He works in the midwest.

    If you’re a Physician Assistant or if you know a physician assistant, could you tell us what your salary is and what specialty you practice.

  4. I am not sure why PA salaries seem consistently lower than what I see from my graduating class. Most make 200,000 or more. I made 330,000 last year and have worked 12.5 years, a second PA in my group made 250,000 and has worked for 10 years. Our 3rd PA made 171,000 her first year. We work in Pediatrics for a physician who believes in paying 33 percent of what you bring in. He is also highly compensated because we work harder. I did a part-time position in Psychiatry that paid 85/hour which was a pay cut for me, but still higher than some of the ridiculously low salaries I see as reported averages. I can only assume they throw out the decent and fair salaries when doing averages.

  5. What are the most recent salaries for first year PAS in any field for 2015? I am applying to PA school and I am just wondering.

  6. Hi Jane,

    No, I actually don’t know any ophthalmology PAs. I will certainly let you know if I come across anyone!

  7. I am a dental hygienist now and am applying to PA school. Right now I make around $42 per hour and I am investing a lot going back to school (as we all are). I am interested in radiology (in addition to other specialities)- but where are the schools for radiology PAs and does anyone know what they make? Does a PA have to attend a specific school for radiology or can this just be a specialty to get into after graduating from any program? I tried to talk to one of the schools to which I am applying and the administrative assistant is always so rude and she even hung up on me today! So I don’t know how to get some of these answers. Thank you in advance.

  8. I make $215K yr in cardiology and still dabble a little in emergency medicine in California. Am looking for a different gig & have had offers in ER, GI, surgery, hospitalist, obgyn, urgent care and all want to pay betwween 115k & 130k for more hours of work! its pathetic! Still looking…..

  9. Nichole, most RPA’s have to be an ARRT prior to getting accepted into an RPA program. Werber State has a really good program, and I know there’s another one in VA. Not sure of others. I have worked in Cardiology for 12+ years now. I had planned on attending an RPA school, but already have a degree as a C.V.T. It wasn’t worth it to go back to radiology school. You’ll probably be better of, going to a P.A school and then focus on a specialty.

  10. I have been a PA for about 8 months and I work in allergy/asthma. My job is pretty cushy and I make 85k. My friend who graduated with me works in radiology makes the same salary as me but has to work way way harder than me. We live in Texas.

  11. I am in 3rd year of practice (2 in ER, one in surgery) and I made $161,000 last year but there was a lot of overtime for that. $56/hr in California.

  12. im inspired by you all. I live in NY and I am in my last year of undergrad. I would be so appreciative if you have any personal contacts that you can refer me to for shadowing. Thank you in advance ‘

  13. Nicole,
    Two of my colleagues here are new grads from primary care PA programs. They did procedure based electives and were not radiology techs pre-PA school.
    If you know what you want, find/create an elective in interventional radiology during your clinical year. Dental hygiene gets you some rads training already, use it as a selling point.

  14. I am currently a pharmacist and wondering if it is worth it to go back to school and become a PA. I want more hands on work with patients that feels more rewarding, but it seems to be a drastic pay cut. I was wondering if both job satisfaction and salary are higher than what is reported on some of the more common websites.

  15. I work as a PA in a combination Internal Medicine/Family Medicine group in Northern Arizona. The practice is owned by a regional medical center. I average 130k as my contract has a productivity clause. Being busy has its benefits. We work no weekends and we pull no call.

  16. Nicole

    I’m a pa in Utah. I was a tad tech in general radiology and interventional radiology and thought about going back to weber state to do the RPA but come to find out that in the west they are not accredited. A lot of the insurances don’t recognize RPAs. When I worked at a trauma 2 center our RPA got let go due to that reason. I now do family practices a rural area in Utah to pay off my student loans. Radiologist like to hire PA’s that have radiology background but will also hire PA’s that don’t. It sometimes takes them a lot longer to get the procedures down.

  17. Clearly the biggest indicator for your salary will be geographic location, local demand, and clinical specialty. The wages across the country appear to very greatly. One would think the greater the salary of the physician, the greater the salary of the physician assistant. Though possible that is clearly not always the case. One thing is for sure, the lower your physicians income, the lower you can expect to be paid. Many medical communities will attempt to “price fix “the wages of their practicing physician assistants. Providers will become furious and quite outspoken should they discover a physician in their community paying a substantial wage above their offerings. I personally live in one of these communities, and have been sworn to secrecy regarding my personal income and benefits package. I have actually had a Neuro-spine surgeon complain about my salary and the pressure that it puts on other providers in the community. I find that ridiculous and offensive. It’s the purest example of greed. It certainly makes sense that our supervising physicians are functioning at a higher capacity based on training and experience. Therefore their salaries are higher than ours. I can live with that because this is the path I personally chose to take. The absolute indicator of your income potential ultimately will be based on the integrity of your supervising physician or physician group. In almost all settings, with a strong worth ethic, you will have the potential for your practice to collect more that you are compensated. If your collections do not directly reflect a large profit,I am almost certain that your diligent efforts will reflect a marked increase in income of your physician. This will be based on increased practice efficiency and overall volume.

    I work for a surgeon. One physician – one physician assistant. Our practice is hospital owned and reimbursed based on relative value units (RVUs). I am proud to say that together we are highly efficient. The RVUs we generate as a team, place my surgeon in the 99th percentile nationally for his subspecialty . The hospital pays him, and he pays me. He pays me well. Well above the national average. I will tell you that I am fortunate, because I do not feel this is the case for many of my peers. Thus I truly believe the biggest indicator of your income will be the personal integrity of your supervising physician or physician group.

    If you’re working full time, I would expect total salary and benefits package to range between 150 K to 250 K. ( The difference in specialties ). Anything above, I would consider yourself very fortunate. Anything below I would suggest you run and don’t look back.

  18. I work at an urgent care in Southern California. I am paid $77 an hour for a 30 to 32 Hour Work week. I gross around 125000 a year. I work 3 days a week and I’m considering picking up another part time position.

    I’m very grateful to see people posting how much they make. I think we need to do more of this. For some reason it is taboo in our society, but it shouldn’t be. The more we know about eachothers compensation, the better we will understand what we are worth. I mean think about it, the only people that don’t want to us talking about what we make our the people that are benefiting from keeping our salaries low. We need to be more open about this and stsrt using that to negotiate higher salaries for ourselves and actually be paid wages that are commensurate with the value that we bring to the table.

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