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U.S. Physician Assistant Workforce Doubles in 10 Years

 |  By John Commins  
   September 09, 2011

There were 83,466 physician assistants practicing in the United States in 2010, a 100% increase over the past 10 years, according to a survey from the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

A further breakdown of the survey found that 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 66% of PAs said they are satisfied or mostly satisfied with their career. Female PAs outnumber male PAs by nearly 20,000. More than 30% of PAs practice in primary care, making it the largest specialty for PAs, AAPA said in a media release.

"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," said AAPA President Robert Wooten, PA-C. "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 healthcare for millions of Americans." 

PAs earn a median annual salary of $90,000, up 2.8% from the 2009 survey. The three states with the highest salary increase in 2010 were Rhode Island, South Dakota and Missouri, all with increases of more than 9% over 2009, the survey found.

While most PAs are in clinical practice, an estimated 5,079 PAs work either alone or in healthcare education, administration, research and public health – a figure that Wooten said demonstrates the growing role PAs play in healthcare.

The AAPA annual census surveys both AAPA members and nonmembers. The data collected are used to track PA workforce issues, calculate summary statistics and describe the salary information. AAPA represents more than 81,000 certified PAs across all medical and surgical specialties in 50 states, the District of Columbia, most U.S. territories, and in the military.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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