National Salary Report 2011

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In our still fragile economy, the fact that nurse practitioner and physician assistant salaries decreased in 2011 is not surprising. What is surprising is how dramatically different those declines are.

The 2011 National Salary Survey of NPs & PAs found that that the average full-time salary paid to PAs dropped by $2,006 compared to 2010, while the average NP salary dipped by only $187.

Job market observers told ADVANCE for NPs & PAs that this decrease in PA wages likely reflects an overall trend of declining salaries for PAs and NPs in specialty settings. “This impacts the PAs more because they have been overrepresented in the specialties,” commented Renee Dahring, MSN, NP, a career consultant who writes for our Career & Workforce column and our Career Coach blog. “Many specialty employers used to hire only PAs, but over this past year, more and more are opening the positions to NPs, too. No doubt these employers have also noticed that NPs don’t make as much money as PAs, so the influx of NPs into these areas has probably helped depress PA wages down closer to the NP level.”

Survey Methods

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 July 1 through Oct. 31, 2011.

The 2011 survey drew a larger response than our first survey of the two professions, conducted in 2010. We collected 4,414 usable responses, and these represented 3,116 NPs and 1,298 PAs.

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Full-Time Salaries

In 2011, the average NP working full time earned a salary of $90,583, while the average PA working full time earned $94,870 (Table 1).

Although PAs continued to outearn NPs in 2011, the gap is getting smaller. In 2010, the average PA took home $6,106 more in full-time salary than the average NP. But in 2011, the difference dropped to $4,287.

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Part-Time Rates

The National Salary Survey of NPs & PAs also collects data on hourly rates paid for part-time positions. In 2011, the average NP working part time earned an hourly wage of $47.63 – an increase of $3.86 per hour over 2010. PAs experienced a slight drop in hourly pay: The average PA working part time earned an hourly wage of $50.52, a 59-cent decline over 2010.

Practice Setting

As usual, the most fascinating results are in the category of salary by primary work setting (Table 2). We have organized these results in descending order. The top salaries for NPs were paid in emergency departments, neonatal units and retail health clinics (the first time convenient care has broken into the top 10). For PAs, mental health settings, surgery setting and emergency departments delivered the highest pay rates.

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The data show some surprising salary declines. NPs in cardiology clinics earned 10.42% less than in 2010, and NPs in oncology clinics earned 7.59% less. The biggest drop occurred in aesthetics and skin care practices, where NPs earned 10.42% less in 2011 than they did in 2010.

Among PAs, aesthetics and dermatology notched the largest decline according to practice setting, a drop of 12.49%. Other salary cuts of note for PAs include a 9.92% drop in cardiology practices and a 7.77% drop in gerontology settings compared to 2010.

For the first time this year, we tabulated data about part-time rates according to practice setting (Table 3).

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Gender Gap Update

Men still make more than women in both professions, but the gender gap narrowed for NPs in 2011 (Table 4). Among nurse practitioners, the difference in salary dropped from $13,085 in 2010 to $7,396 in 2011.

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Female PAs lost ground in 2011, with the salary difference between men and women increasing from $11,007 in 2010 to $13,327 in 2011.

The gender breakdown of each profession is important to note. The 2011 survey shows that 92% of NP respondents were women and 8% were men, while 58% of PA respondents were women and 42% were men.

New This Year

This year’s kickoff report features another new presentation (Table 5), an overview of data highlighting number of years in practice, number of patients seen each week, number of prescriptions written, number of over-the-counter products recommended, and average age.

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What’s Next?

We will share additional data from the 2011 National Salary Survey of NPs & PAs on our website in the coming months. Visit often to access focused reports on NP and PA salary according to state, salary according to select cities, salary according to academic degree, and much more.

To be notified of these focused reports as they are posted, sign up for our free enewsletter using the form posted at www.advanceweb.com/NPPA.

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.

In the comment box posted at the end of our salary questionnaire, several respondents voiced concerns about the personal information required to participate in the survey.

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We collect age, city, state and gender information to present an accurate view of the demographics of the respondents (Table 4 as well as the state and city reports to be posted later). We collect email addresses so that we can contact respondents whose answers might need clarification.

Our goal is to present the most accurate and representative data about salary and workplace issues for NPs and PAs. We thank the 4,414 respondents who took the time to complete the 2011 survey, and we hope for even greater participation in 2012. Data collection for this year’s survey opens June 1.

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