Getting your degree as a Physician Assistant can be a rewarding, albeit challenging, process. After completion of board exams, usually the next step is finding a job. Here are 7 tips to help PA students and recent graduates on their first job search.
1. Determine If You Want to Practice in a Specific Specialty
One of the most important decisions to make as a PA student is whether to specialize or practice in general primary care. Everyone has different interests, so it is important to find the type of practice in which you will be happiest.
One of the great things about being a PA is that you can always switch specialties if you desire. There are some caveats, however, as many specialists either like new graduates to start with them or have some prior experience before being considered.
Job contracts also are standard in some places, so it is important not to lock yourself into a specialty that you do not think you will enjoy.
2. Pay Attention to Possible Loan Repayment Options
If you are like most PA students, you have had to take out some amount of student loans to fund your education. While PA salaries are typically good, any help with loan repayment can be a boon to your future financial health.
When searching for a new job, pay attention to practice sites or locations that offer some form of loan repayment. This can be through hospital-sponsored options, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), or NHSC funded loan repayment.
3. Browse Job Sites and Utilize the Connections Made in Your PA Program
Finding a job in today’s world is sometimes easier than in the past due to the plethora of job sites available to aid the search process. A simple Google search is sometimes all that is needed. Other, more specialized sites like HospitalRecruiting.com are available as well and can be a great asset to your search.
While online searches can be great, sometimes an even more important way to secure a job is to talk to contacts that you have made while in your PA program. This includes professors, preceptors, and other PAs that you have connected with over the course of your training. Typically, the people working in the clinical setting are the first to know when a new position becomes available. They are usually more than happy to bring someone on that they know and have personally helped to educate.
Getting a job in a location where you have had a preceptorship can sometimes also be a boon, as you are already familiar with the specifics of that practice. Any boost you can bring to a practice immediately is always seen as an asset in the hiring process.
4. Clean Up and Update Your Resume
When applying to jobs as a PA student or new graduate, it is important to update your resume to reflect your new skill set, experiences, and degree.
While you may not have any job experience yet, you can include relevant experiences related to your clinical rotations, attended workshops, and new certifications. For a new PA graduate, it is also acceptable to include past employment experience related to the job for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying to an ER position, it is relevant to include that you worked as an ER Scribe prior to starting your PA program.
5. Brush Up on Interviewing Skills
While you were in your PA program, some of your interviewing skills may need to be dusted off and revamped. The job interview is both similar and dissimilar to your PA school interview.
You will need to decide how to set yourself apart from your competition. This includes focusing on ways to sell your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. If you are great at suturing, emphasize that in your surgery interview. If you excel at differential diagnosis, highlight this in your internal medicine interview.
For more information about the interview process for medical positions, check out this link.
6. Know How to Negotiate a Salary
One of the hardest things to do when interviewing for a new position is salary negotiation. Rest assured, most people find this one of the most difficult and stress-inducing aspects of the interview process.
When navigating this topic, it is important to know your worth. A helpful guide for Physician Assistants comes in the form of the AAPA Salary Report. This report provides information regarding PA salaries by both state and specialty. It can be a good starting point when discussing salaries with a potential employer. Most PA programs will also make previous class starting salaries available to new graduates, which can be another helpful tool if you plan on practicing near where you graduated.
7. Don’t Immediately Take the First Thing That Comes
While this final tip may seem intuitive, it is one of the most important on the list. As a new graduate, it can be tempting to take the first job you are offered, even though it may not be the best position for your unique situation.
Employers like to see that employees stick with companies/practices that they are hired with, and if you have to bounce between positions, this can reflect negatively on you. If you find a great position that checks most of your boxes, this will not be a concern. Do not sell yourself short; take a position that you will love!