AASPA Student News

The Job Search as a New Grad PA

Victoria Cruz, PA-C, AASPA Student Representative

The days leading up to graduation from PA school were some of the most exciting moments and the feeling of accomplishment after conquering didactic and clinical year was like no other. Passing the PANCE after that was just the icing on the cake. Then the job search begins. It almost felt like we were back to senior year of undergrad trying to get into PA school. There are so many resources out there for Pre-PA students who are on the path to pursuing PA school, but there doesn’t seem to be that much out there when it comes to the journey of a new grad PA trying to land their first job in this big healthcare world.

Here are some tips that I found helpful when navigating the job world as a new grad PA:

Where to Start

Deciding on when to apply to jobs is ultimately a personal decision. If you want to start working soon after graduating, then it is probably best to start looking for jobs about 3-6 months before graduation. Everyone in my class had different mindsets on when they wanted to start working; some right after graduation, some a couple weeks and some even many months after. I wasn’t very eager about starting to look for jobs during PA school since I knew I would have enough financial wiggle room for a few months after graduation. So, after passing the PANCE, I decided to take some time off before searching for jobs. After a couple of months, I then started looking for jobs on sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip recruiter, etc. These are all common places to start searching for jobs and depending on where you live, there may be more or less available jobs in your area. Another smart thing to do before starting your search is to ensure that you make good connections with preceptors and staff during your clinical year. Not only will this allow you access to good job references, but getting in contact with them later on may open up the doors to jobs that are otherwise not posted publicly online.

Once you start submitting applications, waiting to hear back from places can really be a hit or miss. If you start to get interviews, then great! You’re one step closer to landing your first PA job! But what they don’t tell you about is the daunting process of getting multiple responses back from places telling you that they aren’t looking to hire new grads at this time, or even better, you just don’t get a response back at all. It can be very difficult trying to prove to companies that you will be a valuable part of the team coming in with no prior PA experience. But try not to lose hope as there are many great places that are happy to take on new-grad PAs.

Preparing for Interviews

Congratulations! You got invited to a job interview! This can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. While it’s definitely a good idea to go over common interview questions that they will ask you, you need to make sure that you have a list of questions to ask them to ensure that the position will be a good fit for you. Here are just a few examples of some good questions to ask as a new grad:

  • What is the training period like and how long is it?
  • Do you have any other PAs working for the practice?
  • What will be my expectations as I am starting out in this role? When is it expected of me to work at my full capacity?
  • What’s the ratio of clinical work to administrative duties?

Reminder that the interview is not the time to try to negotiate salary or benefits. This typically comes after you have been offered the position and you have the opportunity to look over the contract. At the end of the day, interviewing for jobs out of PA school is a big deal and can be very scary, but staying confident with your head held high is key; because you are qualified and deserve to be where you are.

Navigating Job Contracts

“Just sign there on the dotted line.” Not so fast. Getting offered a position for your first PA job is an exhilarating feeling and it can be tempting to want to just rush through all of the black and white and sign the contract. It’s important to take all of the time you need to carefully read over the contract to know exactly what you’re signing up for. One of the biggest mistakes new grad PAs run into is reading past a bunch of read flags and signing the contract anyways because they feel like this is their only shot at a job. As eager as you are to start working, you have to remember what your worth is and ensure that you’re going to be working in a healthy environment. Here are just some things to be aware of within a job contract: non-compete clauses (or at least ones that are longer than 1 year), work hours not clearly specified, penalty clauses for leaving employment, no benefits, inconsistency between the duties listed on the original job posting and the duties listed on the contract, and pressure to sign the contract. You should be able to feel good about what is included on the contract and the practice should be open about you bringing them any questions about it. This is also a time where you can inquire to have a meeting to discuss and negotiate salary and/or benefits.

The Waiting Game

So, you accepted the job offer, now what? There is a lot that has to happen from the time you sign your contract to day 1 of your new role. The credentialing process can take up to 90 days, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, depending on the place that you’ll be working for. There is going to be a lot of back and forth between you and your employer regarding forms to sign, documents you need to submit, background checks, etc. A good tip to prepare for this process is to ensure that you have all important documents stored in one place. I like to keep things in a folder on my computer but also have the paper copy versions of everything in a binder at home. These are things like your PA degree, state PA license, your board certification, resumes, BLS/ACLS certification, drivers license, among others. After all this stuff is submitted, the process is really out of your hands at that point and all you can do is wait. This is a great time to get your bearings and have the opportunity to review material that may be pertinent to your role.

Starting Your New Career

Finally, the time comes where you finally start your job, which means your first real paycheck as a PA. It’s super exciting to finally see money going into your account when over the last 2+ years you were relying on student loans and seeing it just come and go. While it may seem like you have all this extra money to spend now, this is the time to be really disciplined about your money. Majority of new grad PAs have a hefty student loan bill hanging over their heads so it’s important to come up with a game plan on how you plan on tackling those loans. It may be tempting to go out and get that new car you’ve been wanting but putting yourself into more debt may not be the smartest move this early on. This is the time to really set yourself up for success for the future that lies ahead so try not to get too caught up in that extra cash flow. Some ways that I have planned out my income before even starting my job has been to think about right off the bat, what small debts can I pay off? After that I then think about how much I need to divide between everyday expenses, student loans, emergency savings account, and then investing. This may not work for everyone, but the point is, having a plan will ensure you are being smart about your money and where it’s going.

Finding your first job as a PA can be a very long and challenging process. As stressful as it may seem, everyone’s journey is different and unique, and at the end of the day, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. On your first day of work as a PA-C, you’ll look back on your overall path and be able to appreciate the good and the bad because in the end, it’s all worth it.