This past April, the 2022 AAPA Salary Report revealed that the median compensation for PAs increased from $110,000 to $115,000. This report is often a helpful tool for PAs in contract negotiation, but according to a poll run by Doximity with a pool of 375 respondents, 32% of PAs never renegotiate their salaries. The upshot? PAs may be leaving money and benefits on the table.
As for what stops PAs from renegotiating, one can speculate that they’re looking to bypass potentially intimidating negotiation conversations. “If in self-reflection you’re unhappy in your position or with your contract, the only way to change that is to ask for something different or leave that position and find a new one,” Savanna Perry, a Georgia-based dermatology PA told Doximity.
There are significantly more women who voted that they never renegotiate their salary than men. PA Perry explained, “As [women] PAs, we let things like maternity leave and planning for families play into what we think about our job. I think that mindset has to shift. …[Don’t] let those things be factors that make us feel like we can't ask for more.”
It can be tough to balance the stigma of talking about money with one’s sense of worth as a health care professional. PA Perry made sure she would get annual reviews early on. “We went ahead and created a system for myself and the PAs after me that included a yearly raise and compensation based on how I was performing,” she said. This can set expectations across the organization and allow for proper time to prepare for the conversation each year. “We all individually have a responsibility to ourselves to negotiate,” she said.
According to the Doximity poll, significantly more PAs aged 25-29 renegotiate their salary annually compared with PAs 60 and older. As younger PAs try to find their place in the profession, they likely experience more volatility in job changes. In conversation about renegotiation tips, PA Perry noted, “If you're willing to have those hard conversations, you have to be willing to leave. It can't be a bluff.” Those farther along in their career may be less inclined to leave a job, or may have higher satisfaction with their established contract.
PAs early on in their career take on new responsibilities quickly as they grow their skillset, while more experienced PAs are likely to be more settled in their careers. Nearly 60% of PAs identifying in their early-stage career renegotiate as their responsibilities change. On the other hand, only 38% of late-stage career PAs renegotiate annually, and 28% never renegotiate. Choosing when to renegotiate can be the tip of the iceberg for many. Negotiation skills don’t come naturally to all. Compensation packages can be confusing, made up of not only a dollar amount, but sick days, CME fees, licensing fees, insurance, loan repayment options, retirement options, among others. Alan Snyder, a Florida-based dermatology PA, has advocated for the PA community to learn negotiation skills early. “Maybe that should be taught in PA school. The ART of negotiation,” he commented. However, there are always options to learn more throughout one’s career.
PA Perry voiced that she has attended conference sessions on the topic of salary renegotiation, read up on social media, and has been in conversation with other PAs in her local area. She highlighted a few learning moments: “It can be difficult if employers don’t understand how PAs can require different contracts: I had a previous employer trying to kind of cap my salary at the average primary care salary for PAs across the nation. Bringing my own resources in was helpful for them.” With a wide range of salary expectations depending on specialty and work setting, it is important to know where each individual PA’s should lie.
Data can also be useful in renegotiations. “In derm, [the AAPA salary report] did not reflect what I was going for. So I did not use that data in my negotiations. I did find some resources from the Derm PA society that were more specific to my position that I did bring to the table as proof of how a Dermatology PA should be compensated,” PA Perry said. “The more knowledge you have about that, the more you can have a thorough discussion and advocate.”
There are many opportunities for PAs to renegotiate their salaries throughout their career. Whether PAs take those opportunities or not is up to them; however, individuals are not alone in the experience. As PA Perry explained, “If we all continue to individually advocate for ourselves, it does benefit the profession as a whole.”
Animation by Diana Connolly