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You Graduated, Now What?


There will be some of you that will want to work in dermatology, orthopedics, or some other highly desirable specialized field of medicine.  As a physician assistant, you are trained as a generalist, which can make it difficult to get into these specialties.  So, what happens when this is where you want to work?  What do you do if all the job postings say minimum of one year experience required?

More than likely, you will run into this problem.  Fear not, there are a few options available to you…

The first option is to start while you are in school.  If you are fortunate enough to know what you want to do before you hit clinicals, then your golden!  Ideally, you will want to try and schedule all of your electives around the field of medicine you plan on entering.  You should schedule your last rotation where you want to work.

As you reach your last few rotations, you will be pretty close to graduation.  This means you will be more comfortable thinking on your feet and interacting with the staff.  Because you will have already rotated through this specialty before, you will be able to outshine your competition.  This will increase your chances of being offered a position at the end of your rotation.

Now, there are some of you who maybe didn’t realize what specialty you wanted to enter until you are finishing school.  This will put you at a disadvantage; but all hope is not lost.  A physician assistant has the option of joining a residency after their schooling.  Because residency training is not required as a PA, this will give you a leg up on the competition.

It is said that you will gain about 5 years of on the job experience in the one year you work as a resident.  This is definitely the fast track to learning the tricks of the trade.  This will beef up your resume and impress HR.

What if you don’t want to work for $40,000 a year after PA school?  For some this is not an option; especially when you take into account loans and other responsibilities.  Well, you can always try submitting your resume anyway.  I mean, it never hurts to try, and you might get a yes!  Its really a crap shoot, but you never know what kind of mood HR is in when they come across your application.  Stranger things have happened.

So many are so afraid to just submit an application for fear of rejection.  Rejection doesn’t define you.  If they say no, you are back where you started anyway.  You won’t lose anything by applying.  So, just submit those apps!

You submitted your app, but are not getting a response.  Your next bet would be to apply to a generalist position such as urgent care, internal medicine, or family practice.  This way, you get a good foundation, have an income, and are not stressed about losing your skills or finding work.  You can gain experience and continue to apply in the mean time.  You never know, you might love the generalist position, and forget about your specialty…

Lets say you refuse to take a generalist position and are adamant about working in your desired field of medicine.  Well, it might be time to look at relocation.  The majority of positions where experience is required will be saturated with applicants; this allows them to be picky.  You might need to look at a rural location or a less desirable location to live in.  These places are usually more lax about requirements, simply because of the lack of applicants.

Think of it as a temporary move.  You are working in a less desirable area to rack up experience only.  You can also think of it as a higher paying residency.  Then, after a year of experience, you can go ahead and reapply to that major city you have always dreamt of working in.

There are many options available to those physician assistants who want to work in a highly desirable specialty.  Ideally, you want to figure where you want to work while you are in PA school.  But, don’t fear, there are still ways to get around that.  Before you know it, you’ll be a PA-C working in the specialty of your choice!