Medical Assistant By State - Highest To Lowest Paying | Spynaija

Medical Assistant By State – Highest To Lowest Paying

Last Updated on April 20, 2024 by Godswill


Working  as a medical assistant is one of the most accessible careers in the booming healthcare field. With just a postsecondary certificate or diploma from an accredited program, medical assistants can find employment opportunities in physician offices, hospitals, clinics, and a variety of other medical settings. While the role comes with fairly consistent job duties like recording patient histories, assisting physicians during exams, giving injections, scheduling appointments, and handling administrative tasks, there’s one major variable to consider – pay rates can differ significantly from state to state.

If you’re exploring medical assistant positions in multiple locations or planning to potentially relocate in the future, it’s critical to understand the regional salary variances. A high-paying state for this profession could mean thousands more per year in your paycheck compared to neighboring areas with lower compensation levels.

In this comprehensive salary breakdown, we’ll take an in-depth look at the latest data on medical assistant pay sorted from the highest to lowest paying states and districts. Using figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other authoritative sources, we’ll dive into the factors driving these differences and crunch the numbers so you can make the wisest decision about where to pursue this vital healthcare support role.


The National Landscape for Medical Assistant Pay

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for medical assistants across the country is $37,190 as of May 2020, with the top 10% earning over $49,770. When looking at hourly rates, the national average lands at $17.88 per hour. Of course, these are just broad numbers that don’t account for the major cost of living differences between various states and regions.

For medical assistants just starting their careers at the lower 10th percentile level, annual pay hovers around $26,930 ($12.95 hourly). Conversely, those with seniority, specializations, and leadership roles may find themselves in the 90th percentile earning $51,540 ($24.78 hourly) or higher depending on the state.

Now let’s take a look at which states currently pay medical assistants the highest salaries in the nation…

The Highest Paying States for Medical Assistants

  • Nationwide, the District of Columbia is head-and-shoulders above the rest as the top paying region for medical assistants. According to the BLS data, the average salary for D.C. medical assistants is a staggering $51,120 – nearly $14,000 higher than the national average! Given the intense demand and high costs associated with healthcare industry employers in the nation’s capital region, these premium salaries make sense. Even entry-level medical assistants in D.C. earn around $35,630 while seasoned veterans pull in over $72,070.
  • Alaska comes in second at $47,010, thanks to the remote geography and inflated prices that drive up salaries across most occupations in The Last Frontier state. Metropolitan hubs like Anchorage see the highest pay rates.
  • In third place is the state of Massachusetts at $43,830, boosted by the robust healthcare sector concentrated around the highly-paid Boston metro area. A surprising number four on the list is Missouri at $43,200 – evidence that even lower cost states can pay medical assistants top dollar if there’s a high enough demand for healthcare services in major urban pockets like St. Louis and Kansas City.
  • Rounding out the top five is the state of Washington at $42,410. Seattle’s standing as a major healthcare and pharmaceutical hub makes it the highest paying metro area nationwide for medical assistants. Beyond the top states, other high-paying regions include New York, California, Illinois, Colorado, and Minnesota – all clocking in between $40,000-$42,000.

The Lowest Paying States for Medical Assistants

  • While salaries over $50,000 may sound impressive in D.C. and Massachusetts, the reality is much different in the three lowest paying states for medical assistants according to the BLS data. Surprisingly, all three are located in the Southern region of the country:
  • Mississippi: $28,320
    Arkansas: $29,490
    West Virginia: $29,820
  • In these areas, even higher percentile medical assistants with years of experience and specializations have trouble cracking the $35,000-$37,000 range on average. Obviously, these relatively low salaries must be weighed against the generally lower costs of living in these particular states compared to more expensive regions. However, the pay disparity is still eye-opening – nearly $25,000 less than the District of Columbia’s average medical assistant income.
  • Other states comprising the bottom end of medical assistant pay include Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and New Mexico at around $30,000-$32,000. When considering locations to maximize earnings, medical assistants may want to avoid these areas in favor of more lucrative markets unless the lowered expenses are worth the tradeoff.

Factors Driving the Salary Differences Between States

At this point, it should be clear that medical assistant salaries can fluctuate enormously from one state to the next. But what key factors actually influence and drive these stark variations in compensation? Here are some of the major elements at play:

  • 1.) Cost of Living
    It’s no surprise that states with higher costs of living for rent, goods, services, and transportation tend to pay workers more to make up for those elevated prices. States with major metropolitan areas amenities like New York, D.C., and California understandably pay higher wages to ensure salaries remain competitive and reasonable according to local costs.

Similarly, rural states with lower costs of living can get away with paying less since lower salaries still provide a decent quality of life relative to the area’s affordable expenses. This dynamic has an enormous impact on setting benchmarks for pay across all industries and occupations in each state.

  • 2.)Healthcare Employment Rates and Demand
    Basic economics of supply and demand also play a pivotal role in state-by-state medical assistant compensation. States with more physician offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities have a naturally higher need for medical assistants to staff those sites. When employment demand exceeds the available number of qualified medical assisting professionals, employers must boost pay rates to attract and retain top talent.

For example, Washington and Massachusetts rank near the top in highest percentage of total employment originating from the healthcare sector. Southern states at the lower end of salary ranges tend to have significantly lower per capita healthcare employment numbers, reducing the demand for medical assistants.

  • 3.)Regional Salary Benchmarks
    Beyond just healthcare demand, each state and region has established salary benchmarks and expectations that become cultural norms employers must adhere to in order to recruit and retain talented workers. For example, most skilled professionals in D.C. understandably expect higher salaries commensurate with the region’s pay scales across all industries, even for roles like medical assisting.

These regional benchmarks get influenced by factors like union presence, minimum wage laws, and overall concentration of high-wage employers like governments or major national companies headquartered in each state’s boundaries. In more affluent states, it’s harder for any occupation, even an entry-level healthcare support role like medical assisting, to offer rock-bottom wages without repelling workers.

  • 4.)Beyond the State-by-State Differences

While analyzing compensation ranges between different states provides helpful high-level salary benchmarks, it’s also important for medical assistants to realize pay can still vary significantly within each state’s boundaries depending on the clinical setting.

For instance, medical assistants employed by major healthcare systems, hospitals, or practices affiliated with universities and teaching institutions tend to earn higher salaries compared to private physician offices due to more financial resources and complex job duties. Location also matters, as major metropolitan areas within each state typically pay higher wages.


Finally, factors like experience, specialized training, certification status, foreign language skills, and supervisory responsibilities can boost medical assistant salaries beyond the averages as employers compete for the most elite, credentialed talent.

Whether you’re focused on maximal earning potential or finding the ideal balance between compensation and cost of living, it’s wise to thoroughly research medical assistant salaries using localized data as you explore career opportunities in different markets across the country. With this comprehensive state-by-state guide, you now have a clearer nationwide snapshot to begin mapping out your plans and salary expectations as a medical assistant.

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