Best Cities for Physician Assistants

Many physician assistants made a difficult decision even before they entered the profession. They decided, at one point or another, that it was in their best interest to not become a doctor, avoiding the increased time (and money) spent in school but giving up the larger future salary and more impressive job title. Physician assistants (PAs, for short) must make another decision: Where should I work? At ValuePenguin, we classify the best city as one that scores well in metrics that all PAs care about: number of jobs, median salary, cost of living and location quotient.

Best Five Cities for PAs

Of the 286 cities reporting data for their PAs, these five earned our best score. Each landed on the list for a variety of reasons. More on our methodology below.

1. Rochester, MN

With the highest location quotient in our study, Rochester has the highest demand for the services of PAs, one of the main reasons it topped our list. Another: the Mayo Clinic. The giant healthcare provider is a driver of Minnesota’s economy, employing 33,400 in Rochester alone. Education attainment numbers bear this out as well: 42.8% of residents have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 33.5% for the state as a whole.

Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants

2. Manhattan, KS

Despite having just 70 PA positions within its metropolitan statistical area, Manhattan soared to No. 2 in our rankings. Despite the fact that it’s 10% less expensive to live here than in the average American city, PAs in Manhattan earn the profession’s sixth-highest salary, coming in at $128,880, a figure that is 31% better than the study’s average. The home of Kansas State University, Manhattan’s private industry includes Mercy Regional Health Center, a 96-bed hospital.

Kansas Academy of Physician Assistants (Topeka)

3. Flint, MI

One of three Michigan metro statistical areas to crack the top 25 -- Grand Rapids (No. 9) and Ann Arbor (17) are the others -- Flint’s PAs earn an annual average salary of $121,900. Also working in Flint-based PAs’ favor: Their city’s cost of living is 24% cheaper than the America’s average. We should point out, however, that Flint ranked the third-least safe city in Michigan, according to our 2015 study.

Michigan Academy of Physician Assistants (Ann Arbor)

4. Ocala, FL

One of three Florida cities to rank inside the top 25 -- North Port (No. 10) and Cape Coral (24) are the others -- Ocala registered a score of 78, which was 74% lower (and therefore better) than the study’s average. Florida as a whole employs about 5,020 PAs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fourth-highest state total, and the University of Florida ranked as having the nation’s 27th best PA program, according to the U.S. News & World Report. Two of Ocala’s top five employers were medical centers, employing almost 5,000 people combined.

Florida Academy of Physician Assistants (Altamonte Springs)

5. Santa Fe, NM

PAs in Santa Fe are paid better than any other city in the country, with a $153,010 annual average salary. The home of the New Mexico Medical Board, which licenses the state’s medical professionals, Santa Fe is second to Albuquerque in terms of PA education. The latter city hosts the University of New Mexico as well as the state’s chapter of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

New Mexico Academy of Physician Assistants (Albuquerque)

Population Breakdown

Although we adjusted for population in our rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small city to a large one. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: cities with populations less than 100,000 people, midsize cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 500,000. Here are our findings:

“Best

Top 100 Cities for PAs

Here's our complete list of the best 100 cities to live and work in for physician assistants:

Rank

CityAverage SalaryJobsLocation QuotientCost of LivingScore

1

Rochester, MN$112,7603004.1810350

2

Manhattan, KS$128,880702.199061

3

Flint, MI$121,9001701.807668

4

Ocala, FL$118,8701201.958678

5

Santa Fe, NM$153,010701.7811881

6

Lake Havasu City, AZ$110,530702.299390

7

Hartford, CT$107,3807602.0011795

8

Danbury, CT$113,360902.0013395

9

Grand Rapids, MI$113,1904401.618497

10

North Port, FL$108,3503101.7592112

11

Rochester, NH$121,200601.62118114

12

Nassau, NY$101,7902,1202.47108114

13

Goldsboro, NC$104,610903.1991116

14

New Haven, CT$103,9804102.20116120

15

Tacoma, WA$107,8703101.71106122

16

Ann Arbor, MI$100,7404303.06103124

17

Carson City, NV$117,920301.6799131

18

Killeen, TX$109,4901401.5483138

19

Santa Cruz, CA$120,510801.39154141

20

Burlington, VT$104,2001601.96125143

21

Bangor, ME$100,6401102.63102146

22

Flagstaff, AZ$110,900601.56115147

23

Tulsa, OK$105,8804401.5288148

24

Cape Coral, FL$106,4102301.5292151

25

Wilmington, NC$101,5902002.00102152

26

Yuba City, CA$100,210803.20107152

27

Greenville, NC$98,2001703.2392154

28

Salem, OR$105,6301601.59102157

29

Anchorage, AK$106,2801801.52135159

30

St. Cloud, MN$101,7401201.8393167

31

Fayetteville, NC$97,5202102.5294168

32

Syracuse, NY$98,9204001.98100171

33

Fairbanks, AK$100,090602.62133171

34

San Luis Obispo, CA$114,460901.26165172

35

Portland, ME$97,6003002.21114174

36

Rochester, NY$95,7608202.4384174

37

Wilmington, DE$102,0803601.57102175

38

Iowa City, IA$99,0501302.12105177

39

Dayton, OH$110,9102901.1680178

40

Boulder, CO$102,6101801.55145184

41

New York, NY$101,7905,2501.44168186

42

Lewiston, ME$99,170702.03102188

43

Saginaw, MI$117,630701.1585190

44

Yakima, WA$98,8001101.9493192

45

Leominster, MA$126,770401.16114193

46

Hagerstown, MD$97,2301402.0888193

47

Asheville, NC$99,1702001.70105193

48

McAllen, TX$115,8801701.0279194

49

Deltona, FL$99,3501701.6286195

50

Portsmouth, NH$120,390501.16137196

51

Fresno, CA$115,5702301.02101197

52

Huntington, WV$93,8002303.1385198

53

Medford, OR$105,940701.35103199

54

Boston, MA$105,7201,4401.18152201

55

Spokane, WA$108,8301601.1791202

56

Chico, CA$109,940601.22118203

57

Modesto, CA$114,5401201.07101205

58

Greensboro, NC$99,5703501.4890205

59

Cleveland, OH$107,0307401.0892206

60

Pocatello, ID$97,280502.2190207

61

Las Vegas, NV$120,3705100.8794208

62

Oakland, CA$109,4907101.02144209

63

Glens Falls, NY$93,7701303.73110210

64

Idaho Falls, ID$96,330702.1990210

65

Ogden, UT$109,6001501.0893212

66

Pittsfield, MA$104,760301.47105213

67

Tyler, TX$122,630601.0090214

68

Brownsville, TX$144,370800.8878215

69

Winston-Salem, NC$93,0003502.4790215

70

Fort Collins, CO$100,4101401.46109215

71

Redding, CA$108,510501.24111216

72

Elmira, NY$94,310702.9496217

73

Sacramento, CA$110,4205700.98117217

74

San Diego, CA$102,9201,0901.21152219

75

Phoenix, AZ$99,2501,6001.2990219

76

Olympia, WA$128,540600.95114222

77

Johnson City, TN$105,080601.2690224

78

Madera, CA$106,460301.2597226

79

West Palm Beach, FL$108,0803701.01102227

80

Bend, OR$99,110701.57111228

81

Nashua, NH$123,870800.88119229

82

Albany, NY$94,5205001.70102229

83

Merced, CA$105,580501.25100231

84

Barnstable Town, MA$127,190600.91161231

85

Manchester, NH$98,4901101.54115232

86

Springfield, MA$89,6605502.80107235

87

Bridgeport, CT$103,3103301.16143238

88

Corvallis, OR$97,570401.74120238

89

Rapid City, SD$93,730902.0896240

90

Boise City, ID$94,5603101.6294241

91

Poughkeepsie, NY$101,1302001.22119243

92

Knoxville, TN$95,9503301.4584246

93

Santa Ana, CA$109,9108200.82155246

94

Hickory, NC$97,4301401.4285247

95

Bethesda, MD$94,8005801.52157248

96

Parkersburg, WV$97,960701.4588249

97

Portland, OR$109,0806000.84111250

98

San Jose, CA$116,8304900.74187250

99

Longview, TX$151,670500.7789251

100

Vallejo, CA$120,850700.81111251

Methodology

These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.

1. What can PAs earn in the city?

We ranked the best cities for PAs based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.

2. How affordable is it to live in this city?

Now that we have the median salary, we’ll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost of living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 188, such as Honolulu, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 88 percent more expensive compared to the average city.

3. What is the location quotient for PAs in the city?

A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of PAs in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for a PA’s services.