Physician assistant salary report shows dermatology in line with other specialties

December 13, 2018

How are PAs in dermatology compensated? We've summarized the important takeaways from the 2018 American Academy of PAs Salary Report. Let us know your thoughts by participating in this forum. Participate in this forum.

Physician assistants (PAs) saw a 2.9% increase in salaries, from an average base salary of $102,000 in 2016 to $105,000 in 2017. And PAs in dermatology are making salaries and bonuses that are in line with other PAs in specialty practice, according to the 2018 American Academy of PAs (AAPA) Salary Report, released August 2018.

“PAs in dermatology are about 3.5% of our profession,” says Tim McCall, Ph.D., AAPA’s research manager and salary report author. “The typical dermatology PA just coming out of grad school is making around $90,000 and it ranges up to around $117,000 for a more seasoned dermatology PA.”

That’s about the same as for PAs in primary care or family medicine who make an average $90,000 with no or one year experience, according to the report reflecting salary information from 9,140 U.S. PAs in various specialties and healthcare settings.

The most highly specialized PAs in dermatology, which is reflected as PAs in the 90th percentile in this survey, report making a base salary of $150,000 a year and $84,000 in annual bonuses. That’s higher than PAs in the 90th percentile in several other specialties, including allergy and immunology and plastic surgery, according to AAPA.

The specialty information in the report comes in handy for PAs trying to negotiate their salaries, according to McCall.
“The number one thing that PAs want to look at when negotiating salaries is our specialty data. My telling you that PAs make on average a $105,000 a year isn’t going to be very helpful to a PA in dermatology because we know that salary and compensation varies. So, that’s something that is very important in our report that you’re able to look at dermatology-specific information,” he says.

PA salaries in general are on the rise-climbing faster than inflation, according to McCall.

“We did an analysis last year of over the last 25 years or so and found that salary has grown substantially faster than inflation over that time,” McCall says.

There’s more good news for future and current PAs: the job outlook for PAs is projected to increase 37% from 2016 to 2026, which is substantially faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This latest AAPA salary survey also found:

It pays to look beyond salary at cost of living. “States with higher PA median compensation levels tend to have a higher cost-of-living. Once cost-of-living differences are considered, the top five cost-of-living adjusted median base salaries for PAs are in Mississippi ($117,925), Iowa, ($117,519) Oklahoma ($117,127), Texas ($115,546), and Indiana ($113,786),” according to an AAPA press release on the report.

PAs can find specific information about the cost of living in each state www.aapa.org.

State laws do matter when it comes to PA pay. “After controlling for factors such as specialty, hours worked, leadership positions, and gender, PA salaries are higher in states that have adopted one or more of three key elements: when PA scope of practice is determined at the practice level; when PAs can practice without a physician on site; and when PA charts do not require co-signature by a physician,” according to an introductory letter in the report by AAPA CEO Jennifer L. Dorn, M.P.A.

According to AAPA, 31 states do not require a physician to be on-site with a PA; rather it’s determined at the practice level depending on the type of practice and the services provided. And 32 states do not require that a physician co-sign chart notes written by PAs.

Finally, wage parity exists in the profession.

“The gap in compensation between men and women continued in 2017 after controlling for differences in experience, hours worked, and several other factors that can affect compensation; women were still paid less than men in the PA profession,” Dorn writes.

The 2018 AAPA Salary Report is available in its entirety to AAPA members for free. Nonmembers can purchase the report at AAPA.org.