The ranks of physician assistants continue to increase for the fifth consecutive year. Between 2017 and 2018, the physician assistant (PA) workforce increased by 6.6% and the average annual salary increased by 12.4%, according to a news release published by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).1

“The PA profession continues to be a rewarding and eagerly sought career choice,” said NCCPA President and Chief Executive Office Dawn Morton-Rias. “Not only are PAs making a difference in the more than nine million patients lives each week, this profession offers clinical flexibility, growth opportunities and competitive salaries.”

The latest Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by State, published by the NCCPA, noted that the states with the greatest increase in the number of certified PAs include Rhode Island (13.7%), Arkansas (11.4%), Nevada (11.3%), and Indiana (10.4%).2 In rural areas, many PAs specialize in surgery and emergency and hospital medicine to meet the needs created by physician shortages; however, the majority of PAs working in rural areas practice in primary care.

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Data published in the report also found that the average yearly salary for certified PAs increased by 12.4% between 2014 and 2018. States with the highest median salaries include Alaska, California, and Nevada ($125,000/year).

Of note, Alaska leads the nation in the number of PAs practicing in primary care (50.4%). California ranks the highest in the nation among states with the largest percentage of minority certified PAs (33.7%), and also has the largest percentage of certified PAs that can communicate with patients in a language other than English (52.9%). Hawaii and Maryland are the second and third states with the largest number of certified minority PAs (28.3% and 24%, respectively).

The report comes just after the publication of the annual U.S. News and World Report Best Jobs list. After dentistry, the PA profession is ranked as the #2 job in healthcare; the profession landed at #3 best job overall.3

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The PAs’ “commitment to maintaining high standards of clinical knowledge and skills throughout their careers makes it possible for patients to have more options when it comes to accessing timely, affordable, high-quality health care for all,” concluded Morton-Rias.


1. American Academy of Physician Assistants. PA profession continues to gain nationwide momentum as workforce numbers and salaries increase [news release]. January 29, 2020. Accessed March 5, 2020.

2. National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. 2018 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by State: Annual Report. NCCPA website. Published 2020. Accessed March 5, 2020.

3. Physician Assistant overview. US News & World Report website. Published 2020. Accessed March 5, 2020.