Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties

Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties

Physician Assistants, commonly referred to as PA’s, are highly-trained medical providers who examine, diagnose, treat patients and assist in surgeries. PA’s work under the supervision of licenced physicians or surgeons. However, in some states and regions, PAs can practice independently. 

Physicians Assistants is one of the most in-demand medical professions due to the critical role they play in the healthcare system. PA’s have master’s degrees from an accredited physician assistant program which includes coursework and supervised clinical work to garner medical experience. 

PA’s are among the highest paid professionals in the medical industry; making an average of $112,260 (in 2019, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics). Factors affecting this figure include: geographical location, experience, medical specialization and professional setting i.e. hospital, ambulatory, doctors office et cetera.


Why are Physician Assistants in High Demand?

Over the years PA's have seen an increase in both practice opportunities and pay.

Due to the increasing shortage of doctors, PA’s take on more patient-care responsibilities thus increasing the demand of their service and this in turn gives them room for salary negotiations..


Highest Paying Physician Assistant Salary by Specialty

Just like physicians, PAs can specialize in a variety of different areas. This includes: Emergency medicine, family medicine, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, hospital medicine, internal medicine, nephrology, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, oncology, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics and psychiatry.

As you already know, some of these specializations pay more than others. PA surgery subspecialties  have an average median salary of $115,000  a year. They include: gynecology, oral, orthopedic, pediatric plastic, urology,ophthalmology, and vascular surgery.

Below is a list of highest paying physician assistant salaries by specialty as 2017’s Report from National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistant(NCCPA):


  1. Cardiothoracic/Vascular Surgery (CV)

Cardiothoracic PAs  top the list of highest paying physician assistant specialties with salaries averaging $125,425 a year and an approximately 50hours work week.

 Cardiothoracic surgery involves surgical procedures of the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. It is used to treat several conditions, such as blockages in the vessels to the heart, lung cancer and leaking heart valves. 

PA’s in this field care for the patient before, during and monitor recovery after a surgical procedure. Before surgery, a physician assistant may explain the procedure, answer questions, perform routine preoperative tests.

  1. Pathology

Physician Assistants in this sphere make approximately $119,000 a year. 

Pathology involves the study of body fluids and tissues to ascertain your health or any medical problems you have. Pathology PAs use laboratory tests to monitor the health of patients with chronic conditions.

  1. Dermatology

The average salary of a PA specializing in dermatology averages $118k,145 a year; this makes them one of the highest paid PA specialties. 

Dermatology is a branch of medicine that specializes in treating skin, hair, nail, and mucous membrane disorders and diseases such as skin cancer or rashes. Dermatologists can also address cosmetic issues, helping to revitalize the appearance of the skin, hair, and nails.

  1. Emergency Medicine & Critical Care

PA's within this specialty average $116,661 a year.

Emergency medicine is fast paced and challenging. Physician Assistants in this field work in emergency rooms, critical care units, trauma centers and treat patients with chronic illnesses needing immediate care. They also prescribe medication and management of other life-threatening conditions

  1. Pain Medicine/ Algiatry

PA’s in pain medicine make approximately $115,000 per year.

Physician assistants in the field aid in evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and management of different types of pain. This includes acute pain, chronic pain,  cancer pain et cetera. 

  1. Neurosurgery

A neurosurgery physician assistant can expect to make about $114,816 a year; reporting approximately 48- hour work weeks.

Neurosurgery PAs work under the supervision of the Neurosurgeon. They take patient medical histories and examinations, assist in neurosurgical procedures, help with treatment plans, manage post-operative care and handle a number office-related duties among other roles.

  1. Orthopedic Surgery 

Physician Assistants specializing in orthopaedics have an average annual salary of $111,327 and averagely 45-hour weeks.

Orthopaedic roles are inclined to conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. They help in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

  1. General Surgery 

PA’s in general surgery have a median salary of $106,504 a year and mostly 40 hours of work a week. 

This involves specialization of surgery in the abdominal region/ gastrointestinal tract i.e oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, thyroid gland, appendix and bile duct . 

  1. Psychiatry

Psychiatry involves the diagnosis, prevention, study and treatment of mental disorders/ psychiatric illnesses like depression and schizophrenia. Psychiatry PA’s can choose to work in office-based private practice or mental health facilities with a median salary of $115,000 per year.



Education, experience and size of a practice is also key salary determinant factors. With time and influence from such factors, the salary keeps readjusting. The most important thing is passion and devotion to the career. The willingness to help your patients through recovery and illnesses. 


Are you a Pre-PA or Medical Student? Learn more about our Pre-PA internships, Physician Assistant Clinical Rotations and Medical Internships/ Volunteer Abroad.

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