First Time Physician Assistant Job Hunt: How To Do It

Experts keep talking about staffing shortages in healthcare and how they are only getting worse. Hearing this, a recent physician assistant graduate might feel as if the world is their oyster. They will be able to apply for any job they want and easily get it. Sadly, that is not the case.

While there are staffing shortages in healthcare, organizations won’t hire just anyone. They need people with previous professional experience, as they don’t have time to train new workers on the job. How can you, as a new PA, find the right position? The following tips can be of help with this.

Decide What You Want in a Job

New physician assistants need to decide what their dream job looks like. Although they may not get this job when first starting, it’s helpful to know the end goal. Where do you plan to be in five or ten years? What does work-life balance look like to you? While these goals may change over time, such as when you have a family, the plan gives you a good starting point.

One way to determine what you might want and need as your career moves forward is to talk to others in the profession. Ask what they like and dislike about their jobs. Most physicians take a starter job when they finish their residency. This job lasts five years or less, with many people staying at their first job less than two jobs.

Often, the physician assistant didn’t know what they wanted personally and professionally when taking this job. They looked at the financial compensation and their student loans and took what offered the best pay. Don’t make this mistake, as you probably won’t be happy. It’s best to figure out what you want in a job and make that the priority when choosing. Look at job listings from CompHealth ( to get an idea of what might be important to you and go from there.

Start Applying Early

Don’t wait until you graduate to begin searching for a job. Begin applying while you are doing your clinical rotations, as this allows you to connect with potential employers and learn what they are looking for. Some employers only hire candidates with experience, but other organizations happily take on new graduates. With this information, you can narrow the job search as graduation nears.

Another benefit of starting the application process early is it allows you to schedule rotations with potential employers before graduation. Not only will this allow you to demonstrate your skills, but it is a great way to build your network. Even if this company isn’t the right fit, those you work with may be able to refer you to another organization that might better meet your needs. In addition, they might share your name with others in need of staff members.

Prepare Job Search Materials

Don’t start applying for jobs until you have materials in place to present to human resources. You need a comprehensive CV and a cover letter that can be customized for each job you apply to. In addition, have a list of references on hand, people who can speak to your skills, work ethic, and more. Gather references from the network you have built throughout your schooling and residency.

Some PAs wait until they find their dream job before preparing these materials. Don’t make this mistake, as you need to be ready to apply as soon as the job posting appears.

Never Underestimate the Value of Networking

Don’t sit around looking for jobs all day. Get out and network with others. Talk to your colleagues about your dream job. They may come across a listing that isn’t right for them but sounds perfect for you once they know what you are looking for. They can share this information when they come across it.

Turn to your mentors for help in finding a job, as they probably have a much larger network. They can put out feelers for you. Your alumni association is another good place to turn when you are looking for your first physician assistant job. Use all resources available to you, as doing so will help you find the perfect fit in less time.

Don’t Become Discouraged

It’s easy to become discouraged when you are searching for your first job as a physician assistant. You worked hard to get to where you are and want to embark on your career as soon as possible. You apply for various positions only to not hear back from the hiring team.

One thing people must learn when searching for this type of job is that human resource managers don’t make these decisions. Physician assistants are typically hired by the doctors they will work under. While the human resources manager or recruiter will play a big role in the process, doctors and other medical professionals will too.

As there is a physician shortage today, those working in the field often spend long hours engaging with patients and doing administrative tasks. They may take longer to respond to phone calls and e-mails. Hiring someone to help them with patient care is a priority, but it might get pushed to the back burner as they struggle to keep up with their duties.

Don’t be discouraged. The right job is out there. It may take longer than you would like to secure this job, but you can’t give up. When you find the right fit, you will love what you do every day and it won’t feel like work.

As you search for your first job, continue working to expand your skills. Focus on those that are used most often in the industry, such as communication skills and empathy. Employers want to know you bring more to the table than clinical skills, so be prepared to share your other strengths during job interviews.

Practice your interview skills as well. By taking these steps, you will find that landing your first job takes less time. It may even be the job you dreamed of throughout your residency, thanks to the work you put into the search. You won’t know until you try.

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