October 20, 2021
AAPA Expert Highlights This Year’s New Information
August 1, 2019
For the first time, AAPA’s 2019 Salary Report national summary includes a profession-wide look at PA compensation, aggregating PAs who are paid base salaries, hourly pay, and productivity pay. Why the change? AAPA’s Research team wanted to give PAs the clearest picture possible of PA compensation across the country. Tim McCall, Ph.D, AAPA’s research manager, explains what’s new about the Salary Report this year and how you can most effectively use this additional information.
Q: What is different about the Salary Report this year?
A: The Salary Report that you know and love is largely the same! We didn’t want to leave out anything PAs find helpful, so we actually added information this year. Our goal was to give a more complete picture of what PAs across the nation are making, so this year, we’ve included compensation, not just base salary, in many of the graphs in the national summary. Some PAs are paid hourly, or based on productivity. This year’s national summary reflects not just those PAs who are paid a base salary, but PAs who are compensated in other ways as well.
Q: Can you explain more about the difference between salary and compensation?
A: Good question! And this is a really important distinction when you’re looking at the 2019 Salary Report. In past Salary Reports, the national summary information (the first 20-25 pages) has been prepared using base salary. It also included demographics of the profession and detailed base salary information for a variety of breakouts – major specialty area, employer type, work setting, and even gender. But, we know that not all PAs are paid a base salary. Some are paid hourly or based on productivity. We’ve always included tables in the Salary Report that address hourly-paid PAs, but we didn’t include that information in the national summary. This year, and going forward, we are including base salary, hourly-paid, and productivity-paid data in our national summary. We thought this information was important to get a true sense of what PAs are paid profession-wide.
Q: Wait. When you say “compensation,” what do you mean exactly?
A: When we use the word “compensation” in the national summary, we are combining pay across compensation types to get at “base income.” For salaried PAs, we count their base salary. For hourly PAs, we count their annualized wage (hourly wage multiplied by hours worked per week multiplied by weeks worked in the year). For productivity-paid PAs, we count the compensation they received separate from bonuses (minimum base salary plus productivity pay). We do not include annual bonus in our measure of “compensation” but do report it separately.
We present compensation this way to get a sense of what PAs took home last year as their non-bonus and benefits pay, regardless of whether they earned a base salary, hourly pay, or productivity pay.
Q: What is productivity pay?
Around one in 25 PAs are paid based on productivity metrics, such as Relative Value Units, or RVUs, and others are paid based on a combination of this and a “guaranteed minimum compensation” or “base salary.” In other words, their pay may fluctuate substantially each year based on their practice, productivity, and collections. In general, PAs paid based on productivity earn substantially higher than those paid a flat base salary or hourly wage; in 2018, median pay for PAs paid on the productivity model was $150,000.
Q: How is hourly pay different from a salary?
Around five in six PAs are paid either a base salary, or a combination of salary and productivity pay, while the other one in six PAs are paid on an hourly basis. Hourly pay seems to be more common in certain specialties – like emergency medicine. Hourly pay is the most straightforward: You get a specified dollar amount for each hour worked.
Q: OK, I think I’ve got it. How do I effectively use this information?
A: Tailor it to you as closely as possible! For example, if you are working as a PA in emergency medicine in a physician office in California and you have 20 years of experience, using the nationwide median compensation for emergency medicine PAs will not give you as precise an estimate as if you explore our state and specialty by years of experience tables. By checking our data tables that are specific to your situation, you’ll get a far more detailed idea of where your salary fits within the PA range. You can use this information to negotiate with your current employer, make a work setting or specialty change, or if you’re contemplating a move.
Our goal for this year’s Salary Report was to provide a more complete view of PA compensation around the country. We hope you find the additional information helpful, and we’re excited about improving the Salary Report even more for 2020.
Tim McCall, Ph.D., is the research manager at AAPA. Contact him at [email protected].