The Average Starting Salary for Physician Assistant Grads by Area

Brandi Glass
October 27, 20225 min read
Surgical physicians

Becoming a Physician Assistant (PA) is a demanding yet gratifying position that allows you to work in the medical field. This field started in the late 1960s when Duke University in North Carolina established an official program to help Vietnam veterans smoothly re-enter civilian life.

Today, becoming a PA is a prestigious and solid career opportunity that allows for flexibility and promises high quality of life. If you are interested in this field and want to learn more about the average starting salary for Physician Assistant graduates, read on. We’ll cover everything you need to know to make intelligent decisions for your future.

What is the Role of a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistants are licensed medical practitioners who work under the supervision of a licensed physician. They provide invaluable help and services that make the healthcare setting smoother and the patient’s experience better. You can find these professionals in many health care teams and organizations nationwide.

Physician Assistants perform the following functions:

  • Record and input a patient’s medical history into the system
  • Assist with surgical processes
  • Give physical examinations and record information for the physician
  • Order diagnostic tests and interpret them
  • Diagnose injuries
  • Monitor and record a patient’s progress
  • Research treatment plans and options
  • Educate patients and their families about care options and techniques
  • Collaborate with medical teams in various healthcare settings

Although the above isn’t an exhaustive list of the full spectrum of duties performed by medical assistants, it gives you an overview of what their positions entail. You may have more or fewer duties depending on where you work, such as in a hospital vs. private practice.

Can Physician Assistants Specialize in a Medical Field?

One of the best aspects of studying to become a Physician Assistant is that you can choose an area to specialize within. When you have options and enter a field you enjoy working in, you’ll have a better experience at work and provide a better patient experience.

Some of the areas that a Physician Assistant can specialize in include:

  • General Practice
  • Pediatrics
  • Neurology
  • Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Gynecology
  • Radiology

The medical field is vast. You can gain significant experience by working in multiple settings to find the best fit for your life, preferences, and schedule. For example, if you like working with children, a Pediatrics specialization is an ideal choice for you.

What Medical Settings Can a Physician Assistant Work?

Physician Assistants have multiple options regarding the healthcare settings they can start working within. Some prefer the fast-paced life of a hospital, while others prefer to work with seniors and stick to nursing homes.

Physician Assistants can find work in schools, medical offices, community health centers, clinics, and private practices with a licensed physician. Before you start your career, determine what settings are ideal for you and do your research.

You can speak to other PAs you know or connect with others online to learn more about their experiences. That way, you can make a decision that feels right for you and work in a setting that makes you feel comfortable.

Is a Physician Assistant Another Name for a Nurse?

Many people confuse Physician Assistants with Nursing Practitioners. However, these roles differ entirely, as do their degrees and training processes. Nurses receive training that emphasizes care based on a patient-centric model.

Physician Assistants receive more rigorous training that bears some resemblance to that of medical students.

If you are still a student and did not decide which path to take, read up on the differences between these two roles. While nurses have a more general role, Physician Assistants take on responsibilities that nurses cannot. You’ll have more control over specific aspects of the patient care process than a nurse, and your training is rigorous.

Do I Need a Degree to Work as a Physician Assistant?

Nowadays, the minimum degree to work as a Physician Assistant is a master’s degree in PA Studies. It takes around two years to complete and includes 2,000 mandatory clinical rotation hours.

Don’t let the word “assistant” fool you – this is a rigorous degree and later position that comes with a great deal of responsibility. Some universities offer Pre-PA degrees so you can “test the waters” before you take the plunge.

Remember that your degree needs to come from a reputable and accredited university. Once you finish studying, you must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) administers and oversees the exam. Once you pass, you can start practicing as a Physical Assistant.

Is Being a Physician Assistant a Tough Job?

Being a Physician Assistant is not an easy job, and it has some downsides. For example, the hours may vary depending on your work setting, making it difficult to establish a consistent routine. Another issue is that you always need a supervising physician overseeing your work. If you don’t get along with this physician, you may face obstacles at work.

Physician Assistant jobs are demanding and rigorous. There is significant pressure to succeed, and irate patients may pose challenges. However, most people entering this field understand these issues and welcome the challenge with open arms.

What is the Starting Salary for a Physician Assistant by Area?

The states with the highest Physician Assistant salaries in the country are California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The average starting salary for Physician Assistant graduates in these states is:

  • California: $136,920
  • New York: $131,810
  • Texas: $116,070
  • Pennsylvania: $109,530
  • Florida: $104,810

The top metropolitan areas where Physician Assistants make the most money are:

  • Portsmouth, New Hampshire: $167,240
  • Panama City, Florida: $165,000
  • San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward, California: $164,150
  • San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, California: $163,720
  • Vallejo and Fairfield, California: $162,030
  • Santa Rosa, California: $157,720
  • Albany, Oregon: $157,230
  • Corvallis, Oregon: $157,000
  • Sacramento, Roseville, Arden, and Arcade, California: $153,400
  • Modesto, California: $152,300

As for the national average, SalaryExplorer.com places the number at $154,000 per year. The minimum pay for this position is $75,300, while the highest earners can make up to $240,000 a year.

How Do I Apply for Jobs as a Physician Assistant?

Once you finish your two-year program and complete your degree, it’s time to start looking for a Physician Assistant role. Depending on your specialization, you can narrow your options and apply directly through a hospital portal or clinic.

If you don’t have a particular place, you can look through job portals that display multiple positions on one platform. Before applying, check out the company and do your research to make sure its vision and mission align with your goals and ethics.

But before you start applying, you need a resume that captures attention, highlights your skills, and makes it to a recruiter’s hands. Nowadays, Applicant Tracking Systems handle most resumes and look for keywords before a hiring manager sees them.

If you want to build a custom Physician Assistant resume, browse through the templates on Rocket Resume. With its easy-to-use interface and intuitive tools, you’ll have a professional and crisp CV that makes it through ATS systems with no issues.

Get started by inputting the information when prompted, entering your credentials, and choosing a template you like. In a few minutes, you’ll have a professional and fully functional resume that gets results and helps you start your career.

Are you ready to get started on your Physician Assistant career path? Now that you know all the details and the starting salary for physician assistant graduates by area, it’s time to apply.

Custom build your Physician Assistant CV with Rocket Resume today and get $20 off when you create an account.