Whether just graduating from a PA program or looking for a change, finding a place to work can be a daunting process. There are many factors to consider including salary, proximity to nearby amenities, work-life balance, cost-of-living, and general location. Is it important that you be close to family? Do you want to be near a beach, or in the mountains? Do you want a temperate climate, or does it need to be warm year-round? Do you want to be in the city, or in a rural area? These are all important facets of what makes somewhere the best place to work for you specifically.
Show Me the Money
If salary is the most important part of the job search, that is okay! Whether you have student loans to pay off, or just want to ensure that you are compensated fairly, salary is an important part of choosing where to work. According to the 2021 AAPA Salary Report, the states with the highest PA compensation are Washington, Alaska, and California. Needless to say, there is quite a geographic difference here and something to suit everyone’s needs.
In Washington, the highest salaries for PA’s can be found in Yakima. This riverside city boasts numerous attractions to include a wide selection of local wine and beer, parks and gardens, and a highly rated local history museum.
If the warm weather is more your style, Salinas, California may be what you are looking for. This city has the highest average PA salary in California. Cost-of-living here is higher than much of the rest of the US but is comparable to other cities in California. About a 20-minute drive to local beaches, this coastal California town is well-known for its excellent healthcare. Nearby, there are many amenities to include the Monterey Zoo and WeatherTech Raceway.
Say you want to be as far north in the US that you can travel, Alaska sounds nice right? Boasting the highest average PA salaries in Alaska, Anchorage is an outdoors lover’s paradise. This city offers the best of both urban and rural living. Nearby amenities include wide open nature reserves, a historic downtown experience, and hundreds of miles of bike or walking trails.
But What Does It REALLY Cost?
While the AAPA Salary Report gives the highest salaries by location, it also further breaks this down to adjust for cost-of-living. With this metric in mind, the highest salaries (adjusted for this) for PA’s can be found in Oklahoma, Michigan, and Texas.
If Oklahoma sounds appealing, Edmond might be a city to put on your radar. This city of just under 100,000 residents has the highest PA salaries in the state. Nearby are great parks and wildlife, as well as the University of Central Oklahoma.
Further north towards the Great Lakes is Okemos, Michigan. With the highest PA salaries in the state, this small town of just over 20,000 residents is a quiet and scenic place to raise a family. Ten miles away from the state capital of Lansing, this quaint town has great local shopping and golfing.
If you like everything bigger, including salary, Tyler, Texas may be for you. This southern city has the highest average PA salary in the state of Texas and boasts low cost-of-living to boot. This city ranks as #20 in the nation for “Best Cities for Black Women” and is culturally diverse. Whether it is golf, parks, zoos, theater, or orchestras that you are after, Tyler likely has it.
It Is Not ALL about Work
Salary is certainly important, but quality of life and work-life balance is arguably just as much, if not more, important. The workday composes a large portion of the day, but what you do outside of work is often what makes or breaks a job. So where in the US can you work that is known for great work-life balance? Wisconsin, Virginia, and Minnesota are among the top of this list.
First up on the list is Madison, Wisconsin. This lakeside town ranks #1 on Smart Asset’s cities with the best work-life balance. The temperate climate here lends itself well to experiencing all four seasons to the fullest. Whether you are searching for urban downtown or rural lakeside living, Madison is likely to have it.
Ranking #2 on the list is Virginia Beach, Virginia. This popular resort destination is most well-known for its fantastic beaches. What is not well known, however, is the work-life balance that the residents of this town love. You can experience coastal living at its finest, without the weather extremes or inflated prices in other areas of the coastal US.
#3 on the list is Minneapolis, Minnesota. Known as “The City of the Lakes,” this town of just over 429,000 has a little bit of something for everyone. While not near an ocean coastline, there is plenty of water for those who want it with 22 nearby lakes and 6800 acres of parkland. The many farmer’s markets and public art make this city a great place to live and work.
Wait, They Will Do What?
This article would be incomplete if the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) was not mentioned at least once. This program essentially offers loan repayment for Physician Assistants (and other healthcare professionals) if they agree to work in a designated rural or urban site for a specific period of time. These sites are medically underserved areas throughout the US that are in dire need of healthcare professionals.
The NHSC offers up to $50,000 in loan repayment, on top of base salary, for a 2-year full-time service contract at high need sites. The site has an easy job-search tool to locate these sites throughout the country.
While this program is not for everyone, it may be the perfect option for those looking to repay student loans, travel to different areas of the country, and help deliver healthcare to those who need it the most.
Some Final Thoughts
It is safe to say that for many PA’s, work can be mentally and physically draining. That is why it is important to consider proximity to family, friends, and loved ones when deciding where to work. A city may have great work-life balance on paper, but if it is not close to friends and family, it may not be right for you. Do you want to check in on your parents or children weekly? If so, moving across the country may not be ideal. These are important things to consider when deciding where to set up shop.
**If you’re looking to start your career as a PA in one of the aforementioned cities, consider applying to open positions on our physician assistant job board here: https://www.hospitalrecruiting.com/jobs/Physician-Assistant-Jobs/