In a 2015 article, Forbes described the national demand for physician assistants as “unprecedented.” As more people have access to health care through the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s shortage of primary care physicians is being felt more acutely. Physician assistants help to fill this void by providing primary care services in clinics with resident MDs, particularly in the rural areas of the state, which are notorious for being medically underserved due to a lack of physicians.
Factors that Contribute to Strong Compensation Packages for PAs in Montana
The Montana Office of Rural Health reported in 2010 that 11 counties totally lacked primary care physicians in a report published in 2011. The report called for increased levels of support for physician assistants, including financial incentives to encourage them to practice in rural areas. Often, a physician assistant may be the only primary care provider in counties that have difficulty recruiting and retaining physicians. However, seven rural counties in Montana did not have any physician assistants at all as of 2010.
As in the rest of the country, the demand for physician assistants in Montana is expected to increase dramatically. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry predicts that the number of physician assistants will increase 26.8% between 2014 and 2024. This level of growth should produce an average of 19.7 jobs a year for physician assistants in Montana. With a relatively low number of physician assistants and a high level of demand for the services they provide, employers are offering impressive compensation packages.
Changes in the regulations governing physician assistants in Montana will make it easier to renew a license. In 2015, Montana Senate Bill 77 eliminated the need for physician assistants to renew their licenses if they have qualified for certification through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
Salaries for Montana’s Physician Assistants
The Montana Department of Labor and Industry provides the salaries for physician assistants in Montana as of 2014. Physician assistants in Montana earned an average of $95,550 a year or $45.94 an hour. The median annual salary among physician assistants in the state was $94,060 a year, while the median hourly wage was $45.94.
The highest median salary was found among physician assistants working in rural areas of Montana according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics: