Study: Physician assistant workforce reaches record high

WASHINGTON — The American Academy of Physician Assistants released on Wednesday its "2010 Census Report and Salary Report," which revealed that, even in a down economy, the profession continues to rapidly grow.

According to the census, the number of practicing PAs reached 83,466 in 2010, a 100% increase over the last 10 years. Female PAs outnumber their male counterparts by nearly 20,000. More than 30% of PAs practice in primary care, making it the largest specialty for PAs.

Nearly 30% of PAs practice in single-specialty physician group practices, and 40% have been in their current primary specialty for at least six years. The Census also shows that PAs enjoy their work, as 66% indicate they are satisfied or mostly satisfied with their career.

“PAs are the only healthcare providers educated and credentialed with a primary care focus, providing a strong foundation for any specialty in which they may choose to practice,” AAPA president Robert Wooten said. “The information from AAPA’s salary and census reports clearly confirm what PAs and the healthcare world have known for years: The PA profession is growing rapidly, and it is key to expanding access to quality health care for millions of Americans.”

PAs earn a median annual salary of $90,000, according to the report, an increase of 2.8% from the 2009 survey. The three states with the highest salary increase in 2010: Rhode Island, South Dakota and Missouri, which all experienced increases of more than 9% over the previous year.

While the majority of PAs are in clinical practice, an estimated 5,079 PAs work either alone or concurrently in healthcare education, administration, research and public health — a figure that demonstrates the growing role PAs play in influencing the entire healthcare field.

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