CHART: Tracking the rise of physician assistants

Physician assistant ranks as the top health care job in the U.S., according to an annual list from U.S. News. The publication compiled its rankings  based on a variety of factors, including median salary, employment rate and 10-year growth projections. Physician assistant came out on top of a list of 29 different jobs in the health care field.

Physician assistants have master’s degrees and can perform many of the same duties as physicians, including diagnosing, developing treatment plans and prescribing medication, according to the American Academy of PAs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected the number of physician assistant jobs nationally will grow 37 percent from 2016 to 2026.

In Missouri, there were 1,070 physician assistants in 2018, according to the BLS. That represented a slight decrease from 2017 and a more substantial drop from 2013, the peak for physician assistant employment in Missouri over the last decade. However, the state has seen an upward trend in physician assistant employment over the past 10 years, and the mean annual wage for the job has trended upward.

Missouri has a relatively low density of physician assistants compared to the rest of the country, according to Labor Department data. The state had about four physician assistants for every 10,000 jobs in 2018. Of the 50 states, Alaska has highest rate of physician assistants per 10,000 jobs, with about 17.

Despite the lofty overall ranking from U.S. News, physician assistant is not among the top 10 in terms of pay for health care jobs nationally, according to the publication. The highest paid professions are anesthesiologist, OB/GYN, oral surgeon, orthodontist, psychiatrist, and surgeon. They all have a median salary of $208,000. Of those six jobs, orthodontist ranks the highest on the “Best Jobs” list, at No. 3.

The lowest-paying health care job ranked by U.S. News is esthetician and skincare specialist, with a median salary of $30,080 nationally. It ranks 28th on the Best Jobs list.

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