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Exploring the Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties

There are more than 115,000 Physician Assistants (PA) practicing in America today, making it one of the most in-demand medical professions.

Since the professions' birth 50 years ago, PA's have seen an increase in both practice opportunities and pay, with the average PA making about $105,000 a year(1). Physician Assistants working in specialty practice can demand even higher salaries due to their specialized skill sets. If you are a PA looking for great pay and challenging opportunities, you may want to consider these high paying Physician Assistant specialties(1). Learn more about the highest paying physician assistant salary by specialty below!

Exploring the Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties

Cardiothoracic/Vascular Surgery (CV)

There are 3,158 Physician Assistants practicing in the field of Cardiothoracic/Vascular Surgery. With salaries averaging $125,425 a year, these PA's top the list of highest paying physician assistant specialties. This sizable salary does come at a price, with PA's in this specialty reporting the longest workweek, averaging 50 hours.


More than 3,589 Physician Assistants have chosen Dermatology as their specialty of choice. This specialty not only has the distinction of some of the highest pay but also a high quality of life index. The average physician assistant salary by specialty for dermatology averages $118k,145k a year.

Emergency Medicine

Physician Assistants that enjoy fast paced, challenging work in the field of emergency care also enjoy great take home pay. For the 12,152 practicing PA's in this field, salaries for physician assistants within this specialty average $116,661 a year.


Physician Assistants that choose Neurosurgery as their specialty of choice can expect to make about $114,816 a year. The specialty's great pay does require considerable hours and time on your feet, with most PA's reporting 48-hour work weeks. This specialty's salary helps illustrate how surgical specialty practice can increase a PA's pay. When comparing Neurology PA salaries to that of Neurosurgical PA's, they make considerably less at $95,606 a year.

Orthopedic Surgery

This popular surgical specialty boasts 9,991 practicing Physician Assistants. While many are attracted to rewarding work with the musculoskeletal system, many may elect to stay for the pay. Mean salaries for Orthopedic Surgery PA's is $111,327 a year. This specialty is 3rd on our list for work hours, with most PA's reporting 45 hour work weeks.

General Surgery

General Surgery is a great choice for PA's looking to help care for holistic surgical patients while enjoying one of the highest paying physician assistant specialties. Over 2,700 Physician Assistants work in this surgical specialty that boasts the shortest work weeks. While most General Surgery PA's report 40 hour work weeks, they make less than their specialty surgical counterparts at $106,504 a year.



National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, Inc. (2017, July).

2016 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by Specialty: An Annual Report of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Retrieved Date, from NCCPA Research

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