This year, nurse practitioners and physician assistants have reason to rejoice: Both groups experienced increased full-time salaries in 2013, with the only dip reported in hourly wages for PAs.
According to the 2013 National Salary Survey of NPs & PAs, conducted annually by ADVANCE for NPs & PAs, full-time salaries rose more than $5,000 for each profession.
Hourly NPs saw just under $3 in higher wages in 2013 compared to 2012, while PAs paid by the hour lost $1.11. They were the only group in the survey to show a decrease in wages.
The 2013 numbers represent an impressive jump from just 2 years ago, when NPs were making more than $8,000 less than they had earned in 2013. PAs also saw an increase over the 2-year span - a $13,000 jump from 2011 to today.
We conducted our annual survey using an online questionnaire created with software from Zarca Interactive, a Virginia-based company specializing in online data collection. The survey was live from June 1, 2013 through Jan. 2, 2014.
In the 2013 survey, we collected 3,840 responses from 2,889 nurse practitioners and 951 physician assistants.
In 2013, the average nurse practitioner working full time earned a salary of $98,817 and the average physician assistant working full-time earned $107,268 (Table 1).
Compared to 2012 earnings, full-time salary for NPs increased by $5,785, compared to a $5,103 increase for PAs.
This change marked a smaller gap between the wages of NPs and PAs for the first time since 2010. In 2012, PAs outearned NPs by $9,133. In 2013, that number shrank to $8,451. However, that number is still nearly double the wage gap documented in 2011, which was just $4,287.
For NPs working part time or being paid according to an hourly rate, the raise was less impressive: an increase of just $2.92 per hour over 2012 (Table 1). NPs who are paid hourly earned $54.41 per hour.
Physician assistants saw a drop in hourly wages from last year, earning $54.05 per hour compared to $55.16 in 2012 (Table 1). The earnings marked the first decrease in PA hourly wages in the history of the ADVANCE for NPs & PAs survey. NPs last saw a dip in 2010, when rates dropped by $2.08.
Despite the loss, physician assistants working part time still outearned their NP counterparts by $2.64 per hour.
In 2013, men continued to outearn women in both professions (Table 2). For PAs, the gender gap was reported at $16,661 or 16.68%, compared to $9,881 or 10.19% in 2012. For NPs, the gap was $9,268 or 9.48% in 2013, compared to $11,781 or 12.86% in 2012.
PAs who are men reported the highest earnings in 2013 at $116,575; the lowest earnings were by NPs who are women, at $97,797. Male PAs also experienced the largest increase in wages, by 9.07% over 2012. PAs who are women saw the smallest increase, at 3%.
Nurse practitioners who are men earned an average increase in annual salary of 3.55%, up from $103,394 in 2012 to $107,065 in 2013. Nurse practitioners who are women increased their salaries by 6.75%, from $91,613 in 2012 to $97,797 in 2013.
Physician assistants who are men earned $116,575 in 2013 compared to $106,883 in 2012, while physician assistants who are women earned $99,914 compared to $97,002 in 2012.
The gender difference documented in the 2013 survey is linked to the demographics of the professions. Of the 2,889 nurse practitioner respondents, 90% were women and 10% were men. Of the 951 physician assistant respondents, 42% were men and 58% were men. Despite a marginally lower number of men in both professions, women continue to earn less.
In our general demographic data collection, the survey determined that the average time nurse practitioners and physician assistants have been in practice is getting smaller, as are the number of patients seen each week and the number of over-the-counter and prescription medications recommended or prescribed (Table 3).
For nurse practitioners, the average number of years in practice decreased from 9.3 in 2012 to 8.9 in 2013, indicating an increasing number of new graduates entering the profession. For physician assistants, that number dropped from 12.37 years in 2012 to 11.97 in 2013, a 3.23% decrease.
NPs and PAs reported seeing fewer patients in 2013, a trend that is not likely to continue now that the Affordable Care Act is in place.
Nurse practitioner OTC recommendations decreased 3.89%, from 27.7 per week in 2012 to 26.62 in 2013; PA OTC recommendations dropped from 35.37 per week in 2012 to 28.54 in 2013, a 19.31% decrease.
Prescriptions written by both professions dropped significantly in 2013. For nurse practitioners, the number of prescriptions written per week dipped from 66.42 per week in 2012 to 46.58 in 2013, a 27.87% decrease. Physician assistants wrote 83.75 prescriptions in 2012, but only 49.76 in 2013, a 40.59% decrease. The reasons for these declines are not clear.
We will share additional data from the 2013 National Salary Survey of NPs & PAs on our website in coming months.
Visit our site often to view and download detailed reports on salary by practice setting, geographic location, academic degree and more.
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A Note About Privacy
ADVANCE for NPs & PAs values reader and respondent privacy, and we will never share or inappropriately use personal data obtained during the salary survey data collection process.
Based on your 2012 feedback, we limited the number of questions in the 2013 survey and removed all requests for identifying information.
We collect city, state and gender information to present an accurate view of the demographics of the respondents (state and city reports to be posted later).
Our goal is to present the most accurate and representative data about salary and workplace issues for NPs and PAs.
We thank the 3,840 respondents who took the time to complete the 2013 survey, and we hope for higher participation in 2014. Please share these results with your colleagues and encourage them to participate in our next annual salary survey.
Data collection for this year's survey opens June 1 at www.advanceweb.com/NPPA.
Kelly Wolfgang is the assistant editor of ADVANCE for NPs & PAs. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.