The need for physician assistants in Oklahoma is so acute that the state’s Employment Security Commission ranked the profession as 26th on its list of the fastest growing occupations in the state. This agency projected a job growth rate of 29.66%, which would generate an average of 90 positions a year for physician assistants in Oklahoma. It is likely that the rate of job growth is even higher now given the strong increase in demand for physician assistants in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.
Physician assistants are especially valuable for providing primary care in rural areas that face a shortage of physicians, and are very well compensated. This is especially true for Oklahoma, which had the 8th lowest ratio of physicians to residents in the country according to a workforce analysis conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges in 2012. Health care shortages in rural areas of Oklahoma are particularly severe, causing the federal government to designate 72 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties as primary health-professional shortage areas in 2013.
Factors Contributing to Higher Salaries for PAs in Oklahoma
Recent legislation liberalizing the scope of practice for physician assistants should help to address the shortage. In 2015, Governor Fallin signed Senate Bill 753, which makes it easier for physician assistants to practice in Oklahoma. This legislation eliminated several onerous requirements for physician assistants, allowing them access to more high paying jobs
- It no longer requires that a supervising physician be on site at least one day a week.
- A physician assistant no longer needs approval from the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision to practice.
- It eliminated the requirement that physician assistants who want to work in a remote-care setting must have practiced for more than one year.
The combination of increasing the number of physician assistants in Oklahoma and reducing the limitations on their scope of practice should result in enhanced levels of primary care for rural residents of the state.
PA Salaries in Oklahoma According to Location and Experience Level
Experience factors in strongly when it comes to salaries for physician assistants in Oklahoma. Experienced physician assistants in the 90th percentile earned 2.53 times more on average than their colleagues in the 10th percentile who were just starting out, according to the state’s Employment Security Commission. While entry-level physician assistants earned an average of $54,480, those with experience averaged $137,950 a year as of 2014. The median physician assistant salary in Oklahoma that year was $97,670.
The US Department of Labor provides a detailed analysis of the salaries for physician assistants in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and nonmetropolitan parts of Oklahoma as of 2014. The median salary for physician assistants in the nonmetropolitan area of Southwestern Oklahoma was substantially higher than that of their colleagues in the rest of the state: