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Are PA Wages Fair?

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There are two sides to this story…

One side says: Hell no! The other says yes.  Pretty black and white don’t you think?  Well, maybe I over simplified it just a tad.  Before we get into this debate, what are the average wages anyway?

If you have seen any of the reports published by AAPA, Advance, etc. then you know wages are broken down by specialty and years of practice.  Lets make things simply.  Roughly PAs are earning an average salary of $100,000/year.

What do physicians make?  This varies even more, anywhere from $170,000 – $400,000.  The lower end represents family practice/internal medicine and the higher end of the spectrum represents orthopedics/cardiology (Medscapes 2014 physician compensation report).

You can think of it as a family physician making roughly twice as much as you even though you do the same or even more work.  But, this isn’t fair.  Why?  Look at their schooling.  It takes a family physician 7 years to make that $170,000.

You also need to realize the amount of debt physicians accrue over their medical education.  The average medical school debt is $170,000-$200,000.  Once medical school is done, residency begins.  Residents make on average $50,000/year.  This salary is barley enough to make ends meet, let alone pay back loans.  So, interest accrues, and 3 years later they are looking at much more debt.

Physicians are now looking to pay back roughly $300,000.  A physician is in debt $300,000 – $400,000 (depending on how frugal they are) by the age of 30 (assuming they did everything back to back without a break).  This is insane!

Keep in mind, this does not include their undergraduate education.

A physician assistant is done in two years and will graduate with an average debt of $60,000.  They are able to start paying that back immediately after graduation, which limits the amount of interest accrued.

We have a physician making $175,000 who owes $300,000 vs a physician assistant making $100,000 with $60,000 in debt.  You also must keep in mind that the physician assistant is done in two years.  So, while the medical student is barely entering year 3, the PA is making 6 figures.  While the resident is working for $50,000 a year for an extra three years, the PA is making twice the amount.

The PA has accrued $500,000 in salary by the time the physician is barely entering practice with a debt burden of $300,000.

So, I say give them their salary.  They should be making more than PAs.  As you can tell from these numbers, I don’t think we’re getting short changed.  It just isn’t lucrative to become a physician anymore.  Times are changing!

I would love to hear your thoughts on the manner. Leave a comment below, and let me know what you think.

Andrew