15 highest paid PA specialties in California

15 highest paid PA specialties in California

As institutions churn out PAs yearly, some specialties in California offer better salary opportunities, hence the need to know what the highest paid PA specialties in California are.

With over 80 well-known specialties, the choice of specialties to take up is as abundant as possible. With each specialty offering patients relief, it is difficult to elevate one above the other.

This implies that as a PA, it boils down to interest and the specialty you can see yourself thriving in and making the most impact.

This article focuses on the highest paid PA specialties in California, the details you need to know about each specialty; and what the salaries and perks are.

Who are PAs, and how are they trained?

A PA collaborates with a physician to give medical treatment and counseling to patients.

A PA must complete a specific medical training program affiliated with a medical school, which involves classroom courses as well as clinical practice. Graduation results in the awarding of an academic degree and/or certificate.

Before enrolling in a PA training program, many PAs already hold two-or-four-year academic degrees.

Prior training is good and sets a good tone. That way, the highest paid pa specialties in California for example, already have background knowledge and are not novices.

How are the salaries of PAs calculated?

Hospitals place PAs on a salary, hourly, or through a productivity model. Organizations pay PAs hourly and have their hourly rate annualized.

Employers calculate PA’s total salaries and give both productivity pay and guaranteed compensation. Total wages exclude bonus pay and any fringe perks. The highest-paid PA specialties in California may probably get more in terms of bonuses.

What are the 15 highest paid PA specialties in California?

PAs may be trying to discover what they may consider the best option. Right here are the 15 highest-paid PA specialties in California.

#1 – Cardiovascular/Cardiothoracic surgery ($140,000)

PAs offer medical and surgical treatment in the division of Cardiovascular/Cardiothoracic Surgery under the supervision of attending physician(s) and in line with relevant law and hospital board rules.

Examining patients, devising diagnoses and developing treatment plans for patients, executing technical, clinical, and surgical procedures, and recording patient progress, and surgical care are all general tasks.

In addition, an employee in this classification will harvest saphenous veins, insert and remove chest tubes and catheters, intubate and extubate patients, and insert and remove central lines and arterial lines.

Ability to make accurate medical diagnoses; ability to communicate well and relate to patients; ability to work well with physicians and other health care providers; ability to effectively use computer applications such as spreadsheets, word processing, calendar, e-mail, and database software in performing work assignments; ability to read, write, speak, understand, and communicate in English sufficiently to perform the essential functions.

This way, PAs in cardiovascular surgery is at the top of California’s highest-paid PA specialties.

Related Article: 15 Highest Paid Trades in California| 2022

#2 – Thoracic surgery ($128,250)

PAs in thoracic surgery work with surgeons to monitor all parts of associated surgeries, including treatment plans before, during, and after the procedure. They frequently form close bonds with patients and their families, especially in emergencies such as heart attacks.

Surgeons are comfortable with PAs in complicated teams because their roles are widely established in thoracic surgery. That thoracic surgery doesn’t come as a surprise as they are among the highest-paid PA specialties in California.

PAs’ everyday work life as vital members of the thoracic team includes tight coordination with surgeons in the operating suite, assuring correct pre-and postoperative care, organizing the team effort, and being a resource to hospital employees, referring doctors, and the community.

#3 – Other surgical subspecialties ($125,000)

PAs are usually welcome on the team because as much as they aren’t experts in the field, they have experiences that can be termed important.

In complicated teams when surgeons need help from experts out of their own immediate fields of specialty, they can opt for a PA whose area of experience is near that of a surgeon.

PAs work daily on different or highly specialized teams to solve patients’ problems. For general surgery, subspecialties can include breast, colorectal, endocrine, upper and lower gastrointestinal, transplants of kidneys, pancreas, and the liver).

The complexity and multidimensional nature of PAs in this category place them among California’s highest-paid PA specialties.

#4 – Emergency medicine ($124,800)

PAs of emergency doctors handle almost the same thing as the doctors themselves but are still under the regulatory supervision of emergency doctors. This keeps everyone on their toes and learning.

Patients seen by emergency physicians include newborns and the elderly, the seriously sick and the worried well, pregnant patients, people with mental health conditions, and individuals from all walks of life.

Emergency physicians treat patients suffering from a wide range of medical and surgical diseases and traumas, which is probably responsible for them being one of the highest-paid PA specialties in California.

Within a few hours of starting a shift, you could be reducing a shoulder dislocation, managing a cardiac arrest, evaluating a suicidal adolescent, inserting a chest tube for tension pneumothorax, managing a multiple trauma moving vehicle collision, and assess a 3-year-old and a 90-year-old for abdominal pain.

#5 – Occupational medicine ($120,640)

Occupational medicine is a subspecialty of clinical medicine that focuses on identifying and managing health hazards that people may experience at work. PAs in occupational medicine assist in maintaining occupational well-being.

Proponents of occupational medicine aim at businesses and their employees, focusing on the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of any health disorders that may arise at work. It also guarantees that businesses follow workplace safety regulations.

Practitioners created occupational medicine based on the notion that a complex interaction of circumstances impacts workplace safety and worker well-being. The field’s breadth shifts as the connections and norms of society, government, labor unions, employers, and employees evolve.

#6 – Dermatology ($120,428)

Physician assistants (PAs) in dermatology analyze, diagnose, and treat various medical and surgical disorders. They also provide dermatologic patients and families with screening tests, preventative treatment, and education.

Dermatologists have significant training, spending 12 years or more in school to learn to diagnose and treat over 3,000 skin, hair, and nail illnesses, as well as aesthetic problems.

Patients consult dermatologists for disorders that go beyond the surface of the skin. Skin problems can undermine patients’ self-esteem, cause discomfort that makes daily tasks difficult, and, in severe cases, endanger their lives.

Institutions train PAs in dermatology in several methods that build on their primary-care training and experience. This training and experience place them at the top of the list of highest-paid PA specialties in California.

The clinic trains the majority of dermatology PAs by making the PAs collaborate with dermatologists. The physician-PA team will decide on the practice style, cooperation agreement, and delegation of appropriate services.

#7 – Critical care ($120,000)

Critical care physician assistants are highly skilled medical professionals who operate in a hospital’s critical care unit (ICU).

They provide critical care services to patients suffering from catastrophic diseases or injuries and frequently serve as the main doctors for these patients.

The majority of critical care experts are either respirologists (who specialize in lung illness), cardiologists (who specialize in heart disease), or neurologists (specialize in brain and nerve diseases).

Critical care experts may also train in another field of medicine (such as anesthesiology, internal medicine, or pediatrics) before obtaining a sub-specialist credential in critical care medicine.

When dealing with life-or-death circumstances, critical care physician assistants must be able to think on their feet and make swift choices.

They must also have good interpersonal skills to communicate successfully with patients, families, other healthcare practitioners, and other staff members.

#8 – Radiology ($120,000)

Radiologists are medical doctors who specialize in employing medical imaging techniques such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET), fusion imaging, and ultrasound to diagnose and treat illness and injury.

Radiologists’ PAs do almost similar things but have to report through the physician for oversight.

Because several of these imaging modalities employ radiation, they need safety and protection training.

Radiology physician assistants, like any other type of physician assistant, must work solely under the close and direct supervision of a qualified and certified radiologist.

Check this out: 15 Highest Paid Doctors In California 2022

#9 – Trauma surgery ($120,000)

Working as a trauma PA at a big metropolitan hospital, you spend your days hopping between admitted patients on the ward, dashing down to the ER to assess and treat arriving trauma patients, and aiding trauma surgeons in the operating room with whatever they require.

Trauma specialists treat fractured bones, wounds, internal injuries, burns, and shock. In addition, they do surgery to heal blunt-force injuries.

Their work frequently necessitates them operating on many catastrophic injuries in the same individual to preserve the person’s life. Because they frequently operate with inadequate information, these surgeons must be confident in their conclusions.

Throughout the day, PAs check in with the trauma surgeon and run anything they’re unsure about past them, but they have a lot of autonomy when it comes to making medical decisions for their patients.

Trauma surgeons are among the highest-paid PA specialties in California. Trauma PAs are important in almost any setting.

#10 – Plastic surgery ($120,000)

Plastic surgery physician assistants work closely with practicing plastic surgeons. They support plastic surgeons in the operating room by supplying surgical equipment, conducting suturing, and giving their own knowledge.

Plastic surgeons shape and mold bodily parts such as the ears, face, trunk, hands, and extremities. They also correct congenital issues including faulty bone structure in the hands or feet.

PAs are capable of doing modest surgical operations on their own. Following the procedure, these PAs may discuss the patient’s status with the surgeon, do wound checks, and issue instructions.

They can also obtain medical histories, do tests, consult with surgeons, and create patient treatment plans.

To work as a plastic surgery physician assistant, you must have a master’s degree from an authorized physician assistant school. These programs are very competitive, with the average student possessing a bachelor’s degree and many years of healthcare experience before applying.

#11 – Transplant surgery ($120,000)

Transplant PAs work with a variety of doctors, including attending surgeons, transplant surgery fellows, and surgical residents who cycle through the service every month.

Surgeons rely on PAs to care for patients both before and after surgery, as well as to see patients in the clinic, fill in for physicians when needed, and conduct outpatient follow-up visits.

Transplant PAs accept inpatient, donor, and outpatient calls during their coverage. PAs also work as needed in the clinical and outpatient settings, particularly for liver transplant patients.

#12 – Urgent care ($119,000)

The need for urgent care originated as a clinical specialty due to consumer desire for convenience. Urgent care is a service that exists between emergency medicine and general care.

PAs who practice urgent care generally work with professionals who provide urgent outpatient treatment for acute or subacute problems such as minor injury, viral sickness, rashes, sexually transmitted infections, and acute aggravation of chronic disorders like asthma.

Urgent care professionals do not often provide long-term treatment for chronic illnesses, nor do they do resuscitations or provide trauma care.

Regardless of the setting, doctors, physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) provide urgent care services.

#13 – Neurosurgery ($118,530)

A master’s degree from a physician assistant program certified by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant is necessary for neurosurgery physician assistants.

These studies normally last two years and cover anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, medical ethics, and medical law.

Neurosurgery PAs must interact successfully with patients, other medical professionals, and patients’ relatives as a physician assistant. You must be able to convey complicated medical knowledge understandably. You must also be able to listen to and respond to patients’ concerns and queries.

Physician assistants in neurosurgery work in hospitals, clinics, and private offices. They collaborate with neurosurgeons and other medical personnel to care for patients before, during, and after surgery.

They also assist patients in recovering from surgery and managing their pain. Typically, neurosurgery physician assistants work long hours, including evenings and weekends. They may be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

#14 – Psychiatry ($115,690)

A psychiatric physician assistant is a member of a medical team who treats and supports mentally ill patients. They collaborate with psychiatrists to provide mental health evaluation and treatment in community clinics, hospitals, and psychiatric offices.

In addition to direct patient treatment, the position includes paperwork management, filing with insurance companies, and other administrative duties. Some have specialist psychiatric qualifications, while others may lack extensive mental health expertise.

They can, for example, issue prescriptions and perform minor medical operations with the agreement of a supervising doctor. Psychiatry PAs are one of the highest-paid PA specialties in California.

#15 – Cardiology ($113,659)

Cardiologist physician assistants (CPAs) collaborate with cardiologists to care for patients with heart disease or other heart-related diseases. They might also help with echocardiograms, cardiac catheterizations, and electrophysiological investigations.

Physician assistants (PAs) in cardiology work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private offices. They may work full-time or part-time, and their hours may change based on their patients’ requirements.

Cardiology physician assistants frequently collaborate with cardiologists, other physicians, and nurses. They may also collaborate with other health care providers such as dietitians, physical therapists, and social workers.


In California, do PAs have complete practice authority?

No, they do not. A credentialed physician must oversee all Physician Assistants (either M.D. or D.O.). The supervising physician monitors the job of the physician assistant.

Are PAs in California as good as doctors?

Data doesn’t support this, but experience has shown that care gotten from PAs and doctors is almost the same and no difference has been noticed between the two. The highest-paid PA specialties in California get about the same workload.

A difference between a nursing practitioner and a physician assistant is that they both perform different functions and attend to patients’ needs in different ways.

Can PAs see patients on their own?

Yes, a PA can see patients independently, but that requires that the PA be supervised to ensure that they maintain the proper standard.


The highest-paid PA specialties in California are highly paid due to a combination of many factors. It is also not a clear representation of what it is like in other states and countries where many more factors are also in play.

This list of the highest-paid PA specialties in California is not exhaustive, as there are hundreds of specialties of equal importance and demand that are not as recognized and paid about the same.



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