Personal Assistant

The UKs best cities to live and work as a PA

If you’re a PA looking for a change of scenery but not sure where to look, this guide will point you in the right direction.

Job hunting can be a tricky process. A number of things need to be considered, including role, organisation, company culture, and commute. And that’s without taking into account where the jobs are in the first place.

The unique skills and experience of executive personal assistants are in high demand all over the country, but certain locations are more attractive than others. Given the highly flexible and mobile nature of today’s workforce, many PAs are opting to move further afield for the ideal role.

But with so many cities to choose from in the UK — each with their own unique industry, culture and housing market — it can be difficult to know where to begin.

At Tate, we know just how hard the process can be for a job hunter. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide of the best cities to work as a PA in the UK: to give you a real feel of local PA opportunities and everything else that these cities have to offer. After all, there’s more to life than the City of London.

Let’s take a closer look at the best cities to live and work as a PA.

1) Bristol

Average salary: £28,103
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £839.47
Monthly travel pass: £66.20
PA job openings: 1,000+

South-west England’s largest metropolitan area, Bristol is a multicultural, progressive city with a long history of innovation and artistic achievement. From the 19th-century construction of the Clifton Suspension Bridge to the iconic stencil art of Banksy, “Brizzle” has always been ahead of the curve. And with a civic commitment to the environment, it’s little wonder that it was voted Green Capital of Europe in 2015.

Key sectors in the city include creative media, electronics, and the aerospace industry. The creative and cultural industries account for 12% of the city’s economic output. Advertising, PR, digital and television are also on the rise. Rental prices are higher than the UK average but are still affordable compared to London.

BAE Systems, Airbus, Rolls-Royce. Lloyds Banking Group, AXA, and the Bank of Ireland all have a presence in Bristol, as do the world’s biggest manufacturer of hot air balloons. The high number of large businesses means that demand for personal assistants and executive assistants remains high.

Fun fact: The chocolate bar was invented in Bristol by Joseph Fry in 1847.

2) Edinburgh

Average salary: £28,131
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £758.43
Monthly travel pass: £54.67
PA job openings: 500

The Scottish capital is the second-most visited city in the UK after London and is also its second largest financial centre. With gothic architecture (it’s got more listed buildings than anywhere else in the world), a majestic castle, cobbled streets, and ancient charm, it’s little wonder that the city was the inspiration for the Harry Potter series. 
If that’s not enough, it’s also home to the world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and is the UK’s greenest city. If you’re artistically inclined and appreciate a healthy dose of fresh air, Edinburgh might just be the city for you.

As for the local economy, Edinburgh has one of the strongest employment markets in the UK. Financial services are huge — the city is home to the Royal Bank of Scotland. It’s also home to offices for giants such as JP Morgan and Cairn Energy, as well as a cluster of research-based businesses, startups and SMEs. And with a thriving tech scene, Edinburgh is definitely set for the future of work.

Fun fact: Edinburgh sits on top of a volcano that became extinct 700 million years ago.

3) Leeds

Average salary: £26,045
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £664.53
Monthly travel pass: £56.17
PA job openings: 1,000+


The de facto capital of the Yorkshire and Humber region, Leeds is the 2nd-largest metropolitan district in the UK with a population of 784,800. It’s also one of the country’s fastest growing and greenest cities. Located slap bang in the middle of Northern England, the city is only half an hour’s drive away from the stunning Yorkshire Dales. And if you need to get to London, it’s only a two-hour train ride away.

Leeds is one of the largest business centres in the UK. The Leeds City Region has a workforce of 1.9 million and accounts for 5% of England’s overall economic output. Around 200 accountancy firms and 180 legal firms are located here, making it a hub for financial services and major source of PA jobs. Key employers in the city include Asda, Dr Oetker, First Direct, Sky Bet, Jet2 and Yorkshire Bank.

If you still aren’t convinced, get this: with 3.5 million sq ft of retail floor space, five miles of shopping streets and one of the country’s largest pedestrianised shopping, Leeds is considered the UK’s best shopping destination. And with affordable housing prices, you’ll have plenty of disposable income to shop til you drop.

Fun fact: Leeds City Station is the UK’s busiest transport hub outside of central London, with over 900 trains and 100,000 passengers a day.

4) Birmingham

Average salary: £26,050
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £754.80
Monthly travel pass: £62.69
PA job openings: 1,000+


Commonly known as the “city of a thousand trades” and the “workshop of the world”, Birmingham has an illustrious history as a centre for business. And with more canals than Venice, the city locally referred to as “Brum” has its fair share of perks. There’s much more to this place than Spaghetti Junction.

Birmingham is the UK’s largest metropolitan district, so it’s hardly surprising that the West Midlands city is a global centre of industry, business and commerce. Manufacturing and engineering are the biggest employers, providing over 100,000 jobs to the city’s workers. There are also plenty of openings in the booming insurance market, as well as in private equity, law, retail, management consultancy, accountancy, and logistics.

Major companies with a presence in the city include the National Express Group PLC, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Jaguar Cars, Lloyds and HSBC. Office rent costs are also far lower than in London, and this has caused an explosion of SMEs and startups in recent years. 

Outside of work, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The Bullring shopping centre will see to all your retail needs, while the many stores of the famous Jewellery Quarter provide a touch of glamour. The Resorts World Arena has attracted a legion of global music superstars, from local lads Black Sabbath to carrot-topped troubadour Ed Sheeran. No matter if you’re into football or fine dining, this city has you covered. 

Fun fact: JRR Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in Birmingham.

5) Manchester

Average salary: £26,669
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £741.06
Monthly travel pass: £65.42
PA job openings: 5,000+


Manchester has long been vying with Birmingham for the title of England’s second city, but it’s arguably got more to offer. With an Illustrious history in the world of music, art and football, as well as a burgeoning tech scene, Manchester is ideal for creatively-minded PAs.

After London, Manchester has the highest number of PA jobs — making it a prime destination for personal assistants and executive assistants who want a big-city alternative to the capital.

The city’s tech scene employs 52,000 workers, making it the largest tech workforce in any UK city outside of London. IT, financial, construction, and the creative and digital industries also have a huge presence in the city. 

Manchester has also been recognised by the government as one of six “science cities” across the UK, making it a key player in research and development as well as in innovation and academic excellence.

Major employers in Manchester include the BBC (which is based in nearby Salford), Manchester Airport, the Co-operative Group, Adidas, JD Sports, Thomas Cook and Kellogg’s. If you’re keen to join a disruptor, there are also plenty of emergent startups based in trendy areas such as Ancoats.

Fun fact: Manchester was the birthplace of vegetarianism.

6) London

Average salary: £39,758
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £1,749.23
Monthly travel pass: £150
PA job openings: 8,000+


With such a sheer volume of high-quality, high-salary jobs and its status as the UK’s only megacity, we couldn’t omit the capital from our list. There are 8,000+ PA jobs on the market right now, so London clearly wins out in this regard. That’s why any successful PA or office manager looking to find a high-level personal assistant job should certainly consider London.

Overflowing with superb food, cultural hotspot and state-of-the-art transport options, the Big Smoke is one of the most sought-after locations on the planet. However, not everyone is cut out for the hustle and bustle of a commute to the City, nor the shock of having to pay house prices that seem astronomical compared to other cities in the country.

Fun fact: Over 300 languages are spoken in London, making it one of the most linguistically diverse places on Earth.

7) Nottingham

Average salary: £24,429
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £579.55
Monthly travel pass: £55.17
PA job openings: 1,000+

Though it may not be the first choice for PAs seeking to spread their wings, Nottingham provides plenty of job opportunities. 
Positioned right in the middle of England, you’ll be able to get just about anywhere in the country within two or three hours, and East Midlands Airport makes it a fantastic hub if you’ve got the travel bug.

Nottingham is also home to the UK’s oldest pub, and nearby Sherwood Forest (yes, the same Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame) means you’ve got the great outdoors right on your doorstep.

Nottingham is the base of high-street giant Boots, who employ 8,000 people. The city is home to Experian UK, Biocity, Pendragon, Vision Express, and the flagship store of fashion designer Paul Smith.

Up-and-coming industries in the city include digital content, clean energy, and the life sciences. And given that 1 in 8 of the city’s residents are full-time students, how could we not mention Nottingham’s global reputation for academic prowess?

Fun fact: Nottingham’s name derives from an Anglo-Saxon chief who had the unfortunate name of Snot.

8) Liverpool

Average salary: £23,088
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £660.53
Monthly travel pass: £64.90
PA job openings: 847

Best known for giving birth to The Beatles, Liverpool is a cosmopolitan, progressive and friendly city that’s increasingly appealing to office workers looking to up sticks. And since it was named European Capital of Culture in 2008, it’s also become a city with a global ambition. The local economy certainly reflects this —  it’s one of the fastest growing regional economies in the UK.

Liverpool is headquarters to a number of major businesses, including discount retailer TJ Morris (the owner of Home Bargains), shipping company Bibby Line, and food and drinks brand Princes. Other major employers in the city include the universities, hospitals, and Liverpool and Everton football clubs.

As for the arts and culture, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The refurbished Albert Dock (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) contains a host of fine dining options and world-class galleries and museums, so it’s little wonder that the tourism industry is one of the city’s biggest employers. 

The city also hosts the oldest Chinatown in Europe, Britain’s largest cathedral, and is England’s most successful football city.

Rental prices are relatively cheap, with a 1-bed flat in the city centre costing as little as £600-£700 a month. Meanwhile, excellent transport links — via rail, road and the city’s Liverpool John Lennon Airport — make it easy to access the rest of the country and beyond.

Fun fact: Liverpool is home to the UK’s largest cathedral — the fifth largest in the world.

9) Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Average salary: £24,907
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £620.64
Monthly travel pass: £56.69
PA job openings: 476


Newcastle is one of the UK’s most distinct and unique cities. With legendary nightlife, amicable locals and a thriving economy, the angel of the north has bucketloads to offer PAs with a sense of adventure. If you’re looking to hone your communication skills on a day-to-day basis, this friendly city takes some beating.

The Toon’s biggest industry is health, representing 15.6% of jobs in Newcastle. Education, public administration, retail, business administration, food services and the life sciences are other industries with a major presence in the city. 

Key employers in Newcastle include the Go-Ahead Group, and HR giants the Sage Group. The city is also the headquarters of sausage roll superstars Greggs, and there are more stores here than in any other city in the country. That’s your morning coffee and croissant sorted.

With 23 Metro stations throughout Tyne and Wear, getting to work won’t be a problem. You’ll also be able to walk pretty much anywhere within 40 minutes — no wonder it’s called the “15-minute city”. And with majestic rural retreats such as the Derwent Valley, Hadrian’s Wall and Kielder Water all within an hour’s drive of the city, escaping the urban life won’t be an issue.

Fun fact: Mosley Street was the first street in the world to be illuminated by electric light.

10) Sheffield

Average salary: £22,599
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £587.14
Monthly travel pass: £57.02
PA job openings: 820

Sheffield’s nickname of the Steel City owes a lot to its industrial past, but the city’s workforce has changed beyond recognition since the days of heavy industry. England’s 4th-largest city may be most famous for musical alumni such as the Arctic Monkeys, but it’s also a fantastic destination for office workers.
The city’s workforce is largely drawn from the public sector, but there’s also a thriving private sector. The largest sectors include retail, human health and manufacturing —industries that collectively employ over 300,000 workers.

Sheffield’s economic output is around £13.2bn. Royal Mail and Parcelforce both have a big presence within the city, as do Aviva, HP, and Boeing.
Outside of the office, this South Yorkshire metropolis will warm your cockles. With friendly inhabitants and a real community spirit, Sheffield packs a village feel into a large city. Meanwhile, the hills of the Peak District are all around, meaning you’re a brisk walk from some of the most idyllic countryside in England.

And if you’re a fan of music, you’ll feel right at home. The Leadmill is one of the UK’s best venues for indie music, while the Tramlines Festival attracts big names from a range of genres.

Fun fact: The city is home to the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC, who were founded in 1857.

 

Honourable Mentions...

Cambridge

Average salary: £30,906
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £1,035.30
Monthly travel pass: £60.13
PA job openings: 378


Named as Glassdoor’s best city to work in 2016, there’s more to Cambridge than its world-renowned university. With a booming tech industry, competitive job market and high quality of life, it’s little wonder that workers are flocking to this ancient city in the East of England.

Fun fact: The Eagle pub is where Francis Crick and James Watson announced their discovery of DNA in 1953.

Glasgow

Average salary: £26,326
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £623.33
Monthly travel pass: £51
PA job openings: 200+


Scotland’s largest city has undergone a renaissance in recent years. With an amazing foodie scene, an abundance of arts, and a friendly, welcoming local population, Glasgow is a great place to continue your PA journey.

Fun fact: The chicken tikka masala is said to have been invented in Glasgow in the 1970s.

Reading

Average salary: £31,616
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £852.60
Monthly travel pass: £58.18
PA job openings: 572


Located 40 miles west of London, Berkshire’s county town is an up-and-coming business hub that’s an ideal destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital. Key employers in the city include KPMG, Microsoft, Waitrose, Deloitte and Yell.

Fun fact: Comedian Ricky Gervais grew up in the Whitley area of the city.

Brighton

Average salary: £25,356
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £965.24
Monthly travel pass: £73.22
PA job openings: 266


This hipster-haven-by-the-beach is nestled on England’s South Coast and continues to attract scores of millennial workers to its shores. Although house prices are rising, booming tourism, retail and tech scenes ensure that jobs are in constant supply in this progressive, colourful town.

Fun fact: The Brighton Sealife Centre is the world’s oldest aquarium.

Cardiff

Average salary: £24,486
Average monthly rent (1-bed flat): £758.43
Monthly travel pass: £55.17
PA job openings: 578


With 330 parks, mountains to the north and coastline to the south, the Welsh capital combines city living with a small-town feel. Cardiff is home to a huge film and TV industry, while other major sectors with a presence include retail, finance, tourism, and education.

Fun fact: Writer Roald Dahl, singer Shirley Bassey, footballer Ryan Giggs and comedian Griff Rhys-Jones were all born in the city.

For more advice on personal assistant careers, stay tuned to the Tate blog. If you want to see the latest PA roles, including job descriptions, check out our job board.

 
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