The physician assistant profession has only been around since 1967, but over the last handful of years, it’s become one of the fastest growing medical careers. According to a 2016 report from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the number of certified PAs jumped from 80,019 in 2010 to 115,547 at the end of 2016 — a 44.4 percent increase. On average, the job pays a yearly salary of $104,131 across all 50 states, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the profession to grow by 30 percent in the next seven years.
The vast majority of PAs are certified through a master’s program. A mere .5 percent hold PhDs and 1.2 percent graduated with MDs. Although most PAs work in family medicine, primary care, or in a general practice, there are 3.9 percent, or 3,589 that specialize in dermatology. In fact, the highest paid PAs work in dermatology, pathology, emergency medicine, and surgery. The average income for a PA working in dermatology last year was $118,145. Pathology was the only other specialty that the NCCPA found to pay more — at $119,000.
Despite the surge in certified PAs in the last years, there has been little change in racial demographics across the profession. More than 85 percent of PAs are white, a statistic that has remained constant since 2013. The percentage of African American PAs dropped from 4.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 at the end of 2016. The number of Mexican American PAs also experienced a slight decrease, from 2.5 percent to 2.4.
More than 94 percent of certified PAs contributed to the 2016 report, with the intention that politicians, the public, and advocates in the medical field can have a broader understanding of the profession.