Welcome to post grad PA school life!!!! You did it!!!!! Now onto the job search!!!! While I don’t personally have a job yet (I’m taken a bit of time to pursue some blog projects that have been on the back burner), I pooled some of my amazing classmates to the answers of some of the most asked questions. And I’ll add in my own answers once I do cross that journey!
For some background:
- Me: primary care PA – went to school in MA, got a job in MA
- Mike: surgery PA – went to school in Massachusetts and got a job in Pennsylvania
- Kevin: emergency PA – went to school in MA, applied to jobs while living at home in Minnesota, and got a job in MA
- Meg: ENT PA – went to school in MA and got a job in New York
- Kiley: neurology PA – went to school in MA, got a job in MA
- Maureen: emergency PA – went to school in MA, got a job in MA
- Bailee: primary care PA – went to school in MA, got a job in MA
- Camille: emergency medicine residency PA – went to school in MA, residency is in Rhode Island
As you can see, everyone comes from a slightly different background, so is able to touch upon different questions asked.
How can I get myself noticed when I submit an app into the internet black hole?
- Me: Highlight what makes you different on your resume and in your cover letter, especially what you hope to bring to the practice. For me, this was nutrition and yoga so I discussed that in both my cover letter and had both redlined in my resume. After applying, find a way to get in contact with someone in the department – via LinkedIn, the company website, social media, etc. This cements your interest and shows you’re going the extra mile to get noticed.
- Mike: This can reallllllllly tough! Especially considering the volume of applications the place receives for any one given job. I think the best way to approach an application is trying to find a direct contact within the department to reach out to. Let the person know that you applied for the position and have included a cover letter and resume in the email. Also ask about various aspects of the department you are actually interested in. Imagine things you would want to know about if you were going to take a position there.
- Kevin: Find the contact info of the Chief of the department you are applying for – whether that’s the chief PA or MD. Shoot them an email and you will be on their radar. If you can’t find, call HR and express your interest, or ask for the contact info. Oftentimes there is an initial HR vetting process to sort through applications and this may tip the scales. Be annoying!
- Meg: As with most things in life, job-hunting can usually be about “who you know.” So what happens when you know no one? You need to make yourself stand out anyway you can without being unprofessional or over-the-top. This is quite the balance to achieve. During my application process I downloaded a resume template from Creative Market. The total was $6.00 for the resume template with matching references sheet. As someone who is not incredibly tech-savvy and becomes flustered when the margins in Microsoft Word get messed up without you even clicking a button, I thought this was worth it. During the interview process, multiple people complimented my resume saying it looked sharp and different. This is a small thing that can help catch the eye of potential employers.
- Use linkedin. You can search the hospital you are applying to and see if you have any connections or secondary connections that you can reach out to. They can help connect you with the hiring committee or PA recruiters on site.
- Call HR and ask to speak with the PA recruiter. Most hospitals have them and are incredibly helpful in getting past the initial online application submission.
- Bailee: It’s all about the connections. Reaching out to old preceptors, talking with professors who know someone where you’re applying, even family friends. The majority of people I know and myself all got jobs because they knew someone or had a connection at the place they applied.
Finding a job out of state you attend school? How the testing per state works?
- Mike: This is extremely tricky. 2 effective strategies and one that is sort of a “poke and hope”
- 1) Do a rotation out of state in a location you want to work. While at the rotation site talk to people. Be very open with the fact that you are trying to get hired here in the near future. Ask If they know of any upcoming opportunities. Through having these conversations, if you find you have a person genuinely interested in helping you, be sure to exchange contact information. Following up in the future might be necessary as it is likely they may forget about you when they do hear about an opportunity. This is how I got my job. It pays to make connections on your rotations. You never know how it will help in the future.
- 2) I just mentioned it…CONNECTIONS, CONNECTIONS, CONNECTIONS. That is the name of the game. Reach out to distant relatives, friends of friends, former coworkers. People know people. This is your way to get a foot in the door, then the rest is up to you. But having someone who is willing to vouch for you can be the difference between an interview or just having your application thrown to the side.
- 3) Reach out to the state’s PA organization. I didn’t try this one, but I have heard promising results. The board members in within these organizations are usually volunteers. They can be experienced Pas. They might “be in the know” about jobs at their respective hospitals.
- Meg: I graduated from a school in Massachusetts, but was looking to apply to positions in New York and New Jersey. I made sure to look for jobs daily during the months of April, May, and June. I primarily looked on the websites of the specific hospitals. It seemed like most of the large university medical centers strictly posted their openings on their own websites rather than on job search engines like Monster. I then utilized my schedule on rotations in my favor when it came to interviewing. If I was on three 12-hours/week schedule, I would make sure to schedule interviews for my off days. This definitely required some hustling on top of your already overwhelming schedule but was worth it. Additionally, use Facebook groups and other social media forums. People post in these groups about available positions at their hospitals/offices and are wanting to help new grads find opportunities.
There is no additional testing! (PANCE is national certification)
How do I find the “right” first specialty to go into?
- Me: I spoke a bit about this in my whole post dedicated to getting a job. I thought about this A TON because I was interested in a few things after school, most notably primary care, gastroenterology, and emergency medicine. Despite the allure of shift work, because of my background, I ultimately wanted a place where I could integrate my hobbies and education before PA school into the practice. So an office setting where I had my own patient set and continuity of care seemed like the best fit for me. I also wanted something general to really hone in on the things I learned in school, rather than hopping to a speciality right away. So that left me with primary care. My case was bit different because I had some extra time and didn’t feel the financial pressure to get a job right away because I was still earning money from my social channels. And getting a job as a new grad is really challenging. I think once you break it down to do you want to specialize or do something more general the decision becomes a bit easier. So I’d spend some time thinking about that and noticing what are the most important qualifiers for you while on rotations.
- Meg: Great question! Talk to me again in 12 months… But seriously, I am not sure if I’m going into the “right” specialty and that’s okay. I will be working in ENT, which I dabbled in prior to going to PA school and did an elective in during clinical year. I’m sure these experiences boosted my application for this position. I decided to pursue this specialty: a) because it is interesting to me, b) because lots of other specialties can utilize the skills I pick up along the way in the future (IM, ED, family med, peds, etc.), and c) because it seemed like a good fit when I interviewed. One of the beautiful things about being a PA is that we are not locked down! We can make changes. We can grow with our career. It’s important to not feel like you need a 10-year plan right away, because otherwise the first misstep that happens will derail you.
- Mike: I felt there were are 3 types of PA students when it comes to this. Those who knew what they wanted before school. Those who had an epiphany during PA school. And finally those who graduated, still with no clue. If you are either of the first two, great…. Problem solved. If you are in the third situation (which most of us are), do some soul searching regarding other factors of the job that align best with who you are. For example, are you a morning person (anything surgical)? Do you like rotating schedules (Emergency Medicine)? Would you like a set standardized schedule (family med/primary care)?
- Maureen: Rotations are a great time to see what you do and do not like about different areas of medicine. Even if you don’t know EXACTLY what you want from rotations, that’s okay. But I do think you get a good sense of whether or not you like surgery vs. inpatient vs. outpatient, etc. This helps to narrow down the job search.
- Kiley: I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself to find the “perfect” specialty to go into. I set goals on what was most important to me as a new graduate before applying and maintained an open mind for specialties I didn’t think I was interested in based on my clinical rotations. My goal was to find a job that was willing to teach me and would help me grow as a practitioner for future jobs. Your first job is not your last job! It is all a journey.
- Bailee: I think it’s all about what you find interesting during school and where you see yourself in the future. For me, I was pretty sure that I did not want to go into something super “specialized” right out of school, because I knew I still had so much learning to do. My background was in Health education and Promotion, so I definitely had an interesting in educating community members and preventative medicine – these interests led me to applying to primary care jobs. I got my experience prior to PA school by working at Planned Parenthood, so I thought during PA school I would have an interest in women’s health. However, during my OBGYN rotation, I realized (VERY quickly) that it was not the specialty for me. I would say don’t set your sights on something right at the beginning of your education, give yourself time and experience to decide what you really like and dislike, and which specialties/fields will tailor to those likes and dislikes.
- Camille: It is really hard to figure out the “right” specialty just out of school, especially if you are someone who enjoys various aspects of medicine (like me). I think it is more important to identify if you prefer inpatient versus outpatient settings and then go from there. Very rarely will your first job be the perfect job and that is ok!
Is doing a fellowship worth it?
- Mike: It depends. I will keep this one brief…. If you are thinking about critical care as your field of choice, then YES. Otherwise, evaluate whether you can get a job without one and whether you are the type of person who can learn easily on the job. If no to either one of those, then I think a fellowship is definitely worth it.
- Maureen: I am not doing a fellowship but one of my classmates is (that I know of for sure). I think this really just depends on the person… I am going straight into a job in the ED without a fellowship but I think there are a lot of pros to doing a fellowship if it is reputable and structured. With most of those programs, you take a pay cut but you can be pretty certain you’ll gain tons of valuable skills and knowledge and that will definitely help with finding a job down the road.
- Only a few students in our class did a residency post-grad. I looked into doing one for EM for a while but ultimately the timing didn’t work out and I received some pretty mixed advice in the matter. I can only speak on EM residencies though. I think salary is big for most people – EM residencies are going to pay you 60k (ish) a year, which for me would be more than double what I lived on in PA school, so it’s still a substantial upgrade. Also, I know some Emergency Rooms consider that a year (or more, depending on the residency) of work experience, so you won’t be paid as a new PA upon graduating from the residency. You also have more bargaining/negotiating power at that point.
- One of the big reasons I wanted to do it was because it puts you on a level playing field with the MD residents going through the same program. My uncle was an EM PA for 30 years, and he felt like he was kind of on the “JV” team his entire career. He was a phenomenal PA, but I think he just never felt overly comfortable taking care of really sick patients (placing chest tubes, central lines, intubations, that sort of thing) and having that confidence to treat anything was what really appealed to me about residency. That being said, in most ED’s, PA’s are not utilized in that way. PA’s typically aren’t running codes or traumas, so you may (and I may) never feel the need for some of that experience. I’ve also asked other PA’s if they felt that way, and most have denied that feeling. Another thing to consider; the specific program I looked into was 18 months, and about 10 of those months were in the ED, with rotations in ultrasound, ICU, anesthesia, ortho, and some other stuff (not remembering now). That sort of experience is obviously extremely valuable, especially the ICU and ultrasound stuff, and especially if you’re not sure you want to do EM your whole career.
- You can always go back and do a residency once you’re in a field too, some PA’s choose to do that. That may be tough, of course, to take that pay cut but it’s something to consider.
- Meg: I’m not doing a fellowship for a number of reasons. To me, I was not planning on going into a field that would strongly benefit from it, such as critical care/ICU. Additionally, I wanted to hit the ground running. I made sure that the jobs I was applying to had a built-in training component. Depending on your financial situation, a 50% pay cut is something to take into account. While we are not doing this for the money, bills and loan repayment still need to be accounted for.
- Bailee: I can’t speak personally not having done one, however I did consider doing one in critical care and talked to a lot of people who also considered/did a residency program. My opinion is that it depends on the specialty. PA’s in general learn on the job, so for some specialties I had a hard time seeing the benefit of it (like ER or hospital medicine). However for other more specific specialties (like intensive care, or surgical subspecialties), I thought the benefit would have been huge because our PA school education didn’t focus much on these areas. I think it’s all about how comfortable you feel coming out of school and if you feel ready to jump right into practice or if you feel like you really want another year of “school”. I also found when I was looking at critical care residency programs that a lot of them pay really well, which was contrary to what everyone told me about residency programs.
- Camille: Choosing to do a fellowship is a very personal decision and may not be as beneficial to everyone depending on their specific situation. I will be starting an EM fellowship at Brown this December. It was the only fellowship program I applied to as I also had doubts about fellowships being worth the pay cut (especially in the field of EM). In my situation, however, I was making a decision with my boyfriend (a current EM intern at Brown) on where we should apply/move for his residency and we both fell in love with Brown / Providence. Brown EM does not hire new grads into their ED unless they do their fellowship program or have several years of experience. That being said, I know of several EDs that do hire new grads and are fantastic first jobs with great training. I am very happy to have chosen this route as it is ultimately leading me down the road I wanted to go. After finishing this fellowship (which is 9-12 months depending on how quickly you progress) I will be hired into the ED that I had hoped to work in. If doing a fellowship helps you attain a goal, you should not shy away from it. That said, all of the teaching that comes with a fellowship also occurs in big academic centers where teaching is ingrained in the culture.
Where do I even begin applying?
- Me: I started on the job boards like Indeed, glass door, and monster.com. Many of my classmates also used facebook groups to find their job. If you know you want to work for a certain organization or hospital, they’ll also have openings on their specific website that may not be listed elsewhere. Once you have an idea of where you want to work, get creative with getting your foot in the door. Sometimes you apply and HR says they aren’t taking new grads. But if you get in touch with someone who works there already, you may be able to get around this!
- Kiley: Think about what’s important to you. Location, specialty, salary etc. Be deliberate in where you are applying and put forth the necessary effort to get your foot in the door (explained in question 1). Sending out millions of applications to every hospital in your city online is not an effective way to put your name out there and many applications will get lost in the online shuffle.
- Mike: The general job search engines is a good place to start. Then search in the job portals of the hospitals you’re interested in. Those are good places to start.
- Maureen: Honestly, I found all the jobs I applied to through Indeed, Glassdoor, or the google job search engine.
- Bailee: I did a lot of searching the hospital web pages career sites and using sites likecom. Again though, I think it’s a lot about who you know – use those connections, call PA recruiters at various hospitals, reach out to people via linkedin. For me, my method was figuring out what fields I was interested in, where I wanted to work, and then looking for those jobs and seeing who I might know that had connections.
Did lots of your classmates get job offers on rotation?
- Mike: I would say 25-30% were offered jobs at rotations or made connections at rotations which helped them get a job there. And probably 1/2 of those, accepted that job.
- Maureen: I would say a decent amount of classmates got job offers on rotation but a lot also did not. It really depends on whether or not the site you are at is hiring at the moment. Timing is everything with this one! I think even a difference of just a few weeks can determine whether or not it’s even possible for a rotation site to offer you a job.
- Kiley: It seemed like only a few did? It appeared that about half the class had a job prior to graduation.
- Kevin: This one is kind of funny. I think a lot of people had preceptors say to them something along the lines, “Please call us when looking for a job. We think you would be a good fit here,” and then would go around saying they were offered a job. That is obviously a lot different than a job offer and I think it’s important to consider context in that sort of thing and if you aren’t getting job offers, you are in the majority, not the minority. One person may be a better PA than another, but that other person just jives better with that specific preceptor, it may have nothing to do with your skill at all. That being said, a lot of my classmates did wind up with jobs from places they rotated, and I think just about everyone who ended up in EM rotated at their eventual job site.
- Meg: Very few people received formal job offers while on rotation. Many attendings told classmates that they would “love to have them on board” and on the team in the future. There is a big distinction here. Do not feel discouraged if you aren’t getting “job offers!” Everyone has different experiences and conversations while on rotation
- Bailee: I think a lot of people made connections on rotations that helped them get a job easier. But I think the majority of my classmates were offered jobs closer to graduation, some at places they had rotated at, but others at places they had not rotated and had just applied to the job when it was available.
Does going to a school in state give you a better chance of getting a job in that state?
- Mike: Much easier to make connections and build a network on your rotations most of which will be in that state.
- Maureen: For me it really did. I made connections at my rotations that really vouched for me and wrote great letters of recommendation for me when I was applying to the position I wanted.
- Kiley: I am sure it helps as far as networking; however, you may have a large network in your home state as well. I would imagine that seeking employment outside of your school/home states would be more difficult but not impossible! Call the hospitals or facilities you’re interested in and talk to their PA recruiters.
- Meg: I went to school in Massachusetts, but accepted a job in New York City. While staying in-state can provide a larger networking web, medicine is quite a small world, especially if you are interested in working at a large medical center. Be proud of your rotations and use them as examples of your work while on interviews – no matter what city or state. Odds are, people are familiar with someone who once worked in that region.
- Bailee: I think in the sense that it gives you the opportunity to make connections and getting to know the hospital system, yes. But PA’s are in high demand all over the country and at the end of the day all they really care about is that you are board certified and if your references have good things to say about you.
- Camille: Yes, because your program has connections and you also make connections during your rotations. A huge part of finding a job (in my experience) is connections! That said if you want to move out of state, try getting a rotation in that state.
Did networking during rotations help with finding a job?
- Katie: I didn’t use any of my connections in school to find my job. In fact, I found it through a connection on social media! But I definitely could have and would have if my job didn’t work out. Many told me to reach back out after graduation and I’m sure they would have lended a helping hand if I asked.
- Kiley: The clinicians are willing to help if you asked. They all know someone in the medical field who may be helpful in your employment search. Even if you are looking for employment in another state.
- Bailee: For me personally, no. I was able to get my application looked at and an interview set up because of a professor that had connections at the hospital I was applying too. But networking is always good, you never know who may know someone that you’re trying to connect with in the future.
- Camille: Definitely network during rotations but be smart about it. Don’t make it too obvious from the beginning and earn their respect/trust before asking about jobs. After rotations that I really enjoyed, I always asked about job opportunities.
When did you start applying for jobs? Have you found it hard to get hired as a new graduate?
- Me: I definitely took some time. I started applying probably around May/June, and then again September-October after I passed my boards. But then I took a big break because I really needed it for my mental state (all about that here). It was very challenging to get this position, as my place of work doesn’t typically take new grads. I think many surgical specialities are a bit different and are more eager to take on on new grads. But for primary care, it was really challenging. So I had to get creative with getting my foot in the door, and prove that I was committed to that specific job site and community. Difficult, yes but extremely worth it!
- Mike: I started applying in May/June. By applying, I looked at hospitals where I wanted to work (out of state) and checked their job portals to see what was available. I then played the connections game and ended up with 2 offers shortly after I graduated. I found the experience to be easier than some of my colleagues, however, I had amazing connections who vouched on my behalf. That is by far the easiest way to get a job, especially out of state from where you went to school. Otherwise, yes it can be difficult to get a job as a new graduate. Employers recognize the time and effort involved in training a new graduate. I will say It depends on the field and the employer though. Some prefer new grads to experienced PAs sometimes because of the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” philosophy. Some would rather train you the way they want things done than be stuck with habits previously developed by an experienced provider.
- Maureen: I applied really sporadically and over a decently long period of time (probably over 4 months). When I first started looking (end of April/May for August graduation) I was really just trying to get a sense of what kinds of jobs were out there. If I saw something that seemed really amazing or like a dream job, I would apply, but I wouldn’t say I was actively applying at this time. As end of June came around I definitely started applying to more places.
- Kiley: I started applying in May and got hired in September. I moved to Worcester and found it incredibly difficult to find jobs willing to hire new graduates here. I had a very limited network, and it seemed they were less receptive to hiring new graduates than Boston was. It took more time but I am happy with the end result and my ability to be patient with the process.
- Kevin: I started applying in March, graduated in August, and didn’t have a job offer until October. I found it difficult to find a job in the field I was set on, as there are many Emergency Rooms that don’t hire new grads. I applied to 3 positions a day for about a month straight and only heard back from one’s I reached out to myself. This is where networking and using all available resources comes into play. My eventual job I only got because my classmate put in a good word for me with HR at a hospital. This isn’t true for all specialties though, and some surgical subspecialties prefer new grads.
- Bailee: I started early, too early probably. I had my first interview in April (and did not graduate until August). At that point I was told that it was simply too early for them to even consider hiring me. I went on a lot of interviews and each interview I asked the provider whom I was interviewing with if they had any reservations about hiring a new graduate and each time they told me that it was not a problem. The great thing about the medical field is it is set up for education – all providers have been in your shoes and understand what it is like to just be starting out; they are eager to pass on their knowledge and be a mentor to you, and they understand that even an experienced provider still doesn’t know everything. I never felt that I had less of a chance at getting a job I was interviewing for as a new graduate.
- Camille: I started in January of my clinical year – although I was applying to a fellowship program which had a Feb deadline.
- Me: personal choice re: applying and depends on how much time you feel like you have. In terms of resume, you can find mine here – Katie Lemons CV edited
- Mike: My resume – Education, Clinical rotations, Skills proficient in, EMR experience, Other clinical experience, Volunteer experience, Publications/presentations, Awards/honors, Certifications, Memberships
- Maureen: I feel like a lot of my classmates had various approaches in terms of when to apply. I would say some people started applying pretty consistently in like May while others applied sporadically throughout the summer and others didn’t even really start until after graduation and/or the boards. I think our resumes were pretty consistent. In addition to the classic information included on a resume (name, education, contact info), you should include your clinical work experience, your clinical rotations (where they were, dates), additional work experience (any non-clinical stuff you think is relevant), and any certifications you may have. I included a skills section where I tailored it to the kind of job I was looking for. I also had sections for leadership, professional organizations, languages, interests and awards/recognition. I included a reference section on my resume but I wrote: “available upon request.”
- If I could go back, I would have started applying 1-2 months before graduation. I very much got caught up in the fact that my classmates were getting job offers and was feeling very pressured to apply much earlier than I needed to and to positions that I didn’t even want. The reality is that most employers will not want to hire you if you are >2 months away from graduating. That being said, if an opportunity arises that you are very interested in, go for it!
- Your resume should include the obvious things like your education, work experience, ,special skills/certifications, etc. I included all of my rotations and where I did them, and then created a section of special skills that I obtained on the rotations that were pertinent to the job I was applying for. Some obvious things that I didn’t think of right away as far as “resume etiquette” were: don’t use your school email account, don’t include your full living address, and spell check THE HELL out of it (don’t rely on Word spellcheck to do the job for you – it will fail you)
- Have everyone and anyone who is willing look at your resume. I had my husband, aunts, cousins, siblings, parents, professors, and classmates look at it. Even if it isn’t someone in the medical field or a professional position, I would have them look at it because they may catch something simple like a spelling or grammar error.
Any tips for negotiating?
- me: Echoing what Kevin said, I used the AAPA salary report. Negotiating definitely helps if you have something specific you’re negotiating for. I discussed using my nutrition background within the practice and how I planned to use my nutrition Master’s degree. I didn’t expect getting anything because it’s a larger organization with systems in place to offer a standard salary to new grads. Plus I was nervous because it was my absolute dream job and I didn’t want to do anything to potentially jeopardize the offer! But I’m so glad I did! I didn’t get a ton more, but it was something and I’m so proud that I negotiated and advocated for myself!
- Kevin: Use the AAPA salary report and cite multiple statistics to give an approximate value of what you want and are worth. Most places will ask you for a number or range when you talk with HR. Many hospitals, especially big academic centers, will have a set starting rate for new PAs and won’t budge on this.
- Meg: Don’t just negotiate salary! If the position is a 5-day work week, ask if four 10-hour days is possible. Be reasonable and respectful. Most of all, be confident!
- Kiley: From my experience, many places did not allow for new graduates to negotiate their salary. However, I would definitely ask if the salary is negotiable no matter how much they offer you!
- Bailee: I did not have to negotiate my salary. A lot of the large organizations (like Brigham and Women’s, Tufts, Bay State), have a system set in place to create an offer based on your experiences- which means it is non-negotiable. I would say always ask if the salary is negotiable, but don’t be surprised if they say no.
- me: I didn’t use a recruiter. I got a few calls from some but found that many required you to have a few years of experience under your belt.
- Bailee: I personally did not use a PA recruiter but had friends that did and was how they landed their job. I think it can be very helpful if you are interested in a specific hospital/organization as they can get you in contact with the department or person that can help you get looked at