Frequently Asked Questions

One of AAPA’s important responsibilities is to collect and analyze data to track growth and change in the PA profession. The AAPA Digital Salary Report includes more, highly detailed PA compensation and benefits information compared to the traditional Salary Report. We’ve compiled this list of questions PAs often ask — and employers ask PAs — and the corresponding answers. Please contact us via email with more questions. We are here to help.

What is the difference between the AAPA Digital Salary Report and the Annual Salary Report PDF?

The Digital Salary Report includes more detailed PA compensation and benefits information compared to the traditional Annual Report PDF. Unlike the PDF, the digital report allows you to customize tables to fit your unique employment situation. Because we understand the value PAs, PA students, and employers place on having access to customized salary data, we update the digital report as early in the year as possible. The PDF report is published several months after the digital report because it contains additional data analysis on specific topics of interest. Once the PDF is published, that information is also added to the digital report.

What is a percentile, and when do I use it?

A percentile is the point at or below which a given percentage of respondents fall. For example, the 10th percentile is the value at or below which 10% of the respondents fall — a 10th percentile salary of $92,000 means that 10% of all the respondents made $92,000 or less. Conversely, the 90th percentile salary of $145,150 means that 90% of the respondents made $145,150 or less. You can use percentiles to approximate an appropriate value within any given table. For example, if you are a PA with 25 years of experience and are looking at a table that lists only state and specialty, you may want to use the 90th percentile to determine your ideal salary to account for your experience. Conversely, if you have one year of experience, you may want to use the 10th percentile, while the 50th percentile may be more appropriate for those with 10 years of experience.

How do I use the AAPA Salary Reports to understand whether I’m being paid appropriately if there is not enough data for my specific practice information?

We frequently get questions such as “I am a PA in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I have been in a urology practice for two years. I do not see this information in the Digital Salary Report. Is there any way I can use this information to understand whether I’m being paid appropriately?” In this example, the AAPA salary datasets would likely have information on PAs in urology with two to four years of experience and PAs in Arizona in all surgical specialties combined, but likely not enough responses to give a reliable range of compensation for PAs in Arizona who work in urology with two to four years of experience. Using the percentiles available within the report, you can approximate a reasonable salary range to negotiate the best rate of pay. In Arizona, salaries are higher than in the U.S. overall. We would normally recommend that someone with fewer years of experience compare themselves to the 10th to 25th percentiles. With the higher salaries in Arizona, one might estimate a negotiating salary at closer to the 50th to 75th percentiles of any national tables, at the 25th percentile of the Arizona tables, and at the 50th percentile for PAs in Arizona with two to four years of experience. Alternatively, you could also look at cost-of-living adjusted salaries in Arizona for a variety of experience levels, specialties, and settings in the AAPA Digital Salary Report’s custom compensation tables.

Why does the compensation information from other organizations report salary and hourly wages that are different than AAPA’s data?

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data are reported by employers for a given point in time and are averaged over several years and adjusted based on changes in wage over time. This data also annualizes hourly wages as if recipients were working 40-hour weeks over a full year. BLS is a good resource for PAs who are interested in what PAs in major metropolitan areas earn from a single employer, or for those who are interested in wage estimates based on employer-reported wages.

It is important to note BLS compensation estimates were produced using data collected in the May 2021, November 2020, May 2020, November 2019, May 2019, and November 2018 semiannual panels. Three of these six panels occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic, so only the most recent (May 2021) survey panel would reflect changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and thus any increase or decrease because of COVID-19 may be masked since data are collected on a rolling basis. NCCPA also collects compensation data on a rolling basis, but their numbers for compensation may differ because their data reflect ranges of averaged compensation amounts and not median values.

Can I get data for PAs in my county or city?

While AAPA collects county level data in its Salary Surveys, it is for the purpose of determining rurality. We do not use that information for compensation breakouts. We recommend that you cross reference AAPA salary data with BLS data, which has overall PA compensation data at the metropolitan level. The AAPA Salary Report includes a table within the methodology section that highlights how BLS data compare to AAPA’s data. PAs are included within the 29-000 Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations category and are occupation code 29-1071. There are several ways to find this information. You may go to the PA occupation page, to the location pages which includes all professions, or you may use the OEWS database tool to refine the search.

I’m using the customized Salary Report, but when I refine results, I do not see my information. Why not, and who has that information for me?

Salary information is presented by specialty, setting, experience, and other categories to provide the most detailed information possible for PAs. But to maintain the trust and anonymity of those who take our surveys, as well as the integrity of the percentiles we calculate, we do not show any data points based on fewer than five respondents. So, for PAs in states with relatively few PAs, or in uncommon settings or specialties, this detailed information is not made available by AAPA.

I am trying to negotiate a higher salary, but the employer does not want to accept AAPA data, saying it is not objective or accurate. Can you help me explain why it is a valid data source?

AAPA frequently hears the myth that its data cannot be valid as it is self-reported. However, we benchmark our data against other available salary data including self-reported and employer-reported data and have found we are consistently within a reasonable range of other salary sources, given the differences in what is considered “salary” or “compensation.”

For example, the base salary data in the AAPA Salary Report are very close to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is employer-reported based on annualized hourly wage. PAs reference the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) as a source of salary benchmarking. However, MGMA data are based on salary data reported to MGMA by a small group of their member organizations, and the breakouts needed to accurately determine a PA’s base compensation are limited due to the small sample sizes. We have heard that MGMA’s salary data for PAs are sometimes higher than AAPA’s and sometimes lower. We do not share MGMA’s data with PAs as it is proprietary to MGMA.

We recommend that whatever the source of salary data, you request to see the data and what is included within their salary report. We also recommend considering non-paid compensation such as bonuses and other additional compensation, benefits, and other factors important to you personally, to evaluate a full compensation and benefits package. AAPA members can learn more about contract negotiations through our career resource, Negotiating Your Contract. Alternatively, we have Becoming the Self-Aware Advocate available for purchase in AAPA Learning Central.

What are Total Wages? Why do you list salary and bonuses separately? And what total compensation should I expect?

The Total Wages compensation option was included to give PAs with productivity pay and hourly wages a better way to compare their income to those making a salary. This category allows you to view all PA compensation types in the same table. We do this by creating annualized salaries for PAs receiving hourly wages based on their reported wages and hours worked. For those earning productivity pay, Total Wages are determined by adding the amount of productivity pay a PA reported to their base salary. Please note, this compensation type does not include fringe benefits, like bonuses, and cannot reflect cost-of-living adjustments. Due to changes in calculation, Total Wages cannot be compared to salary report data collected prior to 2022 in the AAPA Digital Salary Report.

 

When negotiating for a job, PAs need to know what compensation is appropriate for their position, separate from whatever bonus might also be offered. Because salary is generally negotiable, along with some benefits, while bonus is typically not, we keep these separate to facilitate the negotiation process. You will notice in our report that bonuses are included by clicking a field during customization of the Base Compensation table.

Where is the average salary listed?

We find that the median is a better measure of the “middle salary” than the mean, as it is not affected by outliers — those responses that are on the far extremes of a normal response. We do not report the mean or “average” salary, but the median is a good number to think of as a “typical” PA within that category. In our tables, the median is displayed in the 50th percentile column.

Do you collect salary and data in ranges like other salary surveys do?

The AAPA Salary Survey collects actual salary data rather than asking respondents to select a range in which their salary falls. Many salary surveys collect data in categories, such as $10,000 to $99,999, $100,000 to $109,999, etc. They then assume that the midpoints of the range are the salaries of every PA who selected the category. The advantage of this approach is that participants may feel more comfortable providing their information. The disadvantage is loss of accuracy. AAPA, on the other hand, asks the PA to report their actual salary to the nearest whole number. AAPA data are also collected at the start of the year, when W-2s for the year in question have been released and PAs can refer to them for accuracy. While we may deter some from responding due to the sensitive nature of the information collected, the data we do collect is more accurate.

There are many salary surveys available. Why should I use the AAPA Salary Report?

AAPA Salary Report data are based on thousands of responses from PAs who participated in the AAPA Salary Survey. The AAPA Salary Report is the only resource that provides detailed information on salary, bonuses, and hourly wages, broken out by state, experience, specialty, setting, and employer type. These are all factors that will impact a PA’s base salary or hourly wage. The report also provides in-depth national- and state-level information on compensation for taking and being available for call, as well as for profit sharing and other kinds of compensation and benefits available to PAs. No other resource provides the breadth of information contained in the AAPA Salary Report.

I am not a member of AAPA, but I took the survey. Do I get the Salary Report for free?

We greatly appreciate your contributions to the AAPA Salary Survey and your support of accurate PA salary data. We provide all nonmembers with the National Salary Summary which includes high-level data for specialties, settings, and locations. This report is released in July each year. Complimentary access to the full AAPA Salary Report is a benefit reserved for AAPA members. For your free Salary Report and many other discounts and perks, become a member today!

I am not a member of AAPA. If I purchase the AAPA Digital Salary Report this year, how long do I have access to the report? What comes with the report?

If you purchase the AAPA Digital Salary Report, you will have access to that year’s information indefinitely. If you purchase the 2022 report, you will still have access in 2024 and beyond. You will not, however, have access to other years’ data unless you purchase the additional years. In addition, you will have access to the full PDF version of the report including the National Salary Summary and all of the data tables when that report is released in summer.

Before I purchase a report, how can I know if you have the information I am looking for?

AAPA believes that by providing the 10th to 90th percentiles, typical compensation can be estimated for any specialty. You may also contact us via email with your specialty, state, and experience, and we can  let you know if there is sufficient data. Please note that this may take up to five business days to respond due to high volume of emails.

I am looking for older salary information. Do you still have this available?

Past reports are free for members of AAPA and available for purchase by nonmembers. Additionally, the Digital Salary Report (DSR) has features affording users the ability to compare compensation data from multiple years in one customized table. AAPA members have free access to all data years available within the DSR; however, nonmembers can only compare data between Salary Reports they have individually purchased.