Knowing Your Worth: Salary Expectations and Gender of Matriculating Physician Assistant Students

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PurposeThe male-female wage gap is present and persistent in the health care sector, even among physician assistants (PAs). Explanations for the persistent gender earnings gap include differential salary expectations of men and women based, in part, on women's lower pay entitlement. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in salary expectations between male and female matriculating PA students nationwide, adjusting for other factors expected to affect salaries and pay expectations of both male and female matriculants.MethodsUsing data from the Physician Assistant Education Association Matriculating Student Survey of 2013, 2014, and 2015, we investigated the relationship between first-year PA students' gender and their salary expectations after graduation using a multinomial logistic regression analysis. We controlled for possible confounders by including independent variables measuring student demographics, background characteristics, qualifications, future career plans, and financial considerations.ResultsWe found that female PA students were less likely than male PA students to expect a salary of $80,000–$89,999 (Odds Ratio [OR] = 0.73), $90,000–$99,999 (OR = 0.58), or $100,000 or greater (OR = 0.42) in comparison to an expected salary of less than $70,000, when controlling for our independent variables.ConclusionsOur analysis shows that on entry into PA training programs, female PA students' earnings expectations are less than those of male PA students. Our results are consistent with research, suggesting that women typically expect lower pay and systematically undervalue their contributions and skills in comparison to men. Physician assistant programs should consider strategies to promote realistic salary expectations among PA students as one way to promote earnings equity.

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