The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) rates physician assistants as having an “exceptional” job growth outlook. This agency projects that the number of jobs for physician assistants will increase by 27.4% statewide between 2012 and 2022. Physician assisting was among the top 25 occupations with the fastest level of projected job growth in three different areas of New Mexico:
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Factors Contributing to High Salaries and Strong Job Growth in New Mexico
Increasing the number of physician assistants is frequently recommended as a way to address the shortage of doctors in the country. New Mexico has long had a shortage of physicians according to a 2012 report released by the Center for Workforce Studies, part of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
A 2013 report that the Department of Health and Allied Agencies presented to the Legislative Finance Committee further enumerated the need for additional physicians in New Mexico. One of their recommendations to help mitigate this shortage was to increase the utilization of physician assistants, but the authors pointed out that the number of physician assistants in New Mexico is also inadequate.
In fact, the per capita ratio of physician assistants to the population of New Mexico was the third lowest in the country in 2007 according to a 2009 paper in Human Resources for Health, which analyzed the workforce trends of physician assistants throughout the country between 1980 and 2007. New Mexico was of one of just three states in which the population of physician assistants did not increase during this period.
These analyses all strongly suggest that there is a critical need for more physician assistants in New Mexico. 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 to attract new talent.
How Experience and Location Affect Physician Assistant Salaries in New Mexico
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) reported that the average salary of experienced physician assistants in the state was 1.71 times higher than that of physician assistants just entering the workforce. Experienced physician assistants in New Mexico earned an average salary of $117,440, while entry-level physician assistants averaged $68,510 in 2015. The median salary that year was $93,390.
Salary data from the DWS also indicated that the salaries for physician assistants in Santa Fe and Albuquerque differed greatly. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that physician assistants in Santa Fe had the highest average salary of any metropolitan area in the country. Thus, it is not surprising that experienced physician assistants in Santa Fe earned 62.4% more on average than those in Albuquerque:
The BLS reported that the average salary of experienced physician assistants in Santa Fe in the 90th percentile was so high that it exceeded the maximum values reported by this agency:
*The hourly wage is equal to or greater than $90 while the annual salary is equal to or greater than $187,199. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report salary data greater than these values.