8 Highest Paid PA (Physician Assistant) Specialties in 2023

Highest Paid PA (Physician Assistant
Highest Paid PA (Physician Assistant

Do you want a career in the medical field? Then this post is for you. Read this article to know the highest paying PA specialties.

As the name implies, a physician assistant has similar responsibilities to a physician, primarily assisting a doctor in their duties. According to US News and World Report, the number one job in healthcare is that of a physician assistant. Currently, over 115,000 physician assistants are practicing across different specialties in the U.S. So, what are the highest-paying specialties for physician assistants?

Are you thinking about becoming a physician assistant? In choosing your specialty, you must consider your interest. However, the highest paying physician assistant specialties are another factor to consider as physician assistants receive varying pay across the various specialties.

Perhaps you are a practicing physician assistant searching for a new field with higher pay, or you want to kickstart your career as a physician assistant.

This article will provide appropriate guidance with information on the highest-paying physician assistant specialties you can select from. Read on to learn about the highest paying physician assistant specialties and the highest paying states for physician assistants.

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The Job Role of a Physician Assistant

The duties of a physician assistant and a doctor are similar, with the main exception being that a PA works under the guidance of a doctor. In medical specialties like neurology, dermatology, orthopedics, and others, physician assistants provide patient care under the guidance of a doctor. 

The responsibilities of a physician assistant include obtaining patient medical data, performing a physical examination, interpreting laboratory test results, diagnosing conditions, and prescribing medication. Their duties also include conducting daily checks on patients and preparing progress summaries.

How much does a Physician Assistant make?

The variation in the pay of a PA depends on education, certification, and experience. In the United States, physician assistants make between $92,500 and $117,000 a year. This field has seen enormous growth in practice, and more growth is predicted for the coming years. Physician assistants make an average annual salary of $105,000. Some specialties make more than others due to their advanced skill sets and job roles.

Highest Paying States for Physician Assistant 

One important factor that will influence your pay as a physician assistant is your location. Highest-paying P.A. specialties vary across places. The state with the highest average pay for physician assistants is Alaska, with an average salary of $150,000 per year, followed by Connecticut, with an average annual pay of $146,110. Rhode Island, California, and Nevada also pay their physician assistants well, with annual salaries of $135,800, $135,180, and $134,710, respectively.

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8 highest-paying PA (physician assistant) Specialties in 2023

As with physicians, there are diverse areas to specialize in as a PA. Besides location and certification, your specialty will impact how much you will make as a physician assistant, as the pay is different for each specialization. Here are the 8 highest paying PA specialties you should consider to increase your chances of higher pay in 2023:

  • Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery
  • Pathology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Pain Medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Surgical Subspecialties

Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery

This physician assistant specialty records up to 80 percent of the physician assistants jobs in the United States. Cardiothoracic PAs assists a cardiothoracic surgeon in performing surgery on the heart and other related organs. They do not perform the surgical operation themselves but help the surgeon before, during, and after the surgery. 

Their major duties are examining patients, providing details on procedures to patients, and answering their questions. They also perform daily rounds on patients and track their recovery. They make an average salary of  $125,425 annually, making them number one in the highest-paying PA specialties.


Pathology physician assistants earn an average salary of $119,000 annually; this is the second-highest paying PA specialty. As a physician assistant, your job will include the dissection and examining various laboratory specimens. You’ll also carry out postmortem examinations and assist a pathologist with diagnosis. 

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Emergency Medicine

With an annual average salary of $117,000, emergency Medicine PAs is the third highest paying PA specialties. Physician assistants in this specialty deal with critical and urgent care and support medical practitioners in the emergency room. 

As an emergency Medicine PA, you will be responsible for taking patients’ medical data, including their health history, examinations, diagnosing, and prescribing medications. You can also perform urgent tasks like dressing and stitching wounds, draining abscesses,  applying splints and casts in case of fracture, and administering sedatives.

Pain Medicine

This specialty works to alleviate patients’ discomfort with physical pain-related health conditions. Pain medicine physician assistants assist with the diagnosis and management of patients. This specialty’s most common work setting is a private practice, with a hospital setting accounting for only 10 PAs in pain medicine. 

As a pain medicine physician assistant, you will perform physical examinations and x-rays on patients, interpret X-rays, and counsel patients on using pain medicines. The average salary of a PA in this specialty is $115,000 per year. This makes it the fourth-highest paying pa specialties. However, several other specialties have the same average annual pay.


Dermatology Physician assistants are one of the highest paying pa specialties. With an annual salary of $115,000, it shares the same position as a pain medicine physician assistant on the highest paying pa specialties

As a dermatology PA, your job will involve treating patients with diverse skin conditions while providing support to a dermatologist. Your duties will involve compiling patients’ data, observing their vital signs, and preparing rooms for consultations and surgical procedures. You may also assist a dermatologist in collecting samples from patients for laboratory tests and diagnosis. The average annual salary of a dermatologist physician assistant is $115,000, earning it a spot in the highest-paying pa specialties

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The neurosurgical physician assistant is among the highest-paying pa specialties, with an average salary of $115,000 annually. As with most PAs, a neurosurgical physician assistant takes patients’ medical data and assists in diagnosing conditions while informing patients of the available treatment options. Aside from performing a physical examination, they also perform scans, blood tests, and other diagnostics operations. They also assist neurosurgeons during surgical operations and conduct various follow-up duties. 


Psychiatry is another specialty among the highest-paying pa specialties. They also earn an average of $115,000 per year. Many psychiatry physician assistants operate in mental health facilities or office-based settings. 

Your major role as a psychiatry PA involves prescribing medications for mental cases, whether chronic or acute; you may also counsel the patient’s caregivers or family. 

Surgical Subspecialties

With an average annual salary of $115,000, surgical subspecialties (PA) will be another of the highest-paying PA specialties in 2023. Surgery is one of the specialties of medicine, and there are various subspecialties under it. Surgical subspecialties include orthopedics,  gynecology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, otolaryngology, surgical oncology, vascular surgery, and urology.

Surgical PAs aid physicians in managing patient care in all peri-operative situations. Their primary responsibility is to assist physicians during patient surgery. Surgical PAs frequently handle common difficulties and procedures, allowing the surgeon to focus on more difficult cases.

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How to become a Physician Assistant

Becoming a Physician assistant does not require as much training as a doctor. This might be the reason for the high industry growth. Requirements for a physician assistant can be classified into the following:

  • Education
  • Training
  • Certification


You’re expected to have a masters’ degree from an accredited institution. You’re also expected to complete two years of full-time postgraduate study to earn the degree. Pathology, human anatomy, physiology, clinical medicine, pharmacology, physical diagnosis, and medical ethics are some areas covered in graduate programs.


Several hours of supervised clinical training in various specialties – pain medicine, emergency medicine, and others –  are also required.


You must be licensed before you can start practicing as a physician assistant. However, you’ll be required to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). After passing the exam, you’ll be issued the designation “Physician Assistant-Certified” (PA-C), which permits you to operate as a physician assistant. 

This is not even the end, as it is required that you take 100 hours of continuing education every two years. Moreso, recertification is compulsory every ten years. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a physician assistant make on average?

On average, physician assistants earn $105,000 per annum. The top 10 percent make as high as $162,470, while the bottom 10 percent make as low as $76,700. 

How much do physician assistants earn per hour?

Physician assistants receive an average hourly wage of  $55.81.

Can a PA change specialty?

Absolutely yes! According to a American Academy of Physician Assistants report, about six to seven percent of physician assistants change specialties annually. Since physician assistants have to recertify from time to time, they can change specialties without any extra certification. 

Is a physician assistant the same as a medical assistant?

Physicians should not be mistaken for medical assistants because their roles differ. Physician assistants are certified healthcare workers who diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of a physician. In contrast, medical assistants do various entry-level administrative and clinical activities.

Can a PA work independently of a doctor?

Yes, though not in all cases. They work under the supervision of physicians or surgeons in most circumstances. However, they can work independently in some rural and inner-city areas consulting with physicians only when they require help with cases.


If you want to pursue a career in the medical field but have no time for medicine, a physician assistant may be an option. From cardiothoracic, Emergency medicine to pain medicine, there are several specialties to choose from in becoming a physician assistant. However, the highest paying PA specialties should not be your only focus in selecting a specialty. You should consider your interest so you don’t end up being frustrated.






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