The following article is a part of conference coverage from the American Academy of PAs 2021 Conference (AAPA 2021), held virtually from May 23 to May 26, 2021. The team at the Clinical Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading PAs. Check back for more from AAPA 2021


Gender pay disparities in the PA profession have been well documented for decades. Although the gap is closing in the wake of social reckonings and advocacy for women’s rights, the gap persists, according to results presented in a poster session at the American Academy of PAs 2021 Conference (AAPA 2021).

“While PAs are doing better in comparison with non-PA women, there is still a wage gap,” said coauthor Amy E. Baker, MS, PA-C, program director for the Physician Assistant Program at West Chester University. Baker and her colleagues found that women who are PAs earn approximately 90% of their male counterparts’ salary. This compares with women nationally, who earn on average 82 cents for every dollar a man makes.

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The researchers drew their conclusion from data collected by the American Academy of PA (AAPA), Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), and the National Certification Commission of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

As the number of PA education programs has expanded, the number of PAs whose full-time employment is teaching in PA programs has grown rapidly, noted Baker and colleagues. While colleges and universities are often considered to be progressive environments, PAEA research showed that the gender wage gap persists in this setting.  “In the academic world, the higher [a female PA] ascends, the wider the gap tends to be,” Baker said.

The PAEA 2017 Faculty and Directors Survey, which provides nationwide data on salary information by gender, found a significant gender salary disparity among the 781 faculty members in the survey. The mean salary among men was $9,432 higher than the mean salary among women ($102,638 vs $93.206, respectively).

Similar nationwide data from NCCPA on clinically practicing PAs for the years 2016-2018 also showed a significant gender salary disparity. The 2018 AAPA Salary Report, which cross references salary information with various employment factors such as average number of hours worked per week and on-call duties showed that the mean salary among men was $11,500 higher than that among women ($112,500 vs $101.000, respectively). 

Clinical vs Academia

Although clinically practicing PAs earn higher salaries than academics, the gender pay disparity is greater for those in clinical practice. According to the study, female PAs earn 83% of their male counterparts’ salaries in clinical practice compared with 91% of male faculty compensation for PA faculty members. When AAPA data is adjusted for factors like experience, specialty, leadership roles, and weekly hours worked, the number rose to 94% of their male counterparts. The disparity is slightly less for full-time PA faculty than for all PAs. 

The researchers noted that acknowledging the disparity as a problem and addressing the issue are key initial steps to reduce the gender wage gap. To reduce the inequity, the researchers recommended these potential approaches: 

  • Performing regular pay equity analyses to ensure that pay remains based on relevant variables, such as education, length of employment, positions, and contributions to the institution or clinic.
  • Determining compensation in a group setting and making an overall effort to increase transparency pertaining to salary
  • Offering salary negotiation education and advocacy training for practicing PAs and PA students. 

Further research into this issue is warranted, Baker said, particularly analysis of factors that may affect pay for PA faculty members to be able to better compare this to the AAPA data. Comparisons of public vs private settings may be useful as well, the study found, as public entities may have more transparent processes.

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Bradford P, Anderson JL, Baker AE. Comparison of the gender wage gap in PA education and PA clinical practice. Poster presented at: American Academy of PAs 2021 Conference; May 23-26, 2021. Poster 194.