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The Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties

The Highest Paying Physician Assistant Specialties

There are many factors to consider when looking for an employment opportunity as a Physician Assistant. One of the biggest factors is compensation and this can vary considerably based on which medical specialty you choose to work in.‌ With average PA salaries running about $110,000 a year, choosing a lucrative specialty opportunity can bump up your pay by over $20,000 annually. To help you capitalize on a lucrative career move, consider these top-paying PA specialties from the NCCPA's 2018 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by Specialty survey*.

Cardiothoracic-Vascular Surgery

Physician Assistants working in the field of cardiothoracic/vascular surgery earn the profession's highest salaries, totaling $132,071 annually. These PAs go the extra mile to earn this top-level pay as they also work the longest hours in the profession, clocking close to 50 hours a week. When they aren't in the operating room or on the hospital floor, these PAs also report the most on-call hours with half reporting an average of 10 + hours of call a week.


Skin is in when it comes specialties earning top pay for Physician Assistants. PAs that provide care to patients with integumentary issues earn an average of $126,084 annually and work an average 40-hour workweek. This helps explain why Dermatology consistently ranks highest amongst specialties when it comes to the best work-life balance and career satisfaction levels.

Emergency Medicine

Emergency Medicine is a great specialty for PAs wanting a fast-paced, challenging career that provides a great income. This may be why 13% of practicing Physician Assistants work in this specialty with potential earnings averaging $123,006 annually.


Surgical specialty work frequently offers the highest compensation levels for medical professionals. This is true for PAs that provide surgical services to patients with central nervous system disorders in the field of neurosurgery. While clocking some of the profession's highest hours, averaging 45 hours per week, these PAs can expect to make $121,927 annually.

Ortho Surgery

Ortho Surgery is a popular and well-compensated specialty that close to 11,000 Physician Assistants have made their specialty-of-choice. Like their neurosurgical counterparts, these PAs work some extended hours in hospitals and clinics while providing musculoskeletal care to patients in need. Salary expectations for Orthosurgical PAs average around $117,000 annually.


* National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, Inc. (2019, July). 2018 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by Specialty: An Annual Report of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. From

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