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Why is the Surgical Physician Assistant Salary High?

The surgical physical assistant salary typically starts at $60,000 and averages between $75,000 and $80,000. The salary number mentioned here is a nationwide average and is dependent on geography (rural or urban) and type of healthcare facility – for example, hospitals pay more than private practices, which pay more than an educational institute, and so on. Salaries are also dependent on specialization and experience. Surgical PAs are in demand and those with many years of experience can write their own paychecks. Highly-experienced surgical PAs can even earn $200,000 each year.

The surgeon’s PA helps his surgeon by performing procedures such as exposure, hemostasis, anatomic structure visualization, and other routine procedures necessary in a surgery. This frees up valuable time, which the surgeon can use to attend to more patients or devote this saved time to other core, high-quality work like cutting-edge medical research. There is a surgical PA for every medical specialty and the surgical physician assistant’s salary varies per specialty. For example, neurosurgical PAs are paid more than orthopedic PAs. Most surgical PAs find employment in hospitals and in private healthcare facilities.

The surgical physician assistant salary is high because they are required to conduct the following delicate procedures, which require very skilled and experienced hands:

  1. Exactly positioning the patient so that he gets optimum exposure during the surgical operation. The Surgical PA must also ensure that the patient is comfortable and safe throughout.
  2. The PA has to pad the patient’s points of pressure such as elbows, knees, eyes, face, etc.
  3. The PA must ensure that the patient’s blood circulation is not impaired when the procedure is on.
  4. The patient’s position must be such that no nerve damage must occur during the operation.
  5. The PA has to consult with the anesthesia team and ensure that the patient’s desired body temperature is maintained after anesthesia is administered.
  6. The PA must know the mechanics of surgical equipment like fracture tables, head stabilizers, arm extensions, and more.
  7. The PA has to assist by performing procedures like irrigating, sponging, manipulating suture materials, ensuring that the surgeon’s view is not blocked during the procedures, etc.
  8. The PA has to cauterize and ligate the vessels or tissue, and apply hemostatic clips and agents during the procedure.
  9. They must also apply tourniquets, vessel loops, claps, and other medical aids, as required.
  10. They also have to work on suturing, auto transfusion, injecting local anesthetics, applying appropriate wound dressing.


Before applying for a surgical PA’s course all students must have a bachelor’s degree and should have graduated from a PA school. They also must have NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) certification and a state license.

The surgical PA program lasts for 12 months and is primarily made up of clinical rotations in general, transplant, intensive care, and other surgeries. The student also has to participate in lectures and lab sessions, perform many routine surgical procedures, and care for patients during and post-surgery. All this involves very intensive study and work, and this is the reason why the surgical physician assistant salary is high.

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