We get the question all the time about PA vs NP salary comparison.  So we decided to answer in some detail.

It’s a great question, but it’s hard to find good data on NP salaries because the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where NP salaries are tracked, lumps them in with the salaries of regular nurses.  This is because NPs are Advanced Practice Nurses, meaning they are nurses who have had extra training to allow them to do more.  So we did some digging and the result is our new PA vs NP salary comparison page.  Think of us as the Consumer Reports of PA vs NP salary information.

We hope that seeing accurate numbers for the PA vs NP salary comparison will leave you with a better understanding of both professions.

PA vs NP Salary Comparison – All Specialties

According to the National Salary Report 2010 (a survey of 4,256 PAs and NPs by Advanceweb for PAs and NPs), PAs consistently earn a little more than NPs.  Here are the numbers.  (Click the table to enlarge):

Pa vs np salary comparison 2001-2010

PAs have always in made slightly more than NPs.

Why do PAs earn more?  No one is certain, it likely relates to gender bias.  NPs start as nurses, and traditionally nursing has been a largely female profession (it still is by a factor of 4 to 1).

pa vs np salary comparison male vs female

Even within each discipline, women earn less.

The first PAs, on the other hand, were armed forces medics who returned from the Vietnam war and found themselves overqualified for nursing and medical assisting, but unqualified to be physicians.  To utilize their war-honed skills, they were trained to provide an expanded scope of practice closer to what they had known in battle.  Being soldiers, the first PAs were all male.  Today there are plenty of male nurses and female PAs, but the ratio for PAs vs NPs is quite different.  How much does this relate?   Just look at the numbers:

You’re probably aware that there are other factors that affect NP vs PA salary.  Here are the numbers by specialty, ranked from highest to lowest in each discipline: pa vs np salary by specialtyWe were a little surprised.  Mental health is a money specialty?  Maybe because it gets fewer takers than the “sexier” specialties, like ER.  We will definitely be doing a piece on  and mental health as a PA specialty in the near future.  We also found it interesting that Emergency Medicine is the highest paying specialty for NPs, but not for PAs (mental health, schools, cardiology, and dermatology come first for PAs).

You can also see that PAs generally make a little more than NPs in all specialties – even women’s health, and at the top end this difference becomes more dramatic (116K for men in mental health, 100K for women).  We think it relates to gender bias — according to psychologist Matt Wallaert of GetRaised, “Not only are women less likely to make it to those upper ranges [of a profession] because of promotion gaps, “when they do get there they are less likely to be paid fairly.”**

So here’s our PA vs NP Salary Comparison Summary, which tells us a little more about both fields than just what they earn:

  • There are more women than men in both professions, but the ratio of women to men is much higher for NPs than for PAs (80% vs 45%).
  • Overall PA vs NP salary comparisons show differences of 5%-7% more for PAs than NPs.
  • Though there are more women than men in both fields, on average, men are paid 11-13% more than their female counterparts.
  • PA vs NP salary comparison shows that differences are highly influenced by a clinician’s specialty and work setting — possibly more than any other factor.  We didn’t research how the geographic location where the clinician practices influences the PA vs NP salary comparison here, but plain to in the future.

So there you have it.  Drop us a comment – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

**Forbes.com – The Best Paying Jobs for Women in 2011 by Jenna Goudreau