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Do Female PAs Make More than Female Physicians?

A recent study out from Yale University states that, at least financially, most women would have been better off becoming physician assistants instead of physicians.

Two researchers from the Yale School of Management found that a few factors determined this surprising outcome.  The first was the large upfront cost of becoming a doctor. The average medical school student graduates a four year program with an average of $150,000 – $250,000 in debt for school and cost of living loans. Admittedly though, some students leave medical school with much higher debt.  Additionally, most medical residents only earn between $35,000 – $50,000 a year; not nearly enough to start making a dent in those loans. 


Contrast those numbers with that with average debt of $50,000 – $100,000 for a two year program to become a physician assistant.  It’s easy to see why the high cost of medical school can put many doctors behind PAs in their earning power.

The researchers also noted that there is a wage gap between male and female physicians.  However, what matters more is not the salary being made, but the hours spent working.  

“While there is a wage gap, our results occurs primarily because most female physicians do not work enough hours to rationalize medical school whereas most men do.”1  

Women tend to work less hours during the course of their careers, with many women working less than full time to accommodate the needs of a family or children. 

This same trend did not hold true for male physicians and physician assistants.  Generally, men who became physicians made more money over their lifetime than male physician assistants. 



Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Science Blog

[Image by Daniel Borman]

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